29 August, 2017

It's Just not Fair! - York University's Copying of Works for Teaching not Fair Dealing

Since the decision in CCH (discussed more on this blog here), fair dealing has been very different in Canada, showing its flexibility and adaptability in modern copyright issues. Due to the much broader, US fair use comparable doctrine introduced in the CCH case, some could even argue that fair dealing has gone too far and become too strong of a shield. Even so, many cases have challenged, and will challenge, the notion of fair use and its extent, and a recent Federal Court decision looked at fair dealing yet again.

The case of Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency v York University dealt with with the distribution of study materials to students by York University in the form of Coursepacks. These information packs contained a course outline or syllabus, course notes, and course materials such as excerpts from books, journal articles, and other miscellaneous materials. The packs were produced by York University Printing Services (or at times external printers, e.g. Keele Copy Center).  The University did have a licensing arrangement with CCLA, which expired in 2010, but was renewed on an interim basis. The University then terminated the arrangement, remaining outside of CCLA's copyright licensing scheme. Remaining outside of the scheme would force the University to monitor its compliance with copyright laws (including fees and reporting). CCLA wanted to enforce the previously agreed interim tariff, and took York University to court, with the University counterclaiming fair dealing for any reproductions.To protect their interests, York University published its own copyright guidelines in the absence of a different agreement.

The first point of contention was whether the Interim Tariff would be enforceable against York University regardless of their termination of the tariff.

According to Justice Phelan, handing down the Court's judgment, the historical development of collection societies and their fees for the use of copyright protected works shows legislative intent to provide the societies "…with effective enforcement mechanisms against users who are not subject to an agreement and who reproduce, without authority from owners or without the benefit of an exception (e.g. fair dealing), copyright protected works covered by the collectives". These tariffs are legally binding subordinate legislation, which has no opt out capability. Only if "…York did not copy any works in Access’s repertoire, if it obtained proper permission to copy those works, or if the copying was exempt by law… then the tariff would not be applicable". Ultimately the Court concluded that the Interim Tariff would be mandatory and that CCLA would be entitled to the recovery of the royalties and other associated costs.

The Court then moved onto the consideration of whether the use by York University would fall under fair dealing.

The basis for fair dealing in Canada is CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada (discussed more here), which sets out, much akin to fair use in the US, the criteria for fair dealing to be established. They are that the use is an authorized purpose under section 29 of the Copyright Act (such as education), and that the use is 'fair'. The fairness of any use has no set definition, but is assessed based on 6 non-exhaustive factors: a) purpose of the dealing, b) the character of the dealing, c) the amount of the dealing (amount of copying), d) alternatives to the dealing, e) the nature of the work, and f) the effect of the dealing on the work.

As the threshold for establishing that a use falls under an authorized purpose is low, the Court quickly concluded that the use by York University was indeed for education. The Court then took on the assessment of fairness, looking at each of the factors above individually in relation to the facts at hand.

Teaching methods vary greatly, irrespective of coursepacks
Firstly, what the purpose of the dealing was. The Court considered that the initial assessment of the authorized purpose of the use and the first fairness factor had a great deal of overlap. To mitigate this, they aimed to find out the 'goal of the dealing', rather than its purpose, which they determined to be the allowance of access for students to various teaching materials. However, due to the termination of the Interim Tariff, and the introduction of the copyright guidelines, the Court saw that the goal of the dealing was two-fold: "…Education was a principal goal, specifically education for end user. But the goal of the dealing was also, from York’s perspective, to keep enrolment up by keeping student costs down and to use whatever savings there may be in other parts of the university’s operation". The goal therefore was not simply an altruistic furthering of education, but to also to cut costs. The factor was not deemed to be strongly in favor of fairness.

Secondly, the Court looked at the character of the dealing. This includes the examination of how the work was dealt with, the number of copies made, and the extent of its dissemination. Data provided by York University was very unreliable, according to Justice Phelan, due to largely deficiencies in user access data. Justice Phelan concluded that the issues with the data and poor witness evidence from York University weighed towards unfairness under this factor.

Thirdly, the amount of dealing was looked at. This is not a simple consideration of the quantity of material used, but also a qualitative one on the importance of the part that was copied. What the Court focussed on were the copyright guidelines issued by York University, which specified a 10% limit to copying from a single work, without discussing the qualitative element. Due to this lack of qualitative control, works were copied indiscriminately and multiple times for different courses. The Court therefore failed the amount of dealing assessment, as there was nothing fair about the amount of dealing used.

Fourthly, the Court took on considerations for alternatives to the dealing. Should there be no alternatives the factor can weigh in favor of fairness, due to the necessity of the copying. The volume of material from varied sources used in teaching, as evidenced by York University, did show a degree of necessity for the copying. While there were alternatives, there were no free alternatives to use, which subsequently left the Court to conclude that the factor favors York University.

Fifthly, what the nature of the work is. As most of the materials copied were academic or creative works, they required a great deal of creativity, complex analytical analysis, skill, perspective, and judgment by authors. Due to the significant skill, effort, and investment involved, the nature of the works weighs against York University, especially considering their treatment by both the copiers and the guidelines issued by the University.

Finally, the Court considered the effect of the dealing itself, for example, on the creators and publishers of the work. This could amount to a possible element of competition with the original work in the marketplace.  The creation and distribution of the coursepacks at issue have shown a decrease in sales and licencing revenues for CCLA, especially after the issuing of the copyright guidelines. The Court concluded that "…the Guidelines have caused and will cause material negative impacts on the market for which Access would otherwise have been compensated for York’s copying".

The Court ruled against York University, disallowing their counterclaim for fair dealing as the University failed on 5 out of 6 factors as discussed above. York University have stated that they will appeal the decision.

The case will potentially have profound effects on Universities in Canada, particularly on those who might not be under a licence from the CCLA. As the case will be appealed the future of the decision remains uncertain, potentially even reaching the Supreme Court down the line, yet professors, librarians and administrators at Universities need to be careful in the meantime. This writer does not purport himself to be a Canadian copyright expert, and the decision has received quite a bit of criticism, so he will refrain from making sweeping comments on the validity of the decision.

22 August, 2017

Toblenone - The Battle of the Peaks Begins Over the Toblerone Shape

Imitation is thought to be the greatest form of flattery, but in the world of IP, this is often the opposite of the case. Copying the looks of a product can be quite beneficial for the copying company, riding on the coattails of a potentially well-known look of a product, especially if they are undercutting the price of the original. This blog has discussed issues of generic packaging before, and the notorious KitKat saga, but none of the cases have looked at the matter of changing the shape of the original product, yet still seeking protection over the shape.

A recent case discussed in the Guardian has shed a new perspective, as discussed above, relating to the Toblerone chocolate bar. Poundland, a UK discount retailer selling products predominantly at £1, launched their Toblerone competitor Twin Peaks earlier this summer, aiming to compete against the reduced size Toblerone bar. This change featured bigger gaps in the Toblerone bar between the iconic triangular peaks, due to rising ingredient prices.

The matter has since gone to court, with Mondelez (the company that owns the Toblerone brand) arguing (possibly among other grounds) trademark infringement. Poundland have counterclaimed (possibly among other grounds) for invalidity and argued that "…the triangular prism shape of the Toblerone bar, which was registered under an EU trademark in 1997, is no longer distinctive partly because of the existence of the new version". Adding to this, they argued that "…any good reputation enjoyed by the Toblerone bar trademark has been “irretrievably abandoned” by the launch of the product with bigger gaps between its nine chunks, which the public “consider unfavourably in comparison”".

Mondelez put a wholly different spin
on the change to the Toblerone bar
The crux of the question is therefore whether the trademark registered by Toblerone (EUTM 31237) would no longer be distinctive due to the change in the Toblerone chocolate bar, and even if it's distinctive, whether the Twin Peaks bar creates a different impression so as to not infringe on the trademark or other possible rights under common law.

Arguably, Poundland potentially do have a point. The Toblerone bar has reduced its size by about 10%, and changed its shape from the registered 12 peaks to 11, with the gaps between the peaks has doubled by this writer's estimate. The base of the bar has also arguably become thinner. The Twin Peaks bar does not feature the wider gaps of the new Toblerone bar, including having a curved gap rather than a flat one, and splits the peaks into two. The Twin Peaks bar is also sold in a loosely fitting wrapper packaging, rather than a hard triangular cardboard package.

Case law has looked at changes to earlier registrations, and it does not necessarily bode well for Toblerone. In The Coca-Cola Company v OHIM the cola manufacturer changed the look of their iconic bottle, removing its distinctive fluting, and due to this change the EU General Court rejected their application for a lack of acquired distinctiveness, as "…[the bottle] was a mere variant of the shape and packaging of the goods concerned, which would not enable the average consumer to distinguish the goods from those of other undertakings". It is possible for the registration to be attacked (although the name and the triangular packaging will still arguably remain protected), so Toblerone would benefit from a new registration for the reduced size bar, unless it is simply treated as a stop-gap while prices are still high for some ingredients.

The Toblerone question is a very curious one, and this writer for one would love to see the case actually go to court (but heavily doubts this will happen). The point of changing the shape of a product with an existing trademark registration hasn't been dealt with by the judiciary much at all, so more light on this issue would be very helpful for both would-be registrants and competitors alike.

Source: The Guardian

15 August, 2017

Into the Slammer - The Sale of 'Grey Goods' a Criminal Offense, Says UK Supreme Court

The sale of branded goods can be a complicated affair, especially when the line between counterfeits and 'authorized' goods can be blurry at times. This is highlighted in the sale of 'grey goods', which are items obtained from licenced manufacturers without the authorisation of the licensor. Having discussed the criminality of the sale of grey goods last year (more here), the decision of the Court of Appeal was appealed by the defendants, ultimately ending up on the desk of the Supreme Court, which handed down its judgment in early August.

The case of R v M, C and T concerned three defendants (including one company), who were engaged in the importation of branded goods into the UK that were manufactured outside the EU. These goods included notable brands such as Ralph Lauren, Adidas and Under Armour. Many of the goods were duly accepted as being counterfeits, but a significant portion of them were ones made by authorized manufacturers, but not authorized for sale to other parties. The defendants were taken to court for, among other offenses, the unauthorized use of trademarks (a criminal offense).

The focus of the case is section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994, which sets out that a person commits an offense under the Act if the proprietor "…sells or lets for hire, offers or exposes for sale or hire or distributes goods which bear, or the packaging of which bears [a registered trade mark]". There is a separate offense under section 92 for the possession and control of such goods, for which the defendants were prosecuted as well. The defendants' appeal argues that section 92 would only relate to the counterfeit goods and not the 'grey goods' as set out above.

The defendants argued that the phrase "such as sign" in the Act would only apply where the sign has been applied to the goods without the authorization of the rightsholder. As 'grey goods' have had the sign applied to them with the consent of the rightsholder, section 92 would not apply to those goods, but only to truly counterfeit goods.

Lord Justice Hughes, handing down the Court's unanimous decision, rejected this argument. In his view, the use of the phrase "such a sign" refers to "…a sign which is 'identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark'", not just in instances where it has been applied without consent. This means that 'grey goods' would be caught by section 92 just as well as counterfeit goods would be.

Making fakes ain't easy
The judge also noted that all three offenses set out in section 92 are separate, not cumulative, and that both intent and the application of a sign without the authorization of the rightsholder apply to all three offenses. This is important, since the defendants argued that there is a link between the first and the second offense (subsections a and b), which, if the offenses are separate, could not be the case. Lord Justice Hughes emphasised that there is no ambiguity or obscurity in the law that would require a further investigation into Parliament's meaning of the section, particularly in relation to the defendants' argument on the different meanings of counterfeit and 'grey goods' (and subsequent differing treatment under section 92).

Lord Justice Hughes acknowledged that there has been a distinction between the two in the case of R v Johnstone; however, the distinction came about through the facts of the case, and does not reflect the general view of the Court on 'grey goods' and counterfeit goods.

The defendants further argued that due to the exhaustion of rights in the goods under EU law, and subsequently section 12 of the Act, any further objections to the sale of the goods would be limited to very narrow special cases, such as changes or impairments to the goods. The Court rejected this argument, as the exhaustion of rights only relates to civil law, not criminal, nor would it be useful in interpreting the construction of section 92.

A further argument put forward was that the more stringent test of a mental element used in the previous Trade Marks Act 1938 would exclude 'grey goods' from the current Act due to the previous Act only applying to only 'true counterfeits' (and therefore carrying over into the new Act in intention). The Court rejected this interpretation, as the previous Act would have included 'grey goods' due to its inclusion of goods irrespective of the authorized application of the mark onto the goods or not. Lord Justice Hughes also mentioned that, in his view, the sale of 'grey goods' and counterfeits would both be unlawful, as "…[b]oth may involve deception of the buying public".

Finally, the defendants argued that the construction of section 92 to include 'grey goods' would infringe on their human rights to enjoy and keep their possessions. The Court rejected the notion that the defendants have any rights in the trademarks affixed on the goods, even though they have the right to the goods excluding the marks. While they could sell those goods without the marks on them, the Act prevents them from misleading purchasers and infringing on the marks while doing so. The defendants are not deprived of the goods they own, but only regulated in the manner of the disposal of the goods. Lord Justice Hughes concluded that there was nothing disproportionate in the imposition of criminal sanctions under the Act, which legitimately balances "…the rights of the proprietor to protect his valuable trademark and goodwill, and those of the person who wishes to sell goods which he has bought".

Ultimately the Court rejected the appeal and allowed for the criminal trial to proceed.

The case will undoubtedly be hugely influential, especially for rightsholders who wish to prevent the sale of 'grey goods' in the UK market. This writer would agree with the interpretation of the Court, as the inclusion of 'grey goods' under section 92 makes sense, since one can draw an analogy between them and counterfeit goods due to the lack of authorization during their initial sale to the ultimate distributor. Should a proprietor wish to sell the goods without the marks they would be wholly entitled to do so, provided no other rights exist in the goods. The case seems to have finally settled the matter of 'grey goods' in the UK, at least for now.

Source: JDSupra

08 August, 2017

Please Clarify - Two-Color Inhaler Trademark not Clear and Precise, says Court of Appeal

Trademarks can offer very powerful rights to rightholders, particularly in more general areas like colors or shapes (color marks have been discussed more here). While one has to appreciate the rights afforded through trademarks, they still have to be narrow and defined enough to attract any rights, as too broad of a mark will undoubtedly fail in registration or will potentially be invalidated after the fact if it slips through the cracks. With this in mind, just how defined do you have to be when you register your mark, both in its graphical representation or the possible descriptions attached to the mark? The UK Court of Appeal took this matter on earlier this summer, giving trademark holders something to chew on.

The case of Glaxo Wellcome UK Ltd (t/a Allen & Hanburys) v Sandoz Ltd concerned a trademark registration for an asthma inhaler, and more specifically, its color scheme. The registration consisted of an image of the inhaler, with a descriptor beneath it setting out that "…The trade mark consists of the colour dark purple… applied to a significant proportion of an inhaler, and the colour light purple… applied to the remainder of the inhaler". The inhaler was also sold in a more typical 'boot' shape, which still included the above colors. After discovering that a competitor, Sandoz, had been selling a competing product with a very similar color scheme, Glaxo took the matter to court and sued Sandoz for trademark infringement. Sandoz subsequently counterclaimed for invalidity due to the vague description of the mark, which could be applied to a number of products, not just as was represented in the registration. After a loss at first instance, Glaxo appealed and the matter ended up in the Court of Appeal.

Lord Justice Kitchin, handing down the majority judgment, started with the registration of color trademarks. The CJEU has discussed this in its previous case law, particularly in Libertel Groep and Heidelberger Bauchemie. The cases concluded that a single color or multiple colors applied for as a trademark can be considered as such if "…it has been established that, in the context in which they are used, those colours or combinations of colours in fact represent a sign; and the application for registration includes a systematic arrangement associating the colours concerned in a predetermined and uniform way". This means that the colors alone would not be registrable, but, so long as a proper arrangement of them is produced, it is possible to register the colors.

Bill wasn't sure what the mark was at all
The Court highlighted the issues with the descriptions of multiple colors used in various registrations, where wording like "predominant colour applied to the whole visible surface" is used to describe the mark in addition to any graphic representation. This description leaves the mark unclear, as 'predominant' implies the amount of the color used, but leaves the 'how' completely out of it. As Lord Justice Kitchin observed: "…in order to fulfil its role as a trade mark and meet the requirements of precision and clarity, the sign must always be perceived unambiguously and uniformly". Without this the level and extent of protection is unclear, and the mark should not be registered, since "…if the authorities and the public are left in a state of confusion as to the nature of the sign then these requirements will not be satisfied".

Lord Justice Kitchin further noted that, when considering the precise make-up on a mark, one has to consider both the pictorial representation and the description that accompanies it. The description can clarify the mark if the pictorial representation is ambiguous or unclear, potentially making the mark valid. Both the image and the description should be treated as equal in this assessment, and considered as a whole.

The Court then dealt with the three possible interpretations of the mark put forward by Glaxo.

Firstly, Glaxo claimed that the mark consists of the precise arrangement of the dark and light purple colours shown in the pictorial representation, spikes and all. Lord Justice Kitchin swiftly rejected this argument as, to his mind, it would be nearly impossible to tell how the 'spikey' arrangement would be applied to an inhaler. If the shape were simpler, it could be possible to determine how it would be applied or would look like on an inhaler, but the mark, as represented, is unclear in its application. The verbal description remained too general as well, which left the mark wholly imprecise.

Secondly, Glaxo argued that that the abstraction shown in the picture is merely illustrative of the mark. The judge yet again rejected Glaxo's argument, as in his view the abstraction is not clear on its application on the inhaler, and the use of the colors differs in each of the pictures from the others. The verbal description does not illuminate the mark's application any further either, as mentioned above.

Finally, Glaxo argued that the mark consists of any proportions of the dark and light purple colours falling within the terms of the verbal description. Lord Justice Kitchin didn't agree with this argument, and considered that the public and other companies would be "…left in a position of complete uncertainty as to what the protected sign actually is". Ultimately, the judge saw that the mark "…lacks the clarity, intelligibility, precision, specificity and accessibility that the law demands", leaving it unclear to the public at large.

The Court therefore dismissed the appeal, and decided that the trademark was indeed invalid under Article 4 of the Directive.

The case is a very important reminder on the need to be precise and clear when applying for a trademark, particularly if it’s one that is difficult to set out, such as color trademarks. Any applicant should have their mark drafted very carefully, using both the pictorial and verbal descriptions to their full advantage, potentially even showing the mark's application on the products themselves.  In the end, the general nature of the mark was Glaxo's undoing, and this writer would love to see the matter debated in the Supreme Court, but thinks that's very unlikely.

01 August, 2017

Distinct as Ever - Google Not a Generic Term, Says US Court of Appeal

When a particular brand becomes hugely successful, it more often than not becomes very valuable, but even the biggest of players are not protected from the ill effects of popularity. A big problem that many brands face is the generification of their brand, i.e. it becomes so well-known and associated with a particular type of good or service that consumers use it to refer to all of those goods or services. Through this the distinctiveness of the trademark becomes diluted, and potentially is lost entirely. Many companies will therefore fight to protect their brands and to establish proper trademark use guidelines (for example, INTA has a set of guidelines for online use) to combat this issue. A case that has dealt with the 'generification' or 'genericisation' of trademarks has been going on in the US for over 5 years (discussion on the first instance decision here), culminating in a Court of Appeal decision in mid-March.

The case of Elliott v Google Inc. deals with the registration of over 760 domain names by David Elliot, which incorporated both the word "Google" and other well-known brands, such as Disney, in the domain name. Google subsequently objected to the registrations, lodging a complaint at the National Arbitration Forum (handling the domain name disputes for the provider). NAF ruled in Google's favor, and the complaint then lodged proceedings in the Arizona District Court for the cancellation of the Google trademarks under 15 USC section 1064(3) as being "...primarily understood as a generic term universally used to describe the act of internet searching". Elliott's case failed at first instance for lack of evidence as to this fact, and the matter since was appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The main question for the Court therefore was whether 'Google' had become generic through use; however, as noted by the Court: "…The mere fact that the public sometimes uses a trademark as the name for a unique product does not immediately render the mark generic". Consumers would have to consistently, and for a prolonged period of time, use the marl for it to become arguably generic. Judge Tallman set out the legal test for this, which looks at "…whether the primary significance of the term in the minds of the consuming public is [now] the product [and not] the producer".

Judge Tallman continued that the claim for the genericness of a product or service always has to relate to a particular type of goods or services the mark is registered for. Elliott had defined this as 'the act of searching the internet'; however, the marks are not registered for these types of services. The Court rejected his argument, due to a lack of particular good or services designated for which the mark has become generic for.

Elliott's main argument in the proceedings related to the potential use of 'Google' as a verb to describe the act of searching the internet (using Google or not) by the relevant public, having therefore become generic. The Court rejected Elliott's argument, since he failed on two fronts: he failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that he erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use.

Firstly, the Court highlighted Elliott's lack of specificity in setting out the particular type of goods or service the verb relates to. While he did set out that 'Google' related to the act of searching the internet in general, there was no inherent link between the claim of genericide and a particular type of good or service. In other words, Elliott's claim only relates to a broad, undefined action, rather than a particular good or service the mark is registered for.

Junior was unnerved by his own 'googling'
Secondly, the use of a trademark as a verb, according to the Court, does not automatically mean it has become generic. Elliott's argument was that a trademark should only be used as an adjective, and should it be used as a verb it would lose its source-identifying function and become generic. What the Court highlighted as the key consideration, as set out in Coca-Cola Company v Overland Inc., is "what… customers [were] thinking or whether they had a particular source in mind [for the goods or services in question]". What remains key is the consideration is the customers' inner thought processes regarding the goods or services, irrespective of the trademarks use as, for example, a verb or a noun.

This has been referred to as 'discriminate' and 'indiscriminate' use, where the consumer uses the mark as a verb or otherwise either with consideration of the underlying source or not, i.e. being happy with an alternate product or service being used instead of the namesake. The Court assessed that the main inquiry would be "…whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public is as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular", not simply has the mark has been used as a verb or not.

The Court then moved on to evidentiary matters. In determining whether the mark in question would have become generic, the claimant is "…required to identify sufficient evidence to support a jury finding that the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public is as a name for internet search engines generally and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular".

Elliott's evidence largely comprised of consumer surveys and generic use by media and consumers at large. Elliott also produced three expert witnesses, who argued that 'google' is used in a generic sense when it's used as a verb. In most of the evidence the word 'google' had simply been used as a verb, which, as the Court pointed out above, does not in itself make a word generic.

The Court concluded that Elliott had failed to produce sufficient evidence that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular.

The case shows that some battles might not be worth fighting. The evidentiary hurdle that a claim has to climb over in a claim for genericness is quite high, and as this case shows, even the biggest of players might not be as exposed as you think. Trademarks offer a versatile and flexible set of rights, which cannot be thwarted by a simple claim of verb use; however, rightsholders still need to remain vigilant over any claims of genericness from third-parties, especially if the name is of some note.

Source: JDSupra