Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Book review: Copyright Law and Derivative Works by Omri Rachum-Twaig

Calling a work "derivative" is not a compliment, but there has been a tendency (since at least the Gowers Review) to consider the way that copyright laws treat derivative works as too restrictive. The author's starting point is the proposition that copyright regulates creativity: indeed, "regulating creativity" appears as a sub-title on the front cover. It seems to me that exploring creativity through the prism of derivative works is the wrong starting point, but I don't think it detracts from this fascinating and important book.
It seems customary these days to explain that one has been given a review copy of a book, so let me start by stating (though it seems pretty obvious to me) that I have been given a review copy of this book, published recently by Routledge at the eye-watering price of £115 - that being the main reason that declaring the gift of a review copy is surely redundant. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's worth £115 of anybody's money, but it will be worth that much of some people's money, and it is a very interesting not-so-little (190 pages of real text) monograph, not padded out with lots of front- and back-matter.
After considering matters of quantum, always the first thing I notice about a book, I start to wonder about the author. He is, the book tells me, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Tel Aviv. The Internet tells me more, and I was particularly interested to read that his first degree is a Bachelor of Music and that he has had an impressive orchestral career already. That might have been his route into copyright law, but if it was it doesn't show in this book, and I found that slightly disappointing: but it doesn't claim to be a book about music copyright, so my disappointment is probably misplaced anyway.
The work, my reservations about the focus on derivative works notwithstanding, is an exploration of how well copyright understands creativity, compared with other fields of study: so, despite the title, it is quite light on black-letter copyright law - and more interesting for it, IMHO. It uses derivative works to inform its discussion of creativity, considering whether the law's treatment of the right to make derivative works (and its inclusion, generally, in the bundle of exclusive rights that the copyright owner enjoys) is compatible with what other disciplines teach us. The author examines the cognitive aspects of creativity before going on to look at genre theories (with an interesting discussion of how Sherlock Holmes derives from the work of Edgar Allen Poe) and the justifications for what he calls the "derivative works right", though I am not convinced of the need to identify it as a distinct instance of copyright protection - reproduction right ought to do the job.
But perhaps that remark just shows me to be unsympathetic to the argument that copyright, in the interest of encouraging creativity, should be more liberal in its treatment of derivative works: surely "derivative" is the opposite of "creative" or "original", and where a later creator wants to use another's copyright material it is a transaction that should be resolved by licensing, not by permitting otherwise infringing acts. A transformative work is another matter, and to my mind copyright should be encouraging the creation of such works rather than engaging in a sterile argument about creating space to make derivative works, space which already exists and is regulated by the requirement that making them requires the copyright owner.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Crown use as a solution to drug costs

There's nothing new about controversy over the cost to the NHS of patented pharmaceuticals. It's inherent in the patent system that patentees who invest possibly eye-watering amounts of money in devising inventions will want to use their monopoly rights to recover that investment and gain a return on it.

Today The Observer reports on a novel solution to the sometimes terrible problems that can arise when drugs are available to treat life-threatening conditions but the price is out of reach. Mechanisms are in place to try to ensure that the NHS is not charged excessively for new drugs, but they have failed to close the gap between what the NHS can afford and what the patentee wants (£105,000 per patient) in this case. The mooted solution is to use the Crown use provisions of the Patents Act 1977, under which the patentee will receive a modest royalty. Section 55 actually uses the expression "for services of the Crown", but section 56(2) specifically includes "the production or supply of specified drugs and medicines" within "the services of the Crown", making it a surprisingly wide concept.

I don't recall section 55 being invoked very often, and while the facts as narrated by The Observer are rather thin - it concentrates on the undoubted human interest aspects - this certainly looks like an interesting departure in patent law. I hope above all else that a solution can be reached that delivers what the unfortunate patients need.

Monday, 21 January 2019

New podcasts

I have had a break of a few years from podcasting, for various reasons. I hope you will have seen the IPso Jure YouTube channel (link on the right hand side bar) which I started up a few months ago, on which I plan to publish some basic material including a lot of stuff for law students (such as how to answer exam questions) as well as practitioners.

Today I have relaunched my podcasts with a production about the reform of UK trade mark law which came into effect on 14 January this year. It's about 40 minutes long and I am selling copies for £1 each. I will soon be recording a monthly update podcast (like I used to do a few years ago) and selling that too. Please visit the Podcasts page (there are links on the left hand side bar) for more information and to download the first programme. You can also download the accompanying slides here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The effect of a "no-deal" departure from the EU

Yesterday's vote in the House of Commons, a record-breaking defeat for a government, leaves us with no clearer idea of what might happen at the end of March. By default, according to the law as it stands, we leave the EU on 29 March, and as there is no withdrawal agreement we will leave with nothing to govern our relationship with the EU. The chances of that changing are fairly good, given that Parliament (which is trying to wrest control of the process from the government - ironic, given that "taking back control" was supposedly at the heart of the whole idea of leaving the EU) has put in place provisions that make it pretty well impossible to crash out without a deal.

The most likely alternatives at present seem to be an extension beyond 29 March of the notice period given under Article 50 TFEU, or withdrawal of that notice (which the Court of Justice has kindly indicated can be done unilaterally, although only if it is in good faith - that is, not simply to delay matters). Neither of those requires consideration at present, because the status quo would be preserved.

The government has published guidance on what will happen in a variety of areas if there is no deal. One of its briefings concerns trade marks and designs. Originally these documents said that a "no-deal" withdrawal was unlikely: more recent editions seem to lack that reassurance. Ho hum. Although it does say: "We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU."

Of particular interest to trade mark and registered design owners is what will be the effect of their EU trade marks if no deal is reached. After all, for years they have been encouraged to believe that all they needed was protection at the EU level and many allowed their UK national rights to fall away, to save renewal fees. The answer is:
The government will ensure that the property rights in all existing registered EU trade marks and registered Community designs will continue to be protected and to be enforceable in the UK by providing an equivalent trade mark or design registered in the UK.
Note that this says nothing about charges. Under the draft withdrawal agreement, there would have been no charge for this: will the government be able to resist an opportunity to raise some revenue, especially when so much would come from foreign companies? Perhaps the financial arrangements of the Patent Office (or Intellectual Property Office as it prefers to be called) remove any attraction to this course of action - it might not benefit the Treasury.
Right holders with an existing EU trade mark or registered Community design will have a new UK equivalent right granted that will come into force at the point of the UK’s exit from the EU. The new UK right will be provided with minimal administrative burden. The trade mark or design will then be treated as if it had been applied for and registered under UK law.
And if a new corresponding trade mark has not been used in the UK in the past five years - will it immediately be liable to revocation? Will the proprietor be able to rely on the reputation acquired by the trade mark in other EU countries, when suing an infringer in the UK? The rejected withdrawal agreement dealt with these points, but the guidance says nothing. Logically, leaving the EU should mean that the new trade mark's past counts for nothing - the five year non-use period should start from scratch, and any reputation acquired elsewhere in the EU should be irrelevant.
This means that these trade marks and designs:
  • will be subject to renewal in the UK
  • can form the basis for proceedings before the UK Courts and the Intellectual Property Office’s Tribunal
  • can be assigned and licensed independently from the EU right
No surprise there.
After exit, business, organisations and individuals with EU trade mark and Community design applications which are ongoing at the date of exit will be able to refile with the Intellectual Property Office under the same terms for a UK equivalent right, using the normal application process for registered trade marks and registered designs in the UK.
Was that even worth saying?
This means that for a period of 9 months from exit, the government will recognise filing dates and claims to earlier priority and UK seniority recorded on the corresponding EU application. Right holders taking this step will need to meet the cost of refiling the application in accordance with the UK application fee structure.
 Does this actually follow? I would have thought that if the normal application process were followed there would be a 12-month priority period, although seniority (being a pecularily EU thing) is a different matter. Anyway, this "special priority period" could be useful for applications for EU rights outstanding on the key date (29 March 2019 or such other date as might emerge) because it could enable an applicant whose EU application is opposed to salvage UK protection while retaining the priority date.
These same provisions will apply to international registrations designating the EU filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation. This ensures that there is continued protection in the UK from March 2019 onwards for trade marks and registered designs (filed through the Madrid and Hague Systems, and designating the EU as the area where they apply).
That seems reasonable, if "reasonable" is a word that can be used in connection with any of this.

Two other points are worth mentioning: first, without an agreement to govern withdrawal the rights of UK lawyers to represent clients before the EUIPO will be in the gift of the European Union rather than based on a sound legal right; and second, EU TM owners might need to find themselves an address for service in the "residual" EU after the UK leaves. More headaches for small businesses.

You might find it useful to listen to this presentation which I published a while ago on the IPso Jure YouTube channel, although it is now to be treated with care!


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Purposive construction

A little while ago, I illustrated the concept of a transformative copyright work by referring to what Rachmaninov did to Pagannini's Caprice no 24. A little while? It was October 2017. Now another illustration of an important aspect of intellectual property law from the world of music has come along.

This time my inspiration came from Record Review on BBC Radio 3 a few weeks ago (on 14 December 2018, to be precise - if you go to the Radio 3 website you might still be able to find the programme, perhaps in the podcast version). The work being reviewed was Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche. It's a piece I came to love when I was still at school (the horn solo particularly appealed), and the three boxed set of LPs of Strauss's Orchestral Works by Kempe and the Dresden Staatskappelle were quite an early part of my record collection. But I digress, as usual.

About 17 minutes and 20 seconds into the podcast, the reviewer (the composer William Mival) is considering the 1959 recording by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein - another of my favourite musicians. "Bernstein even adds in detail that isn't in Strauss's score", he tells us. "A snap or Bartok pizzicato in the double basses right at the end of the market scene just before till rides off into the far distance. It means that the string is plucked with so much force that it rebounds against the fingerboard producing a distinctive crack. This kind of addition is of course typical of Bernstein who would often be far more interested in the spirit of the written score rather than the literal instructions on the page."

That neatly brings together two memorable events from my first term at University, back in 1974: the opening of the new arts centre, when honorary degrees were conferred on Peggy Ashcroft, Eurgene Ionescu, Michael Tippett and Leonard Bernstein, and one of the earliest concerts there given by the Amadeus String Quartet, which included a Bartok quartet from which I learnt about that pizzicato. But again, I digress.

Thanks to YouTube, I can direct you to exactly the right moment in Lennie's recording. But how does this relate to intellectual property law? Less well than it would have done a few years ago, I admit, but it's still relevant. Ever since Lord Diplcok's speech in Catnic v Hill & Smith [1981] FSR 60, [1982] RPC 183 (HL) we have been familiar with the idea of a purposive approach to interpreting patent claims - considering what the applicant had in mind, the spirit of the claims, rather than the precise words used. And although the way the courts approach patent claim interpretation now has developed from that starting point, the idea of a purposive approach remains important. Modern claim interpretation, I suppose, can be said to date from the moment Lord Diplock chose to seek out the purpose of the claims rather than fixating on the words - a departure which I do not believe is an unalloyed good thing, but who am I to criticise the noble Lord and his colleagues? Suffice to say (for the time being) that to my mind the purposive approach works far better in musical performances than in patent litigation.

Happily, the outcome of the review of the available recordings was that the Kempe version which I have owned for about 45 years came out well ahead of the rest. Although I do like the Bernstein ...

Monday, 14 January 2019

Revised Trade Marks Act: generic use in dictionaries

Today is the day the revised Trade Marks Act 1994 comes into operation. The changes have been brought about by the Trade Marks Regulations 2018 (SI No 825), and implement the EU directive 2015/2436. My friend Jane Lambert has written about it on her NIPClaw blog so I don't feel the need to deal with it all - although I am preparing a recorded lecture. But one provision does strike me particularly.

New section 99A implements Article 12 of the Directive, which deals with the inclusion of a trade mark in a dictionary, encyclopedia or other work of reference so as to give the impression that it is the generic name for the product or servicefor which it is registered. Hoover, for example, should be described as a trade mark for vacuum cleaners - which is exactly what my Bloomsbury Concise English Dictionary does (except that it adopts the American convention of joining the words "trade" and "mark").

The Directive, unhelpfully, prescribes no mechanism for enforcing this right, saying only that the proprietor has the right to request the publisher to put matters right, and that this must be done without delay and certainly in the next edition if the work is a printed on. The Act allows the court, on the proprietor's application, to order compliance, to order erasure or amendment or even destruction, and to grant such other order as the court considers appropriate.

So the proprietor of a vulnerable trade mark has new and valuable protection against genericide. But I realised over the weekend that this is not enough. That dawned on me in the course of solving the Financial Times prize crossword, which tested me with 23 down: "Starts to loot your store of lavatory disinfectant (5)". I had never heard of LYSOL*, but it's the subject of a couple of hundred trade marks around the world owned by Reckitt Benckiser including several EU ones and 3359242 filed last month (313061, from 1909, having died) - the proprietor obviously taking steps to protect itself after 29 March 2019.

I don't like this, though my old friend and fellow cruciverbalist Bob Cumbow of Miller Nash Graham and Dunn LLC, with whom I colaborate on the FT puzzle each weekend, tells me it is fairly common in US puzzles: and he pointed out that the solution to 2 down, "Utter tosh about US estate agent", was also a trade mark: REALTOR ("real" for "utter", "rot" for "tosh", reversed). In fact it belongs to the National Association of Realtors, so it seems to be functioning as a sort of collective or certification mark, so I learnt something new from the exercise, but more importantly it occurred to me that s.99A gives no protection against this important sub-type of genericide. Should it? Or does the law go as far as one might reasonably expect? I should have been writing this when the government (through the agency of the IPO) consulted on the implementation of the new directive. Maybe next time.

*You probably don't need this, but "Starts to ..." is a pretty clear direction to make a word out of the initial letters of what follows.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Independent garage defeats manufacturer's trade mark application

Thanks to Jane Lambert and her NIPC Law blog for drawing my attention to Jaguar Land Rover Ltd v Twisted Automotive Ltd [2018] EWHC 3536 (Ch) (20 December 2018) which is a judgment of Rose J in an appeal against the 15 May 2018 (O-289-18) decision of Ms Louise White acting for the Registrar of Trade Marks. In her decision, Ms White upheld the opposition by the Respondent to the registration by the Appellant of the trademark "LR" (except for bicycles and scooters and related goods): and in her judgment Rose J dismissed the appeal. Quite right too, IMHO, although on the facts it could be a pretty close-run thing.

Twisted, who trade as specialists in Land-Rover Defender vehicles, parts and services, had no registered trade mark, so they had to rely on section 5(4)(a) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 - which in essence required them to show that they could have succeeded in a passing-off action. The main reason that I think it might have been a close-run thing was that their use only goes back to November 2015, and although the point did not detain the learned judge the appellant pointed out that the date on which the strength of the respondent's goodwill had to be measured was the application date - 23 August 2016.

JLR put forward the interesting argument that their use of the sign LR would not be a misrepresentation, because the respondent was indeed dealing in Land-Rover products. Remember that what was at issue was not (as is usually the case when manufacturers sue independent repairers) whether the respondent could use the sign, but whether the appellant could be allowed to register it. JLR were, in a sense, too late: unless the Hearing Officer had got it very wrong (a gross over-simplification of the principles set out by Arnold J in Apple Inc v Arcadia Trading Limited [2017] EWHC 440 (Ch)) an appeal court cannot interfere, and anyway JLR's assertion that the sign would be recognised as identifying their business was just that, an assertion, unsupported by evidence. In fact, JLR had never used the sign at all. The learned judge saw no reason to interfere with the Hearing Officer's decision.

While on the face of it you might not expect such a short period of trading under the sign to create enough goodwill for a passing-off action to succeed, that didn't influence the outcome of the case. And actually in my view there could well have been enough goodwill. If (as the Mullers Margarine case tells us) goodwill is the attractive force that brings in custom, you have to take the customers as you find them. Land-Rover Defenders are specialist vehicles. Indeed, Land-Rover don't make mass-market vehicles at all, but I think there is a distinction to be drawn between its Range Rover, Discovery and Freelander ranges and the utilitarian Defender, developed from the original Land-Rover which required no fancy model name - indeed, had nothing remotely fancy about it and often attracted the adjective "agricultural", which was always meant in a good way. No-one buys a Defender as an ordinary family run-around: it is designed to do a particular job, which it does very well, and if you don't want a vehicle to do that you won't buy one. Simple. As I remarked in a slightly different context - in 2013, though it seems like only yesterday - not all car owners are the same. In that earlier post I was considering Porsche owners, but (while there might be little overlap with Defender owners) the same principle applies. We are talking about enthusiasts. "Petrolheads" might not be the right word, given that Defenders often have diesel engines, but you get my drift, don't you?

While the owner of a bog standard cooking family saloon or hatchback might not bother to understand the intricacies of the motor trade - distinguishing between manufacturer and dealer, and between authorised repairer and independent - and indeed these days might not even own their car but just lease it, we should not assume that enthusiasts are the same. They buy a Defender (or a Porsche, or whatever), not mobility. When they look for specialist services, or parts or accessories, they are quite likely to trust independent experts rather than authorised dealers.

It's a fact of life that authorised workshops only usually get to see cars under three years old. Once they reach MoT age they tend to become the preserve of independent garages. Maintenance contracts, personal leases and warranties might all contribute to extending that period of exclusivity, but as a rule the buyer of a secondhand car isn't as likely to entrust it to the authorised workshops for servicing and repair. They often cost more - sometimes a great deal more - and their up-to-date knowledge isn't particularly important if you don't have an up-to-date car. The last Defender (apart from a limited edition for the 70th anniversary in 2018 - only 150 examples) was made nearly three years ago, so Land-Rover dealers will be seeing less and less of them anyway: owners will be aware of the independent sector, and to keep their running costs proportionate to the value of their vehicle they will be inclined to use it.

Enthusiasts, such as Defender owners, should be assumed to know the value of the independent sector and to understand the differences between it and the franchised motor trade. So while this isn't how Rose J reached her decision (neither is it how the Hearing Officer Ms Louise White reached hers), I think it demonstrates that the decisions were absolutely right.
 

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