Two Wrongs Don’t make a Right but Two Countries make an International Exhibition

The Full Federal Court has allowed the appeal in Chiropedic Bedding Pty Ltd v Radburg Pty Ltd [2008] FCAFC 142, overturning the decision of the trial judge and holding that a furniture fair involving 250 Australian exhibitors and seven from New Zealand was an “international exhibition”.

Section 47(1) provides that the fact that a design, or any article to which a design has been applied, has been exhibited at an official or officially recognized international exhibition … shall not prejudice or prevent the registration of the design or invalidate the monopoly therein, if the application for the registration of the design is made within six months after the opening of the exhibition.
A week prior to filing a design application, Chiropedic had displayed a mattress to which the design had been applied at the 1996 Furnishing Industry Association of Australia fair known as “The National New Products Parade”. At trial, it was held that this event was an officially recognised exhibition, by reason of funding from the Victorian Government, but was not an international exhibition. Accordingly, section 47 could not be relied on.

The Full Court considered that:

the trial judge erred in formulating a test of “international” which involved the need for a significant foreign presence. Not only does it import into the section a requirement that is not expressly stated, but it introduces into the section questions of degree which are likely to be productive of uncertainty and expense. In our opinion, the fact that there were exhibitors from Australia and New Zealand was sufficient to make the fair an “international” exhibition within s 47(1).

As a result, the validity of the design registration will not be effected by the prior publication of the design caused by its display at the fair.