Tuesday 29 September 2015

Two proprietors - two appeal fees - BGH Mauersteinsatz

The decision "Mauersteinsatz" X ZR 3/14  relates to the appeal of two proprietors co-owning a patent which had been revoked in an opposition procedure.  The appeal had been lodged "in the name and on behalf of the patentees" by the common representative of the proprietors along with the payment of only one appeal fee of EUR 500.

The Bundespatentgericht rejected the appeal as inadmissible because the statutory rules require the payment of one appeal fee per appellant - i.e. two appeal fees in this case.  According to the German law, the co-proprietors are considered as an "association by fractions" (Bruchteilsgemeinschaft) rather than an association under civil rights (GbR) which could have been considered as one single party.

The BGH found that in a constellation like this - where the fundamental right to judicial protection is at stake - the Bundespatentgericht should have tried to allocate the appeal fee to one of the appellants in order to avoid unacceptable hardship, wherein no strict standard should be applied.  In the case at issue, it turned out that the payment form showed the name of only one the appelants such that the appeal of the latter was considered admissible and the appeal of its co-applicant was rejected.

Saturday 26 September 2015

CEIPI Training Program for Technically Qualified Judges

The first block of the CEIPI Training Program for Technically Qualified Judges has taken place in Strasbourg in this week. The seminar was experienced as a very fruitful and important event by the attendees and the speakers.

The lineup of speakers and their enthusiasm is really impressing and& Cristophe Geiger (CEIPI) and his team did an excellent job in taking this initiative and briging the UPC project a step forward.

 The first block was focused on the history, fundamentals, independence of the judges and competition law. Most of the participants were experienced patent attorneys from private practice and industry.  A major concern among the participants is the question of potential conflicts of interest for practicing patent attorneys working as part-time technical judges - in particular up to which degree of remoteness these may play a role.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Gold Bear or Golden Teddy?

This blogger loves both Haribo Gummi Bears and chocolate in all shapes and would never risk to confuse edible gummi animals with with edible chocolate animals (in particular rabbits), even in cases where both belong to the same zoological species.

It was therefore surprising to him that the judges of the judges of the cologne district court found a risk of confusion between Haribo Gold-Bears (Goldbären) and the Lindt Chocolate Teddy - a sitting wrapped in Gold foil.

 The case went through the instances to the BGH, who judged today that a likelihood of confusion does  indeed not exist.

According to the BGH, the comparison between a word mark and the three dimensional shape of the product is to be limited to the semantic content of the word mark (Goldbären) without consideration of the shape of the products (Gummi Bears) sold under that word mark. Further, strict requirements are to be imposed in order to avoid an extension of the monopoly of the trademark to product designs.

A precondition for the likelihood of confusion is that the word mark is an obvious, natural and exhaustive (naheliegende, ungezwungene und erschöpfende ) designation of the three-dimensional design. It is not sufficient that the trademark is only one among multiple obvious designations of the product shape.

In the case at issue, the BGH found that the chocolate bear could have been designated as "Teddy", "Schokoladen-Bär" or "Schokoladen-Teddy" instead of "Goldbär" and concludes that the likelihood of confusion does not exist.

Friday 18 September 2015

Main Request Rejected but Not Adversely Affected - T 0327/13

The case T 0327/13 of the EPO technical boards of appeal is an appeal against a decision of the opposition division which maintained the patent in amended form according to an auxiliary request filed by the patentee.

The patentee's main request had been rejected and, nonetheless, the board comes to the surprising conclusion that the patentee was not adversely affected by the decision. How this?

The main request essentially corresponded to claim 1 as granted with further dependent claims and the auxiliary request essentially corresponded to claim 3 as granted with further dependent claims. Claim 2 was not an issue in the 1st instance.

Well, the patentee did not really challenge the decision to reject the main request (corresponding to claim 1 as granted followed by dependent claims):
2.3.2 The grounds of appeal do not address this request at all, let alone indicate any reason for setting aside or amending the decision of the Opposition Division's decision that claim 1 of this request lacks novelty over D1. On the contrary, it is apparent from the grounds of appeal that the appellants no longer dispute that D1 discloses a slide nozzle device having all the features set out in claim 1 as granted, as well as in claim 1 of the main request as filed before the Opposition Division (see sections 2 and 3). Hence, the appellants do not challenge the refusal of this claim by the Opposition Division .
Rather, the patentee added a further independent claim to the claims as maintained. The new independent claim was based on claim 2 as granted with some further limitations.

2.3.5 The present appeal thus amounts to an attempt to remedy the non-filing of an independent claim based on granted claim 2 in the opposition proceedings, and so aims to extend the protection conferred by auxiliary request 1 allowed by the Opposition Division to the alternative solution of claim 2. This runs contrary to the purpose of appeal proceedings: their function is to give a judicial decision upon the correctness of the decision under appeal. It is certainly not to reopen the opposition proceedings and, as attempted in the present case, give a patent proprietor the opportunity to improve its position by adding an independent claim to a claim set already allowed by the Opposition Division.  
2.4 Therefore, in view of the appellants' case, the Board considers that they cannot be regarded as "adversely affected" by the decision of the Opposition Division and thus are not entitled to appeal under Article 107 EPC.
I have to admit that I am fairly puzzled by this conclusion. Would it not have been more straightforward hold the claims inadmissible under Rule 12(4) EPC because they could have been presented ... in the first instance proceedings? Or eventually because of lacking substantiation (none of the reasons to reject the main request was addressed?)
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