Changes to rules regarding .ca domain disputes

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) recently announced changes to the CIRA Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (CDRP). The CDRP, which governs disputes over .ca domain names alleged to be registered in bad faith, has been in effect since 2002.

Some of the changes include:

  • Bad Faith “Legitimate Interest Factors” are now Non-Exhaustive.
  • Bad Faith Factor of Commercial Gain Added.
  • Electronic Filing of complaints and respondent submissions.
  • Separation of Filing Fees from Panellist Fees.
    • “Previously, Complainants were required to pay the entire $4,000 filing fee upon filing a CDRP complaint. Under the revised CDRP Rules, Complainants are now only required to pay the Dispute Resolution Provider fee of $1,000 to file a complaint.”

The revised CDRP rules come into effect August 22, 2011.

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US patent system moves to first-to-file

Today, H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, passed the US House of Representatives. The US Senate had passed a similar bill (S. 23) in March.

The pair of bills have some differences between them that needs to be resolved, but together they present a broad change to the way the US patent system works.

Currently, the US remains one of the few countries in the world where patents are awarded based on whoever first invents a claimed invention. This is called “first-to-invent” and has created an environment where there is a lack of incentive for inventors to file patents. Encouraging inventors to file patents and disclose their invention to the public in return for a time-limited monopoly is a policy objective of patent law, since the advancement of science relies on building upon what is already known. As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

With the new reforms, the US moves to a “first-to-file” system in which a patent is awarded to the inventor who files for a patent first.  This provides an incentive for inventors to file patents as soon as they make an invention in order to prevent any subsequent person who independently makes the same invention from acquiring patent rights.

Canada already uses the “first-to-file” system, and has been using such a system since 1989.

The drive to determine what is patentable

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., on the issue of whether or not methods of medical diagnosis are patentable in the US.

Closer to home, tomorrow is the appeal hearing for Amazon v. Canada, Federal Court File A-435-10, in which Amazon seeks to have the Court of Appeal confirm that methods of doing business (such as a method of doing “1-click” shopping online in this case) are patentable in Canada. We should see a decision from the Court within a year.

These are exciting times for the patent bar as well as for scientists worldwide, as these decisions can affect many companies’ R&D directions in the coming years.

Trademark registration and a search for prior use

Your brand is a way for your customers to identify and distinguish your goods and services from that of some else’s goods and services. Businesses therefore safeguard their brand with the registration of one or more trademarks.

When registering for a trademark, it’s important to do a search to find out if there’s another party that may also be using a confusingly similar mark somewhere else in Canada.

As the Supreme Court of Canada held last week in Masterpiece Inc. v. Alavida Lifestyles Inc., 2011 SCC 27, in order for the owner of a registered trademark to have exclusive use of the trademark throughout Canada, there cannot be a likelihood of confusion with another trademark anywhere in the country.

In view of this recent ruling, it is recommended that a search be done before filing for a trademark registration in order to properly determine whether or not the registration is likely to succeed.

A Canadian’s right to access information held by the government

Under Canada’s Access to Information Act, in general any Canadian citizen or permanent resident may request and may be given access to any record under the control of a government institution.

The Act includes a list of all such “government institutions”, which includes for example the Department of National Defence, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but does not include ministerial offices for any of the listed Departments.

However, records located within ministerial offices for any of the listed Departments may nonetheless be subject to disclosure if the record relates to a departmental matter, and if a senior official of the government institution could reasonably expect to obtain a copy upon request (Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (Minister of National Defence), 2011 SCC 25).

Journalists, lawyers, and Canadians of all walks of life have relied on Access to Information requests to obtain enlightening information from a sometimes reluctant government.  If you need help with enforcing an Access to Information request, a lawyer may be able to help.

SCC will hear copyright in education case

Under the Copyright Act, anyone can make non-infringing use of copyrighted material provided the use is made for an allowed purpose and is fair.  This is known as fair dealing.  Allowed purposes under the Copyright Act include “research or private study” and “criticism or review”.

Late last year, the Federal Court of Appeal held in Alberta (Education) v. Access Copyright, 2010 FCA 198, that the tribunal “Access Copyright” made no error when it determined that the photocopying of excerpts from textbooks for use in classroom instruction for students in kindergarten to grade 12 was not fair dealing.  This is a major win for copyright holders as it clarified their scope of copyright in the context of education.

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it will hear an appeal of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Alberta (Education) v. Access Copyright.  The outcome of this appeal, in addition to the landmark case of CCH v. LSUC, 2004 SCC 13, could clarify the law of copyright in Canada for years to come.

The New Consumer Product Safety Act

Late last year, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act was enacted into law, as part of the government’s effort to protect the public from dangers to human health or safety from both imported and domestic consumer products.  The Act is expected to come into force on June 20, 2011.

Companies that manufacture, import, advertise or sell goods such as baby walkers, kite strings that may conduct electricity, lawn darts, and bisphenol A baby bottles need to be aware that this Act specifically prohibits these goods for sale in Canada.

Other notable aspects of this Act include a duty to report health and safety incidents and the power for mandatory recall orders, which will be discussed in a later post.

Patents claiming a method of doing business – Appeal to be heard in June

As posted earlier, the Federal Court in Amazon v. Canada, 2010 FC 1011 held that a method of doing business (a “business method”) can be patentable subject matter. The Department of Justice on behalf of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is appealing this decision to the Federal Court of Appeal, in court file A-435-10.

The Court of Appeal has now confirmed that the appeal hearing will be heard in Toronto (not Ottawa as previously reported) on June 21, 2011 at 9:30am. A decision should be rendered before the end of 2011. Depending on the appeal decision, we may see the Supreme Court grant leave to tackle this issue in 2012.

The evidentiary standard for challenging US patent validity

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court wrapped up oral arguments for Microsoft Corporation v. i4i Limited Partnership, in which i4i sued Microsoft for patent infringement. This case has attracted worldwide attention, not only because the infringing product (MS Word) is widely used, but also because the Supreme Court’s ruling will determine the evidentiary standard to which the validity of all US patents will be determined in the future.

Under 35 U.S.C. § 282, an issued patent is presumed to be valid (in other words, it’s assumed to be novel and non-obvious).  Since the 1980s, the Court of Appeal has held that this presumption of validity may only be rebutted with evidence meeting a “clear and convincing” standard.

Microsoft, having lost at the trial level and at the Court of Appeal, argues that the “clear and convincing” standard is too high and that the correct standard should be the lower “preponderance of evidence” standard.  Microsoft argues that the requirement for “clear and convincing” evidence was a requirement made solely by the Court of Appeal and was not the intent of Congress.

i4i, as the patent holder in this case, argues that maintaining the “clear and convincing” standard is necessary for protecting American innovation and inventors, and that Congress had implicitly endorsed the “clear and convincing” standard forwarded by the Court of Appeal by not enacting a law saying otherwise.

As an added twist, the specific evidence that Microsoft now seeks to introduce in order to argue that i4i’s patent is invalid was not previously considered by the US Patent Office during the prosecution of the patent application.  Thus, the Supreme Court may end up treating evidence previously considered by the US Patent Office differently than evidence not previously seen by the US Patent Office.

Despite the rhetoric about protecting American innovation, I think a certain amount of deference is due if the evidence introduced was already considered by the Patent Office during prosecution.  In my view, the higher “clear and convincing” standard should apply to evidence previously considered during prosecution, while the lower “preponderance of evidence” standard should apply for evidence not previously considered by the Patent Office.

A decision is expected from the US Supreme Court before the end of June 2011. Chief Justice Roberts recused himself, so the case will be decided by the remaining eight justices.  If the Supreme Court splits 4-4 then the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard stands.

Prior art and being the first to file a patent application

If you’ve heard of patents before you’ve probably heard of the term prior art.  A prior art is generally a public document that demonstrates the state of the art at a particular time.

Since patents are only awarded to an inventor for an invention that’s new and inventive over the current state of the art, when you file a patent application you want to know if there’s any prior art that can make your patent application not new or not inventive.  In Canada, any prior art from a third party that publicly disclosed your invention before you filed your patent application will take away your patent rights because it will make your patent application not new or not inventive.

So what should you do?  Before drafting your patent application, a search for prior art should be done to assess the current state of the art.  Knowing what kind of prior art is out there means that your patent application can be drafted so that it remains new and inventive over the prior art and increases its chances of being allowed as a patent.

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