"Thirsty folk want beer, not explanations"

Having recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Europe, a trade mark dispute floated across my radar that was very close to my heart. Or rather, my taste buds.  The makers of a beer called “Bavaria” had filed an Australian trade mark application for their label, pictured left. Notwithstanding the name, Bavaria is actually brewed in Holland. And therein lies the problem.

Though initially accepted by the Trade Marks Office, the application was later opposed by an association of Bavarian brewers on the basis that Bavaria is a “geographical indicator” and/or such a label would mislead people into thinking the beer came from Bavaria.

In the decision [PDF] handed down last year, IP Australia’s trade marks delegate Deirdre O’Brien took into consideration the experiences of Australians who travel to the famous German state, as well as similar Bavarian beer halls right here at home.

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Trade secrets "theft on a grand scale"

Legal writing can read like a detective thriller. Here's an example.

On March 2007 Oracle, an American software company, began a court case in which the first paragraph of its Complaint alleges "corporate theft on a grand scale, committed by the largest German software company - a conglomerate known as SAP." You can read below the overview of this thriller and our practical advice. Otherwise go direct to Oracle's 44 page Complaint placed on its website.

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National and international patent application numbers

Alison Brimelow, President-elect of the European Patent Office, noted recently that there were five million patents in force worldwide in 2004 and that they reached that point at an exponential rate. Her patent statistics provide an international perspective, helping to round out the US-focused Lightbulb post earlier today titled IT companies pile on patents in the US.

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IT companies pile on patents in the US

In a recent Lightbulb post, under the heading "30 years of IP for IT (1977-2007)", I provided an analysis of why there has been a significant increase in Australia and elsewhere of patents for IT. See Fox in Socks: A parable for 30 years of IP for IT.

Statistics from the United States further confirm that trend. IP strategy involves knowing what to register or protect, what to license and what to give away

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Australian trade marks registrations in UK

The UK ranks very high for Australian businesses considering registering their trade marks in export markets.

This is confirmed by statistics released this week in the 2006 Annual Review of the UK Patent Office (due to the Gower Review now renamed The UK Intellectual Property Office). The Annual Review is a big PDF.

For Australian businesses the Annual Review answers many questions, helping to refine an IP strategy for the UK. For example, how many registrations were there from Australia? How does Australia rate as a source for trade mark registrations in the UK? Which companies are registering the most trade marks in the UK? Finally, which trade mark classes are the most popular for the UK?

In 2006, trade mark applicants noting Australia as their residence, registered 333 trade marks in the UK. They registered a further 497 using the Madrid Protocol system.

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Why the authors who sued The Da Vinci Code lost twice

It is a Hollywood truism that commercially successful films attract litigation. So do wildly successful works of literary fiction. Why do people sue against successful films and novels? Answer: usually, for a slice of the money.

Among the most successful books of our era is Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. A sequel to the 2006 Hollywood adaptation is in the production line.

Since 2004 The Random House Group Ltd, publisher of The Da Vinci Code in the UK, has had a dark cloud of litigation over its head in courts in England.

In the first court case, the court sat for 11 days hearing legal arguments as to why The Da Vinci Code allegedly breached copyright in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. In the US it was re-titled (Holy Blood, Holy Grail). I had a view on that case as soon  as I heard the report that The Holy Blood is a work of non-fiction. More on that later.

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Interactive media builds context and value chains

In the last century I read and wrote a lot about multimedia and the Internet.

From that period I've kept some quotable quotes by others, as well as my accompanying photo of relics from Egypt.

The quotes are sourced from three magazines - Australian Personal Computer, Internet World and Wired.

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Employment records and pay slips law Q&A

From 27 March 2007 the Workplace Relations Regulations 2006 imposes record keeping and pay slip records obligations to employers who engage workers under the Work Choices legislation. This follows Work Choices amendments in 2006 to the Workplace Relations Act 1996.

According to the Federal Government the obligations are designed to ensure compliance with the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard and industrial instruments.

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Coffee brand values

For consumers coffee is a beverage or even part of a lifestyle. For about 25% of Ethiopia's population it is a livelihood.  Coffee forms a very high percentage of Ethiopia's export revenues. This exposes Ethiopia's people and economy to coffee price fluctuations.

This is a story about Ethiopia's attempt to increase coffee revenues using brands, IP strategy and licensing contracts - all founded on trade marks Ethiopia seeks to register across the world.

The story begins in 2001 when coffee-producing nations experienced a severe downward price trend. The trend continued to 2005. So the first paragraph of the September 2005 submission by the International Coffee Organization to the UN General Assembly stated:

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Legal compliance in financial record keeping

Ask someone why their business failed and you'll rarely hear them say that it was because of information mismanagement. Yet the lack of record making and keeping is often present in failed businesses.

The extent of legally required record keeping obligations continues to grow. Hundreds of statutes in Australia now dictate the length of time certain documentation must be kept. Yet there is no statute which integrates the times, let alone the requirements.

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The business of making money from IP

I wrote about IP business models 13 years ago in IP stategy and the rise and rise of Bill Gates. It was published in The Australian's computer section. It tracked key IP strategy decisions which either created or destroyed wealth in the intellectual property history up to 1994 of these IT organisations - IBM, the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC), Apple and Microsoft.

In 2007 it is time to look ahead again. Our focus here is on IP strategy issues for the music industry. The topic affects all copyright-based industries.

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Private equity or private debt? Beware the Ides of March.

Not a day passes without news or concerns expressed about private equity taking on bigger businesses for acquisition.

The latest in Australia is an emblematic deal. It is the A$370 million bid by Archer Capital Pty Ltd to acquire Rebel Sport Ltd. It overcame a key hurdle yesterday when the bid was approved by a requisite majority of Rebel shareholders.

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Viacom to YouTube: "I want my MTV"

In barely seven months, video on the Web has moved from being a teaser topic, to an overview for geeks in PCworld magazine, to being mass market core content on the Web. Viacom's US$1 billion legal action launched yesterday in New York against YouTube is just part of the online video retailing revolution. Here's a copy of Viacom's complaint [PDF].

Lightbulb reported early on YouTube's IP law exposure: Person of the Year caught in copyright scandal. See also YouTube in copyright licensing negotiations and YouTube's IP revenue sharing model.

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Intellectual property you can eat and drink

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will run 16-30 March 2007. Lightbulb's team of foodies and sommeliers sample what's on offer this year. Several events parallel Lightbulb posts run since August 2006.

The MasterClass presenters [PDF] session features talks by chefs and food critics including Jill Dupleix (food editor of The Times (UK)), Tony Bilson (Bilsons in Sydney) and Cheong Liew (The Grange in Adelaide). For chefs the relevant Lightbulb post, among our most popular, is: A recipe to make a high net worth celebrity chef.

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Licensing intellectual property in museums

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced jointly with France last week that a branch of the Louvre will open in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

Under a 30 year accord signed last week in Abu Dhabi (see picture), the Louvre will be paid a tidy sum. It totals $US1.3 billion in payments, fees and donations by Abu Dhabi.

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