Ask any lawyer what “IRAC” means, and s/he will instinctively recite this law school mantra: Issue. Rule. Analysis. Conclusion. Identify the multitude of issue(s) that are present in a fact pattern; identify the applicable rules or regulations; analyze the respective facts against said rules; and voila– a legal conclusion. - See more at: http://blog.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/corporate-counsel/what-law-school-didnt-teach-you-observations-from-accs-corporate-counsel-university/#sthash.R5d8MOR7.dpuf
Monday, 25 May 2015
Saturday, 23 May 2015
The European Patent Office offers "virtual classroom lessons" on Commercialisation of IP. Why, I don't know - it's a worthy enough subject, but why should a public institution be moving outside its core function to provide education in competition with many private-sector organisations, which pay the taxes that (presumably - though perhaps it is run entirely out of operating revenue) keep the EPO going? And even if you think it is legit for such an institution to be running courses, why commercialisation rather than something that the institution actually does? You'd have thought it would concentrate first on ensuring that people understood its own operations, how to draw up applications, and the substantive law of the Convention and supporting instruments. Still, it could be interesting and is certainly not expensive.
Monday, 18 May 2015
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Saturday, 16 May 2015
Thursday, 14 May 2015
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Originally a trade mark infringement (and validity) and passing-off case, by the time it reached the Supreme Court (which has now handed down its judgment:  UKSC 31 (13 May 2015)) it was only concerned with passing off and in particular whether it is good enough for the claimant to have international goodwill. That's a very important point in the law of passing off, so this is an interesting and (sad to admit) exciting case.
However, the outcome doesn't appear to be as exciting as I would have liked. Because they didn't actually have any paying customers in the UK, the claimants have no goodwill to protect (and having goodwill is essential for a passing-off action to lie, of course - part of Lord Oliver's classic trinity from the JIF Lemon case, Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd v Borden Inc  1 WLR 491). Old cases show that sometimes a foreign trade can generate some goodwill in this country - taking bookings, for example - but making its TV programmes available online in the UK amounted to nothing more than advertising and created no protectable goodwill.
I am disappointed that the court should have taken such a narrow view of what constitutes goodwill. It is, of course, a tricky thing to define (and you should read my Dictionary of Intellectual Property Law to learn more on that score), but in the modern age (by which I mean on the Internet) surely businesses create what most people would recognise as goodwill by promoting their services in other jurisdictions. Goodwill is, certainly, local in nature, but I think it is time to move on from the old view of goodwill and to embrace the idea that a trade reputation (is it the same thing?) can exist without money changing hands. It is a small step from making the TV programmes available to online viewers in the UK and charging them even a small amount to watch, and it should not be on such small steps that these things turn. (But perhaps when I read the judgment carefully I will find the answer to that.)
It need not even make any difference to the final result. The court could have distinguished the old cases and held that there was protectable goodwill, but gone on to hold that no damage had been suffered. To my mind, that would be a more logical place for the law to have ended up in. I certainly don't say that the court was wrong in any way, and those old cases can't just be wished away, but I do think the ratio does not reflect what people who commonly use the world wide web expect, and the alternative route to the same result might have given a more satisfactory ride.
You can conveniently watch the hearing using these links, which I have copied from the Supremes' website:
|25 Mar 2015||Morning session||Afternoon session|
|26 Mar 2015||Morning session||Afternoon session|
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Tuesday, 5 May 2015
Lidl Stiftung v OHMI - Horno del Espinar (Castello) (Judgment)  EUECJ T-715/13 (05 May 2015) is a weird case in the General Court. The German supermarket applied for a figurative trade mark in which the dominant element was the word, Castello, for various comestibles in classes 29, 30 and 31. It was opposed by the owner of a Spanish trade mark, also figurative and also with the dominant element being a single word, in its case Castelló. As I have learned when trying to communicate with Spanish people, that accent makes a world of difference (shifting the stress from the "e" to the "o"): I recall struggling to tell the Hertz representative from whom I had hired a car at Jerez airport the name of the village, Gaucín, to which I would be driving it, oblivious to the fact that the stress lay on the second syllable - and I was so proud of pronouncing the soft "c" correctly. I was also anxious because the Renault Grande Espace to which they had "upgraded" me (for which read, it's the only car we've got at the moment) was not much smaller than the village.
No-one, from OHIM and the Board of Appeal to the General Court, thought that they two were not similar: only Lidl tried to argue the contrary, and they were rather obliged to give that a whirl. Thank goodness for a bit of common sense somewhere in the EU trade mark system. But still, Lidl got what they wanted and the decision was annulled. How come? Simple, really, although the story is somewhat hidden in the turgid prose of the judgment (it is always so difficult to work out what happened, and why, in an EU case). It turned out that a failure by OHIM to provide Lidl wth information about the opponent's filings meant that the applicant was unable to mount its defence properly. (I think that's a fair summary). So, a procedural irregularity on the part of the office - hard to believe, with everything being so thoroughly automated in Alicante, but there it is, nothing is perfect.
It is an interesting contest between two weak but fairly well-known (not necessarily in the Article 6bis sense) trade marks. Allowing registration of a word mark like SKY, irrespective of any distinctiveness acquired through use, contributes greatly to the twin problems of depletion and foreclosure - the processes which make it increasingly difficult to coin a new trade mark. Although the word SKY is present in the word SKYPE (and it is not actually word trade marks anyway - there is some figurative content, which didn't help the applicant) surely that added bit at the end makes a difference, and is unlikely to be lost in aural use, short of the most extreme glottal stop ever. So I am not convinced that there is a likelihood of confusion, even before considering how well-known the trade marks are: and the better-known, the less likely members of the public are to become confused. At least, that's how I think it should be.
Since posting this, I have done an interview with the BBC World Service (using, of course, Skype). Preparing for that caused me to dig a little more deeply into the case, which made me realise that the applications were filed in 2005 and the oppositions in 2006, at which time Skype (first release August 2003) would have been much less well-known than it is now. Sky, on the other hand, was already well-known by then (having been founded in 1990). That suggests to me that there would still be little chance of confusion arising from any similarity between the names, given that people knew Sky and would notice that Skype was different; but also that the market for VOIP back then was much much smaller than now (indeed, I suppose that Skype created the market) and people who might be interested in obtaining services from Skype would be switched-on types who would understand that it was nothing to do with Mr Murdoch's empire. So it doesn't alter my view of the likelihood, or lack thereof, of confusion: a well-known trade mark should receive less protection because it is less vulnerable to confusion.
Because there were three Skype trade marks, there are three reported appeals, though the judgments might involve a lot of copying and pasting. Here are links to the BAILII reports: Skype v OHMI - Sky and Sky IP International (SKYPE) (Judgment)  EUECJ T-184/13 (05 May 2015), Skype v OHMI - Sky and Sky IP International (SKYPE) (Judgment)  EUECJ T-183/13 (05 May 2015), and Skype v OHMI - Sky and Sky IP International (skype) (Judgment)  EUECJ T-423/12 (05 May 2015).