Friday, 22 July 2016

Letters of Note: Mark Twain on copyright

Letters of Note - which is highly recommended reading at all times - has reproduced this letter by Mark Twain about US copyright law - more specifically about its failure to deal with cheap imports from Canada, and an early example I think of an international exhaustion rule. I think he should have been complaining about Canadian copyright law (which at the time was presumably Imperial copyright) - or perhaps about his own country's Declaration of Independence, or USexit as we might now call it. Which reminds me: one of the many, many disastrous effects of the UK leaving the EU (should it ever actually happen) will perhaps be the revival of the argument that exhaustion should happen globally - and without the constraints of EU law (and the more general constraint of the EU project) it will be harder to resist ... no doubt it would be hard to go the international exhaustion route if we remain in the single market, but that looks like an increasingly less likely outcome: if we want the single market we have to accept free movement, so the outcome is virtually identical to what we already have, and no doubt those who believe we are better off out of the EU will prefer to go for broke and cast the UK adrift in the stormy seas of global trade under the auspices of the WTO.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Lending of electronic books is comparable to the lending of traditional books

Lending a digital book to a reader must be the equivalent of lending a physical copy: it hardly seems to need thinking about, does it? But in the copyright world things are often not as simple or logical as they first appear. When an e-book is lent to a reader, is that the restricted act of lending (or perhaps rental, if money changes hands) or is it making available to the public? And should it fall within public lending rights schemes, which it would if it were regarded as lending? Which act it is, determines whether authors are remunerated for the activity. In the UK it has been treated as "making available", and therefore outside the scope of public lending right, a matter of concern to my trade union the Society of Authors - but perhaps not for much longer.

In Case C-174/15, Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken v Stichting Leenrecht, Advocate-General Szpunar has indicated that the activity should be treated as a form of lending. Provided it is on the "one copy, one user" basis (the library lends the e-book to one person, and can't lend it to another until it has been "returned") this is economically no different from lending a hard-copy book. The Advocate-General considered that the fact that the 2006 rental and lending directive was silent on the matter of e-books indicated no more than that the technology was in its infancy - a bit of a feeble excuse, because although the Kindle was launched in November 2007, less than a year after the Directive was passed, Sony had produced the Librie in 2004 and the Reader in 2006. More to the point, perhaps, e-books have been around since at least 1971 when Michael S Hart set up the very wonderful Project Gutenberg, so why didn't the directive take into account what was already pretty old technology?

Whatever the answer to that, the Advocate-General thinks that the directive should be read so as to cover e-books. This is exactly the sort of judicial activism that gives the Court of Justice a bad name - not reason to vote Out tomorrow, but certainly (for me) a reason to be with Jeremy Corbyn - about 70 per cent "remain". If the EU produced half-decent legislation to start with, I might be up to 75 or 80 per cent.

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Friday, 17 June 2016

Garage's use of carmaker's trade mark

It's rather hard to see why a case in which an unauthorised repairer, sued by the manufacturer for trade mark infringement, would even incur the expense of going to court. Nevertheless in Bayerische Motoren Werke AG v Technosport London Ltd and Anor [2016] EWHC 797 (IPEC) (13 April 2016) that is exactly what happened, and the defendant won on one count of trade mark infringement. But it lost on another two, and on passing off, so had a bad day overall.

BMW alleged infringements of their BMW trade mark, the roundel device and the "M" device which denotes certain high-performance models in their range. Perhaps I should write "extra-high performance".

The first two are Community or now EU trade marks, and the third an International designating the EU, so the legislation which was engaged in the case was Council Regulation (EC) No. 207/2009. In each case the claimant invoked art.9(1)(a) (double identity) and (b) (likelihood of confusion) and in the case of the "M" device art.9(1)(c) (unfair advantage) as well, and all three infringements had associated passing off claims. That seems pretty comprehensive.
 The uses of the trade marks were all the things that one expects of an unauthorised repairer. There was the use of the description "BMW Specialist" on the fascia on the garage premises, which it was accepted was not liable to affect any of the functions of the trade mark (Case C-63/97, Deenik): it was an accurate message about the services offered by the defendant, and was not even pleaded. The roundel also appeared on the fascia, which was another matter: and it was on a van, business cards and a banner inside the premises. The "M" logo appeared on the website.

The novel allegations of infringement concerned the fact that Mr Agyeton, the proprietor of the defendant, wore a shirt with the initials "BMW" on it and he or the defendant operated a Twitter account with the handle @TechnosportBMW. That claim did not succeed, but the others did. The fact that the roundel featured on the packaging of parts which were supplied (through the authorised dealer network) to the defendant, as the law requires them to be, made the claim a little more complicated. In addition, promotional items bearing the roundel were provided to dealers as part of the manufacturer's efforts to encourage the sale of genuine parts, and would be passed on to non-authorised dealers, who would pass them on to customers, which further complicated the matter. In the end, however, the judge was satisfied that the average consumer would not understand the roundel on the packaging to indicate that the garage was an authorised repairer. But where the roundel was displayed on or in the premises, the average consumer would assume that this indicated a connection between the garage and BMW, or (if that was not the case) at least it would cause consumers to wonder about the connection.

The use of the roundel also amounted to taking unfair advantage of the reputation of the trade mark (art.9(1)(c)), although that won't have added anything to the remedies (and, being an IPEC case, the amount of damages available was limited anyway).

The use of the "M" device would also have those effects, so that too amounted to an infringement. But the use of the BMW signs conveyed no suggestion that the defendant was an authorised repairer, partly because the evidence provided didn't get BMW far enough, so this line of attack is hardly foreclosed by this judgment.  There is an interesting argument that, because BMW dealers commonly include "BMW" in their business names, the addition of the defendant's name could actually made it seem more like a representation that there was a connection: the judge thought that too subtle for the average consumer, but it should definitely not be discounted in future. A manufacturer might well find a way to make that approach work in their favour.

Where, you might wonder, do the art.12 defences feature in this case? The answer is that the defendant accepted that art.12 added nothing to the defence to the infringement claim, namely that "the defendant's use of the signs was not liable to affect the functions of the Trade Marks.  This was because the signs as used by TLL would in each case have conveyed to the average consumer that TLL was a specialist in the repair and maintenance of BMW vehicles, using genuine BMW spare parts." I expected to see detailed consideration of the "honest practices in industrial and commercial matters" proviso, as in Volvo v Heritage, but the judge wasn't asked to get into that.

Regarding the passing-off claims, these stood or fell with the trade mark claims, and the judge explained the connection between the two which strikes me as an interesting point:
 Had I found that the message conveyed by TLL’s use of its roundel and the M logo signs in each case did no more than render the average consumer unable to determine whether there was an economic link between TLL and BMW, as opposed to causing the average consumer to take the view that there was such a link, on that evidence I would have concluded that there had been no passing off by TLL, see Reed Executive plc v Reed Business Information Ltd [2004] RPC 40, at [111] and Phones 4U Ltd v Ltd [2007] RPC 5, at [16].
"Unable to determine" and "caused to wonder" amount to the same thing (so it appears from this judgment), so the test for passing off is somewhat stricter than that for trade mark infringement.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Copyright in digitally remastered recordings

I read recently (here in Billboard and Music Law Updates) about a case in the USA in which it was argued that when a digitally-remastered recording was broadcast, it was not a broadcast of a much older recording (originally in analogue form) and therefore escaped the need to pay. It turns on a point of US law, at the intersection of State and Federal law, which makes the status of pre-1972 recordings debatable. That goes beyond the scope of this blog - but it led me to some thoughts about how copyright works when sound recordings are remastered.

I don't like the basis on which that court in California decided its case: which is not to say that I think the judge was wrong, because it's their law and it's not for me to say what is and isn't the legal position. But I do think that, if the principle is that a remastered recording of an earlier recording is a new copyright work, that's not right.

I've thought this instinctively for some time. Now I think I know why I feel that way. The way I see it, a recording is what is made of a performance of some sort. I know that the law doesn't define a sound recording in that way but perhaps it should - perhaps it's the definition of a sound recording that's wrong. Take, for example (because I happen to be listening to it), Kind of Blue. Some might say not the best example because the 1992 digital remastering changed the key of the music - but I don't think it makes any difference. Miles Davis and the other members of the sextet played the music in 1959 and a recording was made. No new recording was made in 1986, 1992, 1997 or 2005. To my way of thinking, there is only one recording, one copyright work: subsequent productions are just that, new productions of the same recording. No separate copyright should subsist in the remastered version. That isn't, apparently, the state of US copyright law, and it probably isn't the state of UK copyright law - but I think it should be.

Monday, 6 June 2016

China: JLR sue Landwind over Evoque look-alike

According to Reuters, Jaguar Land Rover has become the first western car maker to sue a Chinese rival, Jiangling Motor, in China for copying its design. Although copying is rife, the difficulty of enforcing intellectual property rights in China has usually deterred manufacturers from taking such a step - Honda took action to protect the CR-V design from copying by a little-known Chinese company, and were in court for 12 years before winning far smaller damages than they had sought.

The JLR suit is based (it seems) on copyright and unfair competition law. Jianling's Landwind X7 - the latest version of which was announced last November - bears a striking resemblance to the Evoque. It has softer, more rounded angles on the front, but cheap kits enable the owner to modify the look to make it more like an Evoque, which costs three times as much.

In the UK, JLR have applied to register the appearance of the Evoque as a trade mark. The application is still under examination, but there are many precedents for vehicle shapes being registered as trade marks - though how effective they are has not yet been shown in litigation.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Who owns a Banksy mural?

The late Sir Hugh Laddie famously became a bit fed up with having to deal with general Chancery Division business, like landlord and tenant matters, when he was the Patents Court judge. But he'd probably have been perfectly happy with a dispute over the ownership of a wall, as in The Creative Foundation v Dreamland Leisure Ltd & Ors [2015] EWHC 2556 (Ch) (11 September 2015).

Separating intellectual property from the concrete items in or on which it is carried or displayed is a big conceptual problem for anyone coming fresh to the topic. A literary work is an abstract matter, separate from but related to the book in which it is printed. A painting likewise: ownership of the canvas does not confer ownership of the copyright, though provided the legal formalities are observed the two can certainly stay in the same ownership. However, this analysis rather assumes that the artist owned the canvas at the time - or at least had the right to apply paint to it. What if she didn't? And what (if it makes any difference) if it wasn't canvas, but a wall?

The growth of street art, and the growth of the respectability of street art too, has resulted in new challenges to the law. The intersection of intellectual property and landlord and tenant law would surely have appealed to Mr Justice Laddie, as it seems to have done to Mr Justice Arnold. The topic is discussed in greater detail in this article on the City University blog, by Enrico Bonadio.

Banksy (because of course it was he) created the mural in suit in Folkestone during the town's triennial arts festival in 2014. The organiser of the festival, The Creative Foundation, acquired the rights to the painting from the landlord, but the tenant removed it, arguing that this was an incident of its obligations to maintain the premises. It further argued that it had become the owner of the painting, but instead of disposing of  it at the local tip as one might expect the repairer of a defaced wall to do, they shipped it to the United States where it was to be auctioned.

Mr Justice Arnold had no difficulty in deciding that the painting had become part of the fabric of the building and therefore was the property of the landlord (who had transferred ownership to the Foundation). On being removed from the building, the claimant argued, the bricks and mortar (and paint) became once again the chattels which they had been before they were made into a wall and incorporated into a piece of real property, and section 2 of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 came into play, allowing the court to order delivery up. Without referring expressly to the 1977 Act, the judge did just that.

The judgment should make it more difficult for people to remove murals from property they do not own - although in practical terms it is surely significant that Banksies, one removed from their original sites, seem to cross the Atlantic pretty quickly to be sold by auction beyond the effective reach of the English courts.

As for copyright, Mr Justice Arnold also had no difficulty in recognising that Banksy owned it in the work in question. Given that he is in the habit of painting on other people's canvasses, an activity which in the law's humourless way could be counted as criminal damage (though I doubt it would ever give rise to a complaint), that is a relevant point. Glyn v Weston tells us that copyright will be withheld on public policy grounds from immoral works, and works the creation of which involves the commission of an offence might well be treated the same way - although the new owner of the painting (the owner of the newly-painted wall) will usually give retrospective permission for it. In the US, as Dr Bonadio (who incidentally calls Arnold J "Justice Arnold", thus promoting him to the Supreme Court) notes, graffiti artists would probably be denied copyright protection under the "clean hands" doctrine.

A graffiti-sprayer with dirty hands - there's an interesting idea ...

Glee for the lawyers?

I hesitate to use the word "bullying" in the context of trade mark litigation of doubtful merit, because bullying is not something about which to speak or write lightly. But the expression "trade mark bullying" has entered common parlance, at least among trade mark practitioners, and I suppose that as a lexicographer - a label which I can't really fail to acknowledge - I am committed to accepting the way language is used, although under no obligation not to be critical about it.

Comic Enterprises Ltd v Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation [2016] EWCA Civ 455 (25 May 2016) is as unedifying a case of a big trade mark owner trying to overcome a small one irrespective of the strengths of their case as one could hope not to see. Reading this morning that the unsuccessful claimants (and unsuccessful respondents) are seeking to take the case to the Supreme Court, which one might imagine would be making lawyers rub their hands with glee, actually adds to the unedifyingness of the whole thing and makes it look more like bullying.

On 16 February the Court of Appeal dismissed Fox's appeal against a decision of Roger Wyand QC (sitting as a deputy judge) that they had infringed the claimant's earlier trade mark, leaving an appeal against the deputy judge's refusal to revoke the claimant's trade mark to be resolved. The Court of Appeal has now dismissed that appeal too. (A passing-off claim was unsuccessful at first instance, and the claimant's cross-appeal on that claim was dismissed.)

Essentially, the claim is about reverse confusion. The claimant opened the first of its (primarily) stand-up comedy clubs in 1994, and filed a trade mark application in 1999. The application was for registration of a series of two device marks, in which the word "Glee" was prominent and the difference lay in the colours. This proved to be the claimant's Achilles heel, leading to the claim that the registration was invalid.

The defendant produced a television show entitled "glee" [sic], perhaps hoping that if they didn't give the title a capital initial they might be able to argue that it wasn't trade mark use. Fat chance of that. It was first broadcast in the UK in December 2009, so the claimant's registration gave them a head start of over a decade. The claimant's registration was wide enough to cover the defendant's activities, or many of them - including merchandising and concerts. It looks like an open-and-shut case, and as far as infringement goes it is hard to see why on earth it should even have got to court let alone the Court of Appeal.

The answer lies in the fact that the likelihood of confusion - necessary, because the trade mark and the defendant's sign are merely similar,  not identical - provided an opportunity to mount a defence. Not a strong one, perhaps, but at least there was a possibility. The odd thing here is that the confusion goes in the opposite direction to what is normal. The senior mark was being confused with the (better-known) junior one. But that didn't matter: there was a likelihood of confusion, there were witnesses to attest to the fact that they had thought the club and the television programme were connected, or came from the same source, and that was all that was needed. Reverse confusion, like reverse passing off (as in Bristol Conservatories)?

Better, though, was the argument that the trade mark was invalid, that it didn't qualify as a series or even that such a series trade mark could not be registered under the terms of the directive. But that's another story which I don't have time to write at the moment. I was pleased to note from the first instance judgment that the extract from the Registry's manual shows as an example a trade mark for which I filed the original application - though it wasn't, and apparently still isn't, a series (the Registry might have adapted it to illustrate the point they wanted to make).

Steal This Riff: How To Fix Copyright Law And Set Musicians Free - MTV

I'm always rather unconvinced by "how to fix copyright" articles, but here is an interesting contribution to the debate about sampling, proposing a compulsory licensing solution. Paradoxically (I think) the new technologies that make this a problem also hold the key to collecting micro-payments in return for use of a copyright work, so rendering collective licensing potentially redundant. And why should any licensing scheme be compulsory? That might have been the best way to strike a balance between owners and users a few years ago, but the technology now puts rights owners in charge of the use of the own rights, and if they don't want to grant licences they shouldn't have to, provided of course that they don't simply discriminate on bad grounds. Usually, I imagine, they would be happy to have the money: that after all is what motivates most people to create copyright works.

Coincidentally, this appeared in my feed reader the same day that the BBC reported (here) that a copyright infringement suit brought in Germany by [a member of] Kraftwerk, over a two-second sample of the drum part of the band's 1977 song Metall auf Metall. I never got Kraftwerk, as it happens, or any other Kraut-rock bands from that era (though I think I might find Tangerine Dream interesting if I had the time to try). But I digress. The German courts have been on Kraftwerk's side, up to and including the Bundesgerichtshof, but now apparently the Federal Constitutional Court - Bundesverfassungsgericht - has come to the conclusion that the decision could affect the defendant's (Moses Pelham's) constitutional rights, making it impossible to create music in a particular style (since when was that a constitutional right?) and has sent to case back to the BGH to reconsider.

If this is what they are complaining about, I can't identify the offending drum track: nothing original to my ears. Sounds quite pleasant - but that isn't always a good thing to say about music.

The drums sound quite original here, and nothing like on Nur Mir. I think it might become a little boring before it finishes, though. Much more interesting to listen to Steve Reich if you want Drumming.

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Friday, 27 May 2016

Council adopts trade secrets directive

The EU Council has adopted the trade secrets directive. The Council's press release is here. The Directive comes into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal and Member States have two years in which to implement it.

It follows hot on the heels of similar legislation in the US, prompting me to think about a short comparative study of the two - but not today.

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