For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

BUS PATENT STALLS; HORRID CONTRACT CASE IN COMPLEX APPEAL


1 The wheels on the bus go round and round ...

Now that Mr Justice Kitchin has been appointed to the Patents Court, it seems that BAILII's web pages for that court are a little busier these days. The IPKat has just found this case on BAILII: Crawford v Jones, decided on Friday 4 November.

Crawford applied for a patent for a display system for buses, which allowed a bus at the front of a queue of buses to switch into exit mode, whereby it dropped off passengers only, when it was considered necessary to increase the separation between it and the following buses. When sufficient separation had been achieved, the front bus would revert to a normal mode of operation and the display would be switched accordingly. The patent examiner listed four prior art documents in support of his contention that the claimed invention lacked novelty and was obvious. He also maintained that it was excluded from patentability as being a method of doing business or a presentation of information. The application was ultimately refused as being a mere method of doing business or presentation of information "as such" and for failing to make any technical contribution that might redeem it. Crawford appealed.

Kitchin J dismissed the appeal. The only advance in the art which could be said to be new and inventive was the nature of the information to be displayed on the outside of the bus and the method of operating a bus in exit mode. These were things that could not, individually or collectively, be regarded as being of a technical nature. What's more, the information to be displayed on each bus was a presentation of information and the method of operating a bus in exit mode was a method of doing business.

The IPKat thinks this appeal was always a non-starter. That's not to say that Crawford's ingenuity was not deserving of protection - just that it can't be patented in Europe. It's doubtful, though, that sui generis protection for "good ideas" will evolve in that Continent though.


2 If you want to know what you've contracted for, take a trip to the Court of Appeal

From the All England Direct subscription service comes Taylor v Rive Droite Music Ltd [2005] EWCA Civ 1300, a decision of the Court of Appeal (Chadwick, Latham and Neuberger LJJ), also on Friday 4 November.

Taylor, was a record producer and songwriter, entered into two agreements with Rive Droite, a music production and publishing company. The first was an (oral) producer’s agreement, the second a (written) publishing agreement. The publishing agreement was renewed twice, most recently in 1998. At the end of 2000 Taylor stopped working for Rive Droite, and brought proceedings in which issues arose as to (i) whether the 1998 agreement was for two or three years, (ii) the terms of the agreement and (iii) the copyright position regarding various songs.

Mr Justice Lewison held that the agreement was for a term of two years; Taylor was not obliged under the terms of the agreement to work exclusively for Rive Droite; Rive Droite was in breach of the agreement in failing to exploit a particular song partly written by Taylor; Taylor had infringed Rive Droite's copyright in two other songs; it was an implied term that, for any project that Taylor agreed to carry out, he would not provide his services to anyone other than Rive Droite (if Rive Droite secured the project). The judge also found an implied term that Taylor would not do anything to prevent Rive Droite from securing a project and that Taylor was in breach of that implied term; finally, Rive Droite had not accounted to Taylor on the correct basis. Rive Droite appealed and Taylor cross-appealed.

The issues on the appeal were (i) whether the term of the 1998 agreement was indeed two years or three; (ii) whether Taylor had infringed Rive Droite's copyright in the two songs; (iii) whether Rive Droite was entitled to an injunction to restrain further infringements of copyright; (iv) whether Rive Droite had made good its claim against Taylor for interference with goods in relation to a certain project and (v) whether Taylor was in breach of an implied term of the agreement in relation to a certain album.

The Court of Appeal was obviously in two minds about the whole thing. It held

* (Chadwick LJ dissenting) The term of Taylor's engagement under the 1998 agreement was two years;

* (Chadwick LJ dissenting) Taylor had not infringed copyright in the two songs;

* Rive Droite was not entitled to injunctive relief to restrain further breaches of copyright;

* Rive Droite had not established its claim for interference with goods;

* Taylor was not in breach of an implied term of the agreement in relation to the album.
The IPKat wonders what this is all about, since the All England Direct note is disconcertingly coy about the facts (available from Lewison J's marathon judgment, posted on BAILII). the moral of the story is however crystal clear. You can save a lot of money by avoiding lawyers when you make a contact - but the cost, in terms of stress, uncertainty and legal fees if you then have to litigate to see what the terms of the contract means, may be far higher.

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