Canada demands Aussies toss ‘Possum Magic’ coins
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.