IP contracts now subject to restrictive trade practice provisions

Agreements providing for the conditional licensing or assignment of intellectual property (IP) rights are now subject to the restrictive trade practice provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA).  On 13 September 2019 section 51(3) of the CCA was been repealed removing the exception which applied to the licensing and assignment of IP.   This means commercial transactions involving the assignment of IP rights will be subject to the anti-competitive prohibitions, as are other transactions involving property. [Read more…]

Software litigation – how much evidence is enough?

Litigation involving software commonly involves allegations of copyright infringement and breaches of contractual obligations of confidence.  However, without an “anton pillar” style order, it can be challenging to substantiate the extent of any alleged breach due to the technological nuances involved with properly analysing available evidence.   This make it difficult for the plaintiff to decide whether or not to initiate legal proceedings against an infringing party.  In circumstances where a prospective applicant does not have complete access to the source code, it may be desirable to make an application for discovery prior to the start of proceedings pursuant to Rule 7.23 of the Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth) (Rules). [Read more…]

Has my software been copied? – the legal test

There is an urban myth that something can be copied and changed by 20% or so and then there is no copyright infringement.   Rightly or wrongly this is simply untrue.  In the case of IPC Global Pty Ltd v Pavetest Pty Ltd (No 3) [2017] FCA 82 (IPC Global), a former employee of the applicant copied source code and passed it to a developer.  It was subsequently alleged that in doing so, the respondent had breached a contractual obligation of confidence and had also breached the applicant’s copyright. [Read more…]

Use of a competitor’s confidential information

Many businesses try to increase market share by employing a competitor’s member of staff who may bring with them relationships and information acquired over the years.  Employees owe fiduciary duties to their employers meaning, among other things, that an employee cannot make a personal gain by using confidential information acquired in the course of their employment.  If an employee makes a personal gain by using their employer’s confidential information, the employer may be entitled to an account of profits, meaning the employee must pay the employer the amount of profit made as a result of the breach. [Read more…]

Disputing ownership of a patent – joint inventors

The Patents Act 1990 (Cth) (Act) provides the framework for patent registration and regulation in Australia. [Read more…]

Is the use of a trade mark in AdWords an infringement?

The concept of ‘Googling’ has become a part of everyday life.  But does anyone ever stop to think how Google results are collated?  In the case of Veda Advantage Limited v Malouf Group Enterprises Pty Limited [2016] FCA 255 (Veda Advantage case) one company did just that, and they were not happy with the answer.  The case concerned the use of registered trade marks as keywords and in the title tags and descriptions of sponsored link advertising in the Google AdWords program. [Read more…]

Take care when alleging patent infringement

A patent entitles the holder to exploit the invention disclosed in the patent to the exclusion of all others (unless authorised by the holder of the patent).  Where the patent holder is made aware of the use of their invention by another who is not authorised to do so, they may commence patent infringement proceedings to recover the loss sustained because of the infringement.  It is important for patent holders to be aware of the provisions rules regarding making unjust threats of patent infringement.  The recent decision in Mizzi Family Holdings Pty Ltd v Morellini (No 3) [2017] FCA 870 provides an example of how the Court considered an unjust threat of patent infringement and the damages that may be payable by the maker of such threats. [Read more…]

What is an end user licence agreement?

An end user licence agreement (EULA) is a contract between two or more parties based on the proprietary rights of a licensor to grant a right to the licensee/s to use or access a product or service.  The proprietary right may be based on a variety of intellectual property (IP) rights, including copyright, trade marks, patents, designs and trade secrets.  EULAs are common in the software and web development industries, where copyright subsists in the written code of a program or website as a literary work in under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). [Read more…]

Infringement of copyright in computer code

Computer code, like other literary works are automatically protected by copyright.  Subject to exceptions, only the copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce a literary work in which copyright subsists, pursuant to section 31 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Act).   Generally the reproduction of another programmer’s code without their consent amounts to an infringement of copyright – section 36 of the Act.
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Introduction to intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP), in the Australian legal context, is much more than copyright and trade marks, it includes confidential information, registered designs, trade secrets, patents and plant breeder’s rights.  The protection of intellectual endeavours has been something which the law has recognised for centuries and something which the innovation agenda has embraced.  IP is becoming increasingly important as organisations strive for competitive advantage in the innovation age (click here or insert).  IP rights arise at both common law and statute and aim to protect a broad category of rights over the fruits of intellectual efforts. These rights fall into two (2) distinct categories, those that are registerable and those that are not.

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