Some readers may not have considered the importance of protecting the IP properties of currency. I mean, who would even think of copying the iconic caribou from the Canadian quarter?
However, currency manufacturers like the Royal Canadian Mint are commercial enterprises, and contracts for foreign circulation can be very lucrative. Any diminishing of a currency’s brand can have serious impacts on their bottom line.
A recent dispute between the Royal Canadian Mint and the Royal Australian Mint illustrates the lengths at which currency manufacturers are willing to go to protect their brand.
The dispute began when the Royal Australian Mint issued special coloured $2 coins to commemorate Remembrance Day and Anzac Day.
In response, the Royal Canadian Mint sued the Royal Australian Mint, arguing that the printing method used to colour the coins was patented by the Canadian Mint, with the patent granted in 2013. This method has been used to colour a number of Canadian coins, including the 25 cent Poppy Coin. The Canadian Mint demanded that all of the coloured Australian coins in circulation, around 500,000, be destroyed.
In a statement, Canadian Mint spokesperson Alex Reeves said: “The Mint distinguishes itself in the global marketplace with its cutting-edge coin technologies. Our technologies are vital to maintaining our competitive standing, and the Mint undertakes all steps necessary to protect its intellectual property rights.”
The Royal Australian Mint’s position was that their method of colouring the coins was sufficiently different so as not to infringe the Canadian Mint’s patent. They also argued that the original 2006 patent application by Canada shouldn’t have been granted, as it wasn’t novel enough.
Then, in August 2017, the Australian Mint launched three commemorative designs for their $2 coin, celebrating the publication of Possum Magic by Mem Fox, a book many Australian kids (including myself) grew up with. The coins featured “magic dust” rings, which were created using a unique coin-colouring process.
The Canadian Mint expanded the claim to include the Possum Magic coins.
After years of back-and-forth, earlier this month the two mints reached an out-of-court agreement.
The collaborative agreement puts an end to the dispute, and provides for “an exchange of licenses, and allows both mints to pursue their respective activities and business interests in a mutually-beneficial manner.”
Without a doubt, it is important to protect your brand and your patents. However, as this case demonstrates, there are times when collaboration can be more profitable than competition.
For more information about patents, contact our Intellectual Property Group.