Canada de­mands Aussies toss ‘Possum Magic’ coins

Ottawa Citizen - - CLASSIFIEDS - MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH md­smith@post­ Twit­

OT TAWA • A le­gal bat­tle be­tween the Royal Cana­dian Mint and its coun­ter­part in Aus­tralia is heat­ing up as Canada cries foul over “Possum Magic” coins.

The Cana­dian Crown cor­po­ra­tion al­leges the Royal Aus­tralian Mint stole its method for print­ing colour onto metal, and has ex­panded a De­cem­ber law­suit over red pop­pies on 2012 Re­mem­brance Day coins.

Last month, in doc­u­ments pro­vided to the Fed­eral Court of Aus­tralia, the Cana­dian Mint de­tailed five more runs of coins with which it takes is­sue, with 12 colour­ful de­signs in to­tal. While the orig­i­nal state­ment of claim de­manded that 500,000 com­mem­o­ra­tive $2 coins be turned over to the Cana­di­ans or “de­stroy(ed) under su­per­vi­sion,” the ad­di­tional coins would add up­wards of 15 mil­lion coins, all of them $2 in Aus­tralian cur­rency, to that count.

They in­clude Re­mem­brance Day coins from 2015 and 2017; Olympic-themed coins, 12 mil­lion of which went into cir­cu­la­tion, from 2016; a coin for An­zac Day, which com­mem­o­rates Aus­tralian and New Zealand war dead and vet­er­ans; and a run of coins which, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease, fea­ture de­signs from “the iconic Aus­tralian chil­dren’s book Possum Magic.”

The colour­ful bits on the possum coins, which the Cana­di­ans say in­fringe a patent, are sup­posed to rep­re­sent “magic dust” rings en­cir­cling possum char­ac­ters, which on some of the coins are pic­tured per­form­ing witch­craft.

The Royal Aus­tralian Mint isn’t tak­ing the law­suit ly­ing down. On Mon­day, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment launched a counter claim ask­ing the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Court to strike the patent al­to­gether — de­clare it “in­valid” — be­cause it didn’t in­clude enough “nov­elty” over pre­vi­ous meth­ods.

The counter claim cites an ear­lier Cana­dian Re­mem­brance Day coin from 2004, be­fore Canada orig­i­nally ap­plied for an Aus­tralian patent in 2006, as ev­i­dence of this. It men­tions how the coin was cir­cu­lated via “Tim Hor­tons restau­rants across Canada,” and in­cludes a pic­ture of the coin under a mi­cro­scope. It also in­cludes a list of Cana­dian, Amer­i­can and Bri­tish patents made pub­licly avail­able prior to the patent now under dis­pute.

The 2006 patent ap­pli­ca­tion, on a “method of print­ing an im­age on a metal­lic sur­face, par­tic­u­larly on a coin sur­face,” was open for pub­lic in­spec­tion in Aus­tralia from 2007, and even­tu­ally granted in 2013, ac­cord­ing to orig­i­nal court fil­ings from De­cem­ber.

Other doc­u­ments filed by the Aus­tralians Mon­day dis­pute de­tails about the print­ing method it­self and deny­ing parts of the Cana­dian com­plaint. A fi­nal de­fence states that, even if the Cana­di­ans are on to some­thing — which the Aus­tralian Mint de­nies — then, be­cause the coins are part of “or­di­nary busi­ness,” “for the ser­vices of the Com­mon­wealth,” the ex­ploita­tion of meth­ods in the patent was not an in­fringe­ment under Aus­tralian law.

Still, the ri­vals are both com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions that seek con­tracts in other coun­tries. In 2016, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port, the Cana­dian Mint had for­eign cir­cu­la­tion rev­enues of $63.1 mil­lion.

“The Mint dis­tin­guishes it­self in the global mar­ket­place with its cut­ting-edge coin tech­nolo­gies. As a Crown cor­po­ra­tion man­dated to op­er­ate in an­tic­i­pa­tion of profit, our tech­nolo­gies are vi­tal to main­tain­ing our com­pet­i­tive stand­ing, and the Mint un­der­takes all steps nec­es­sary to pro­tect its in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights,” Royal Cana­dian Mint spokesman Alexan­dre Reeves said in a state­ment to the Na­tional Post in Jan­uary.

Ul­ti­mately the Cana­dian Mint is ask­ing the court to make the Aus­tralian Mint re­trieve or de­stroy all of the in­fring­ing coins, and sur­ren­der prof­its or pay dam­ages. It is also look­ing for a court or­der bar­ring the Aussies from us­ing the meth­ods de­scribed in the patent with­out per­mis­sion.

The next hear­ing is sched­uled for June, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian fed­eral court docket.


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