Category: Uncategorized

The World of Patents in Europe

Dublin, Ireland-based Sherwin O’Riordan (SOR) Solicitors has provided us with this beautiful and insanely informational infographic on the current state of European patent registration. Taken from the most recent European Patent Office statistics (2013 Annual Report and 2014 Facts and Figures), the infographic highlights some interesting trends in European patent prosecution including:

-Patent Application Filings on the Rise: In 2013, there were 265,690 European patents filed, the largest number of annual filings to date, and representing a 2.8% increase over 2012.

-Foreign (and Corporate) Registrants Were the Largest and Often Most Successful Registrants: On average, one in four patents were granted registration in 2013. Interestingly, those countries that were the most successful in getting a European patent registered were mostly from outside Europe as the U.S., Germany and Japan had the three most successful registration rates per country. Large enterprises made up almost two-thirds of patent applicants in 2013. South Korea-based Samsung was the single largest patent filer in Europe with 2,833 applications in 2013 alone, followed by Siemens with 1,974 applications.

-Medical Patents Led Registration, Tech and Transport Patents Grew The Fastest: The Medical industry had the largest amount of European patents per technical field in 2013, however computer technology and transport were the fastest growing during the same.

-The Swiss Led the Way Among Europeans: Switzerland appeared to be Europe’s most inventive country in 2013, leading all other European countries in European patent applications per million inhabitants.

-Revocation After Registration is Common: In 2013, almost one in three European patents were revoked after being granted registration.

Special thanks to James Sherwin and everyone at SOR Solicitors for sharing this infographic with The IP Exporter!

IP and Business Presentation in Vancouver, B.C.

Wanted to let you all know that my colleague Rachel Buker (blogger for Art and Artifice) and I will be giving a free lunch-time presentation on IP and business legal issues Canadian entrepreneurs, start-ups and other businesses may face as they enter the U.S. market (and other foreign markets) on September 12th at noon at HiVE Vancouver.

There are only a few open spots available, so if you are going to be in Vancouver and want to attend, please RSVP through Eventbrite.

Hope you can make it! It should be a good time.

The Blue Jay Trademark Battle Commences…

It is getting to be my favorite time of year sports-wise when U.S. college and professional football starts up again, which then transitions seamlessly into the U.S. college basketball season before bittersweetly ending with March Madness in the Spring. Sufficed to say, I am not a big baseball fan.

To commemorate this changing of the sport seasons, check out my post today on The IPKat about the U.S. trademark dispute between Canada’s only Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and Omaha, Nebraska’s Creighton University over Creighton’s new logo for its mascot Billie Bluejay.

It is available at: http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-blue-jay-trade-mark-battle-commences.html.

USTR Requesting Public Comments to Assist in Identifying Foreign IP Protection Barriers for U.S. Exports

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced yesterday that it is requesting public comments to assist the USTR in identifying significant barriers to U.S. exports of goods and services, including foreign IP protection deficiencies. The comments are being collected for inclusion in the USTR’s annual National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE Report) that identifies barriers to U.S. exports including the “lack of intellectual property protection (e.g., inadequate patent, copyright, and trademark regimes).”

Last year’s NTE Report identified several U.S. export markets as possessing IP protection trade barriers, or at least IP protection concerns, including Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, European Union (member states), Ghana, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

Public comments for inclusion in this year’s NTE Report are due to the USTR by no later that October 29, 2014. Further instructions on the NTE public comment submission process are available here.

One of the Greatest of Honors an IP Blogger Can Have

It was announced today that for the next six months, I will be given the great honor of being a guest contributor for the UK-based IP blog The IPKat where I will be posting on IP developments throughout the world.

Don’t worry, I am still intending to blog on international, cross-border and trade-related IP issues for The IP Exporter. If any of you have any stories you feel need to be covered, either in The IP Exporter or The IPKat, please feel free to send me a message.

Thank you for all of your continued support!

Presentation for Start-Ups and Small Businesses: Part II

My colleague Rachel E. Buker, blogger for Art and Artifice, and I are giving a presentation for businesses on navigating legal issues online and on social media at The Makers Space at 92 Lenora Street in Seattle on Wednesday, July 9th at noon. It should be a good time and there will be lunch (If you get there quick enough!).

Please RSVP to me at lsmichels@theipexporter.com if you will be attending. See you there!

Canada Announces Official Implementation Date of the Notice and Notice Copyright System: What Copyright Owners Need to Know

Canadian government officials announced last week that Canada will formally adopt its notice and notice online copyright enforcement system (“Notice and Notice System”) starting in January 2015. Passed in recent updates to Canada’s copyright laws, The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11), the Notice and Notice System will require that Internet intermediaries, such as Internet service providers (ISPs) and website hosts, either notify their customers of allegedly infringing conduct or remove infringing content they host upon receiving a notice of alleged infringement from a copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent.

Although the Notice and Notice System claims to strike a balance between the rights of copyright owners and Internet users, it has been criticized by industry groups and practitioners (including myself) as being an ineffective system to allow copyright owners to directly enforce rights in their works online short of a judicial action, especially in comparison to its U.S. counterpart under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“Notice and Takedown System”). Despite these criticisms, it does not appear that Canada will adopt stronger online enforcement measures in the foreseeable future, meaning copyright owners and their agents need to understand the Notice and Notice System’s procedures, and potential alternative enforcement measures, in order to effectively protect their works online in Canada.

So what do copyright owners and their agents need to know about the Notice and Notice System?

Notice Procedures. In order to utilize the Notice and Notice System, a copyright owner or their agent must submit a notice to the Internet intermediary hosting the infringing work in order for the Internet intermediary to take action. According to Bill C-11, a notice must:

  1. State the claimant’s (copyright owner or agent’s) name, address and other relevant communication information;
  2. Identify the work or other subject-matter to which the claimed infringement relates;
  3. State the claimant’s interest or right with respect to the copyright in the work or other subject-matter;
  4. Specify the location to which the claimed infringement occurs;
  5. Specify the infringement that is claimed;
  6. Specify the date and time of the claimed infringement; and
  7. Provide any other relevant information or information required by other Canadian regulations.

Drawbacks. As mentioned, the Notice and Notice System is a weaker online copyright enforcement regime compared to systems in other countries such as the U.S.’ Notice and Takedown System, and regimes in Australia and Japan (among others). Particularly, the Notice and Notice System does not mandate that an Internet intermediary remove infringing content upon notice of an alleged copyright infringement in order for the intermediary evade contributory liability. Further, the penalty an Internet intermediary may face for failure to comply with a notice’s requested takedown is substantially less compared to penalties under U.S. copyright law. Further information on these deficiencies can be found here.

Implementation. Although the Notice and Notice System will not formally come into force until January 2015, many Canadian Internet intermediaries already adhere to its system on a voluntary basis. This means that copyright owners and their agents should at least consider utilizing the Notice and Notice System now as many Internet intermediaries have already adopted its procedures.

Alternative Online Enforcement Measures. Despite the Notice and Notice System’s relative weakness compared to its U.S. and other foreign counterparts, many Canadian Internet intermediaries may be brought under U.S. jurisdiction, and thereby be subject to more forceful enforcement measures under the Notice and Takedown System. This requires that an infringed online work qualify for protection in the U.S. and that the Internet intermediary in question be subject to U.S. jurisdiction based on their activities and interactions with the U.S. market. Further information on qualifications for the U.S. Notice and Takedown System can be found here.

What’s The Takeaway? Canada’s Notice and Notice System is a weaker system for copyright owners to directly enforce their rights in their copyright-protected works online. However, knowing its enforcement procedures as well as viable alternative enforcement measures can help to ensure that copyright owners can more effectively protect their works online in Canada and potentially beyond. That being said, a copyright owner should consider working with a qualified IP attorney in order to ensure that they effectively utilize the Notice and Notice System as well as other countries’ online copyright enforcement systems.

What Proposed Canadian Trademark Reforms Mean For Foreign Businesses

A little over a month ago, the Canadian Government introduced a bill (Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014, No. 1) that proposes substantial reforms to Canada’s trademark system. Initially proposed for Canada to uphold its international IP treaty commitments, the proposed trademark reforms in Bill C-31 will potentially impact not only how foreign businesses obtain trademark protection in Canada, it will also influence how such businesses evaluate their global brand protection and marketing strategies.

Although Bill C-31 offers many important trademark reforms that several commentators have provided good insight on (a couple of good analyses are available here and here), the two proposed reforms that will arguably impact foreign businesses the most are: (1) the removal of date of use requirements for trademark registration; and (2) the adoption of the Nice Classification of Goods and Services.

No Date of Use Requirements For Trademark Registration: Bill C-31 will remove current requirements that a Canadian trademark application enclose a date of use in Canada or another country. Currently, Section 30(b)-(d) of the Trade-marks Act requires that trademark applicants provide the date that their trademark has been used in Canada, is intended to be used in Canada, or details of any registration abroad. However, Bill C-31 removes these requirements and only requires that an applicant “use or propose to use, and are entitled to use” a particular trademark in Canada, effectively removing any requirement of providing a specific date of use of a mark in Canada or abroad in a Canadian trademark application.

The removal of such date requirements has benefits and drawbacks for foreign businesses. It would potentially give foreign businesses time advantages and cost benefits in protecting and marketing their brands in Canada and beyond. Without mandating a showing of use or potential use in Canada, foreign businesses will likely be given time after their trademark is registered to determine whether that mark obtains legal protections in other countries without actually having to use the mark in Canada. This helps such businesses to better evaluate the risks of using a particular brand globally without having to exert funds to show actual use of the brand in the Canadian market. From a marketing perspective, removing dates of use requirements would also give foreign businesses time to determine whether their brands develop positive consumer recognition in other markets prior to use in Canada that can help such businesses to better strategize how to market their goods and services on a global scale.

The downside to the removal of date of use requirements is that it may increase trademark trolling. As other commentators have reported, removing date of use or potential use requirements may allow persons or entities to register unused trademarks in order to extort money from legitimate businesses who have not yet registered such marks with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). If Bill C-31 is implemented in its current form, such a scenario has substantial cross-border business implications as a party could register a mark with CIPO for an emerging foreign business not yet operating in Canada and then extort such business for rights to the mark as they expand into Canada. This often happens in trademark jurisdictions where no dates of use registration requirements exist. For example, China does not maintain date of use trademark registration requirements and famous foreign brands such as Apple, Tesla Motors and even hall of fame basketball player Michael Jordan have had their trademarks prior registered by Chinese trademark trolls.

Although it is uncertain whether Canada’s proposed removal of date use requirements under Bill C-31 will result in the same level of trademark trolling as seen in China, there is such a possibility if such reforms are enacted.

Adoption of the Nice Classification: Bill C-31 will also impact foreign businesses through Canada’s adoption of the Nice Classification of Goods and Services (Nice Classification) for trademark registrations. Under Bill C-31’s proposed reforms, a Canadian trademark application will be grouped according to classifications provided under the internationally recognized Nice Classification, instead of Canada’s own existing wares and services classifications. Being one of the last holdouts to adopting the Nice Classification, Canada’s wares and services trademark classification system has made it challenging for foreign businesses to ensure that their Canadian trademark registrations are harmonized from a classification standpoint with registrations of the same mark in other countries that have adopted the Nice Classification. Further, Canada’s reluctance to adopt the Nice Classification has effectively prohibited Canada from adopting the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol), which allows a trademark application or registration from a Madrid Protocol country to be submitted for registration in other Madrid Protocol countries.

If Canada adopts the Nice Classification, foreign businesses can better ensure that their trademark registrations in Canada cover similar goods and services as provided in registrations of the same mark in other countries. Further, as Canada’s adoption of the Nice Classification would better allow Canada to implement the Madrid Protocol in the near future, such reforms would give foreign businesses the potential to reduce costs and logistical burdens in registering their marks in Canada and other Madrid Protocol countries. However, it is important to emphasize that Bill C-31 does not effectively implement the Madrid Protocol.

What’s The Takeaway? Bill C-31 proposes several substantial reforms that may benefit foreign businesses, while also posing some potential risks. Although Bill C-31’s proposed reforms are promising, Bill C-31’s reforms have yet to be enacted and it is uncertain whether its proposed reforms will be enacted in the same form described in this positing.

Regardless of whether Bill C-31’s trademark reforms are perceived to be beneficial or problematic, no one can deny that its proposed reforms will dramatically impact Canada’s trademark system for foreign businesses.

Understanding Guernsey’s Recently Expanded Personality Rights Legislation

Co-Author Mackenzie Stout, J.D. Candidate 2014, Seattle University School of Law.

Personality rights are big business throughout the globe. Celebrities often license third parties the right to use their images and likenesses for thousands, even millions of dollars. For example, boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s personality rights were recently sold for $62 million. Yet, protection for these quasi-property rights varies from country-to-country, often limiting the degree to which celebrities, as well as ordinary persons and businesses, can protect their distinctive personal traits from unauthorized use at home and abroad.

Guernsey, the autonomous British possession and well-known tax haven island off the coast of France, recently made a bold move towards greater recognition of personality rights. By passing the Image Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 2012 (“Ordinance”), Guernsey now grants personality rights protection to several personality traits and parties not granted under most national legal systems. By establishing the first ever registry of personality and image rights, and giving a registrant (including non-personalities) the ability to register the personality and image of a personality they intend to commercially manage, the Ordinance gives many persons and businesses the potential ability to protect their personal traits throughout the world.

So how does Guernsey’s new personality rights laws provide these protections?

What’s Is Registrable? As mentioned, Guernsey’s Ordinance allows the registration of personalities and images in Guernsey as a property right, much like a trademark or copyright registration. Personalities that can be registered include: (1) natural persons; (2) legal persons; (3) joint personalities (two or more persons who are intrinsically linked in the eyes of the public); (4) groups (whose membership can be interchangeable); and (5) human or non-human fictional characters. Such registration eligibility provides several advantages. First, the personality of a deceased natural person can be registered for up to 100 years after a person’s death and there is no fame or public recognition threshold necessary for registration. This means that any personage, no matter how well known, can be registered. Second, legal entities, such as businesses, foundations, and trusts, are now eligible to register as personalities, giving them the same rights and privileges to protect their personal traits as actual people.

Images associated with a registered personality may also be registered. Registrable images include an individual’s name or alias, voice, signature, likeness, appearance, silhouette, feature, face and even mannerisms. The proprietor of a registered personality has exclusive rights in the images registered against or associated with that personality. Even unregistered images may be protected if they are closely related to the personality. However, like any trademark or copyright registration, registering a personality or image in Guernsey’s Image Rights Register (“Register”) gives a proprietor of a personality or image rights more convincing evidence of ownership over such personality or image.

How Can a Personality or Image be Registered? A proprietor can register their personality or image rights in Guernsey in person or online. Like trademarks and copyright, an applicant should first conduct a search (known as clearance) for their personality rights in the Register, searching existing registrations for personalities and images that may preclude their own registration. If a personality or image registration application is accepted by the Guernsey Intellectual Property Office, it is published on the Register for one month, during which any person or entity may comment on and/or file a notice of opposition against the application. If no opposition is filed, the personality or image is registered with the effective date being the original filing date of the personality or image application. A personality or image registration is valid for ten years, and is renewable for subsequent ten-year periods.

How Do You Enforce Your Rights in a Registered Personality or Image? A registrant of a personality or image under the Ordinance would have to likely seek enforcement through Guernsey’s legal system, and then obtain a foreign enforcement of such a judgment abroad in order to effectively utilize Guernsey’s new image rights laws. A registrant may only file an infringement proceeding in Guernsey under the Ordinance if: (a) an infringing image is used for a commercial purpose or financial benefit; and (b) the infringing image is: (i) identical or similar to the protected image; (ii) confusingly similar to the protected image; or (iii) similar to the protected image and takes advantage of or is detrimental to the distinctive character or reputation of the registered personality. Exceptions to such infringement include any use of a registered personality or image related to education, news reporting, or incidental inclusions, where, for example, an image of the registered personality appears in the background of a television segment unrelated to the image or the registered personality.

If a registrant is able to succeed in a legal proceeding in Guernsey, they would likely need to seek foreign enforcement of such judgment abroad in order to effectively enforce their personality rights. As the vast majority of infringers will likely not be domiciled in Guernsey, a registrant will likely need to have a foreign Court enforce their Guernsey judgment in order to enforce their Guernsey image rights registration(s) abroad. The chances of being able to obtain such foreign enforcement depend on a number of factors including reciprocal enforcement arrangements between Guernsey and the country where the infringing party is domiciled, as well as the foreign jurisdiction’s own personality rights laws.

What’s The Takeaway? The implications of Guernsey’s Ordinance have yet to be fully realized, but any person or business wishing to protect their personality rights or limit their liability from the same should pay close attention to the Ordinance’s new legislation. Although Guernsey’ Ordinance appears to expand the types of entities and personal traits that qualify for personality rights, determining whether a foreign Court will recognize these new personality rights in their own jurisdiction remains to be seen. Persons and businesses wishing to obtain personality and image registrations in Guernsey should work closely with qualified counsel in order to better ensure proper registration of such rights.

 

Local Case Highlights Important Cross-Border Trade Secret Protection Issues Businesses Should Consider

On March 17th, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges in U.S. Federal Court (Western District Washington) against Russian national Alex A. Kibkalo for stealing trade secrets from software giant Microsoft under The 1996 Economic Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. § 1832).  Although U.S. v. Kibkalo (14-mj-00114) has yet to be ruled on, and despite involving a large multi-national business like Microsoft, this case highlights several cross-border trade secret protection issues all internationally-focused businesses should consider.

Facts. To understand these trade secret protection issues, it is important to first understand the alleged facts of this case. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Complaint, Kibkalo was a Microsoft employee, working as software architect in Microsoft’s Lebanon office. He allegedly signed a non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) at the beginning of his employment.

Between July and August 2012, Mr. Kibkalo allegedly established a virtual machine on a computer server at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters to upload unreleased versions of Microsoft’s software updates and a software development kit (collectively, “Content”) to his personal cloud storage account. The Content was secured on Microsoft’s internal system by Microsoft’s internal security program that included limited facility and electronic system access points, facility monitoring, and unique identifying signature technology to track downloaded proprietary information from the internal system. Those who accessed content on Microsoft’s internal electronic system were also required to accept Microsoft’s terms of service that included warnings concerning the proprietary nature of content on the internal system as well as reminders to Microsoft employees and others of their non-disclosure obligations pertaining to proprietary information on the system.

Once Mr. Kibkalo allegedly downloaded the Content, he allegedly transmitted links to the Content to a French technology blogger whose actual geographic location was unknown. Microsoft became aware of alleged transmission through an outside source who was contacted by the blogger about the Content. Microsoft subsequently monitored the blogger’s communication through the blogger’s Microsoft Windows Live Messenger account. An examination of the blogger’s Messenger communications and emails allegedly verified the transmission and unique identifiers in the Content.

Lessons To Be Learned. Although this fact pattern is by no means novel, it does reveal cross-border trade secret protection issues all companies should consider in order to ensure their trade secrets are protected under U.S. and foreign trade secret laws.

So what protection issues need to be considered?

Worker Protection Measures. Kibkalo emphasizes that establishing trade secret protections through contractual provisions with contractors and employees is essential for businesses to protect their proprietary information, both at home and abroad. Under U.S. law (18 U.S.C. § 1839(3)) and international legal standards (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) – Art. 39.2(c)), businesses who wish for their proprietary information to qualify for trade secret protection must take “reasonable” measures to protect such information from public disclosure. Often, this requires that a business have their employees, contractors or any other person to whom they disclose the business’ proprietary information sign a NDA (or similar agreement) prohibiting such persons from disclosing the proprietary information to others. See MAI Sys. Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc., 991 F.2d 511, 521 (9th Cir. 1993).

Assuming Microsoft had an effective NDA executed with Mr. Kibkalo under U.S. law, Microsoft would likely be in a position to enforce trade secret protections in the Content under U.S. law.

Any business, regardless of its geographical location or the location of its employees or contractors, can also take similar protective measures.

Internal Security Measures. This case also highlights that international businesses need to establish internal security measures in order to effectively protect their proprietary information. Electronic and facility security measures, such as access restrictions, surveillance mechanisms have been found to be reasonable protection measures to help businesses qualify for trade secret protection. See U.S. v. Chung, 659 F.3d 815, 825 (9th Cir. 2011). As Microsoft attests to maintaining similar security measures, such measures would likely help Microsoft to obtain trade secret protection for its Content.

It goes without saying that not all businesses can afford the same level of security protections as multinational businesses like Microsoft. Yet, simple and relatively inexpensive security measures such as password protections, locking of files and computer equipment, as well as posting confidential notices on proprietary information can effectively help any business to better qualify for trade secret protection, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Online Monitoring Measures. Lastly, this case highlights the importance of online surveillance and tracking measures that businesses should consider acquiring to protect their proprietary information throughout the globe. Although generally not required to obtain trade secret protection under U.S. and/or foreign laws, the monitoring of suspected persons or entities who may be misappropriating trade secrets (*provided they are done so in compliance with applicable laws and regulations), as well as tracking software, are both effective tools to identify and prevent trade secret misappropriation. Microsoft would not have been able to determine that Mr. Kibalko had allegedly stolen the Content in the U.S. and allegedly transmitted it to the blogger outside of the U.S. without its unique identifier technology.

Granted, not all businesses have the same circumstances that allowed Microsoft to find out about the blogger and Mr. Kibalko’s alleged activities (e.g., outside sources, access to Messenger and email accounts, etc.), nor the available funds to conduct Microsoft’s extensive online surveillance activities. Yet, there are many (legal) monitoring services, investigating agencies, and identifying software products on the market that can help businesses better monitor misappropriating conduct both at home and abroad.

What’s The Takeaway? It remains to be seen how U.S. v. Kibkalo will be decided. However, this ongoing case shows that all internationally-focused businesses can develop sound practices and procedures to ensure their proprietary information is protected throughout the world. By establishing effective worker protection measures, internal security measures, as well as online monitoring measures, businesses can better protect their trade secrets from being misappropriated both at home and abroad.