23 December 2013

Rewind: 13 highlights from 2013

  1. The Unified Patent Court Agreement was signed by EU ministers, paving the way for the implementation of a unitary patent system in Europe.  This will include a Unified Patent Court, part of which will be based in London. Don't hold your breath, however, as the unitary patent is unlikely to be available until 2015 at the earliest.
  2. Common sense appeared to prevail as the Supreme Court expressed its opinion, on appeal from the Meltwater case, that browsing the internet, without permanently downloading or printing materials, could not be an infringement of copyright.  However, the Court referred the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a definitive view.
  3. The Defamation Bill received Royal Assent, in the process becoming the Defamation Act 2013.  As well as codifying the existing common law, draft regulations made under the Act create a new online hosting defence for website operators (see our earlier blog post here).  Both the Act and the new regulations are due to come into force on 1 January 2014. 
  4. A new Intellectual Property Bill was tabled, containing provisions to enable the implementation of the Unitary Patent Court Agreement (see above), to strengthen and harmonise design protection, and to introduce new criminal penalties for copying UK registered designs.
  5. A new fast track trade mark opposition procedure was launched, providing a faster, cheaper and less complicated way for businesses to protect their trade marks.
  6. The Patents County Court (which offers a more streamlined, cost sensitive and informal alternative to bringing intellectual property cases) was renamed as the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, and became a specialist list within the Chancery Division of the High Court.  The limit on the value of claims brought under the small claims track was raised to £10,000.
  7. Interflora won a landmark decision in a trade mark infringement action against Marks & Spencer. The Court held that M&S had infringed Interflora's trade mark by using it as a keyword to trigger ads for M&S when a user carried out a Google search for "interflora".  The case turned on the fact that Interflora operates through a network of authorised distributors, and consumers viewing the ad would not have known whether M&S was part of this network or not.
  8. Sally Bercow found out the hard way that ironic tweets can be defamatory and expensive.
  9. Draft legislation was published by the Intellectual Propery Office to update the existing exceptions to copyright law, including an exception for private copying.
  10. A draft Consumer Rights Bill was published setting out new rights in digital content (see our earlier blog post here).
  11. The first set of new global Top Level Domains (gTLDs) were announced by ICANN: as at the time of writing there are now over 50 delegated "strings". The Trademark Clearinghouse has opened for business, allowing rights holders to obtain 3rd party verification of their rights and to participate in a pre-registration Sunrise Period for new gTLDs.  ICANN also published official rules and procedure for the new Uniform Rapid Suspension System, which potentially offers rights holders a faster, quicker remedy in respect of complaints relating to 3rd party use of the new gTLDs.
  12. Cadbury lost its fight to register a trade mark for the colour purple.  The registration in question covered the colour "applied to the whole visible surface, or being the predominant colour applied to the whole visible surface, of the packaging of the goods".  The Court of Appeal held this lacked "the required clarity, precision, self-containment, durability and objectivity to qualify for registration".
  13. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court that the functionality of SAS software was not protectable by copyright (as reported here).

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