Appeals of Norwegian Patent Office (NIPO) decisions used to be handled by a separate NIPO appeals division. However, in 2013 the Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights (KFIR) replaced this division. The motivation for this change was to increase legal certainty through independent review and efficient, trustworthy and user-friendly prosecution of appeals. Now that the KFIR has been active for four years, it is timely to take a closer look at the extent to which these purposes are being fulfilled.
One risk of doing business, particularly for innovative technology companies, is the possible existence of conflicting third-party rights. At the very least, a patent infringement lawsuit can create uncertainty with respect to a company's ability to perform, while the worst case scenario includes injunctions, damages and possible bankruptcy. While numerous options for handling a threat of this kind exist in Norway, going directly to the courts may be particularly advantageous.
Patents and information security have always been connected and, as such, a company cannot have a well-implemented IP rights strategy if it does not consider information security. By approaching information security as a tool to protect intellectual property, companies are better placed to implement the correct measures and contingency plans and secure and extract value from their intellectual property more efficiently.
While fast-track prosecution is available only at the initiative and discretion of the Norwegian Industrial Property Office, a patent applicant can opt to avail of the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH). The available statistics suggest that filing a PPH request in Norway will likely result in a significantly higher chance of faster prosecution, a favourable first office action and a reduced number of office actions.
Under the Patents Act, the state of the art is held to comprise everything made available to the public by means of written or oral description, by use or in any other way. However, until recently, the extent to which an oral presentation can be considered prior art was unclear. A decision of the Norwegian Industrial Property Office has provided welcome guidance on this issue.
The protection of industrial designs is an often overlooked opportunity. When seeking design protection in Norway, an applicant can file directly with the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property or the Hague Agreement. A design filed directly with NIPO is registered after a formal examination.
Changes were made to the Patents Act in 2013 regarding damages for wilful or negligent infringement. The changes include the possibility of seeking damages based on the profits that the infringer made or amounting to double a fair licensing fee for the infringing use. It is clear from the few decisions to have used the new rules that the courts are willing to award damages based on an estimate of profits made from patent infringements.
It is now possible to establish pledges on patents, patent applications and patent licences in Norway, in accordance with the Mortgage Act. The purpose of the new freedom to pledge is to make it easier for start-ups with no possibility of financing their business in other ways, and other companies seeking funds to develop new ideas, to acquire capital through collateral in their patents, patent applications and licences.
For many years the legal status of the doctrine of equivalents in Norway has been uncertain and based on relatively old case law and legal theory. A recent case involving patented ski equipment provided an opportunity for the court to clarify the issue. Unfortunately, the decision instead served to illustrate that this concept is still developing in Norway.
Norway has acceded to the London Agreement, which reduces the requirements for translation of patents granted by the European Patent Office upon validation. It is now necessary to translate only the patent claims into Norwegian; the description can remain in English. If the patent has been granted in French or German, however, the description must be translated into Norwegian or English.
Health, safety and environmental regulations are not a major consideration for most producers of counterfeit toys, vehicle parts, clothing, electronics and medicines. Despite this, Norwegian consumers seem happy to buy fake goods instead of genuine products. However, the latest legislative amendments are important steps towards strengthening the enforcement of IP and related rights.
The Court of Appeal recently ruled that the removal of barcodes on goods that are legitimately parallel imported did not qualify as a 'legitimate interest' which a rights holder could assert. The court concluded that barcodes are an effective weapon in the fight against counterfeiting; however, in this particular case, the barcodes included information that could be used to prevent parallel imports.
Norway has adopted legislative amendments to strengthen the enforcement of all IP rights laws. Specifically, changes have been made to the provisions concerning the calculation of damages, preventative measures, the right to information, injunctions and jurisdictional rights. The changes will bring Norway closer into line with the European Union.
The Norwegian IP Appeal Board has issued a decision relating to a trademark registration for the mark ALFRED NOBEL. The Nobel Foundation had filed an invalidity claim against the registration on the grounds that use of the mark on Class 32 goods would deceive the public into believing that by purchasing the goods, they were supporting peace-keeping or charity work.
In Norway, consent declarations are widely used and relied on in the world of trademarks. A recent European Court of Justice decision seems to have shaken the foundations of the consent regime commonly accepted under Norwegian practice. The ruling will inevitably increase the conflict level under Norwegian trademark law and prevent otherwise sound and flexible amicable consent arrangements.
The Committee of Unfair Competition recently found that the purchase and use of a competitor's trademark as a Google AdWord was in breach of good business practice. The committee stressed that the goodwill in a trademark is what causes the internet user to use the term as a search term in the first place, and unauthorised use of such mark takes unfair advantage of the owner's reputation and efforts.
According to Section 13 of the Patents Act, any amendments to a patent application must be supported by the application as filed. The latest version of the patent guidelines stipulates that it is possible to delete certain embodiments, provided that these are found as alternatives in the original claims or as alternatives specifically mentioned in the description.
While the ONEL/OMEL decision of the European Court of Justice has led to discussions on the geographical scope of use of a registered Community trademark, the Norwegian Industrial Property Office Board of Appeal has issued a decision referring to the quantitative requirements underlying the 'genuine use' criterion. The decision appears to raise the bar for proving genuine use, at least for consumer goods.
A 2012 customer satisfaction survey carried out by the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) revealed significant concerns over the lack of harmonisation in the area of distinctiveness. In response, NIPO has presented some of the work it has done and is doing in an attempt to improve the quality of its trademark application processing. So is harmonisation in sight?
It is settled administrative practice that there is at least an average degree of similarity between a product in Classes 1 to 34 and sales services in Class 35 (wholesale or retail) relating to the same goods. The Norwegian Industrial Property Office Re-examination Division recently considered whether this practice has any bearing on the related assessment of whether use requirements were met for the goods covered by a registration.