Design validity and infringement claims in Indonesia

The bifurcation of validity and infringement is a common problem in many, usually civil law countries. In Indonesia the practice is to hear the disputes separately. In the DC Comics Superman case (see here) the case was rejected for combining claims. This is also a risk when you run validity and infringement in the same case.

A designs case from the Surabaya Commercial Court is a good example of how case involving both validity and infringement should be decided to avoid wasting court time on separate cases. PT Solihin Jaya Industri sued Chung She for invalidity claiming his industrial designs (which dated back to 2009) for wheelbarrows with various features were not novel and should be revoked. Chung She counterclaimed for infringement. The Surabaya Commercial Court rejected the Plaintiff’s revocation arguments. Instead they found the Plaintiff had infringed the Defendant’s designs. They granted a reasonable material damages of IDR 250,000,000 (USD14,000), plus a ridiculous IDR 13 billion immaterial damages (USD 1 million)!

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court upheld the finding of novelty on the basis that the Plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence otherwise. The Plaintiff’s appeal on novelty was a factual matter for the lower court, and did not concern comprise an error of law, which was the only proper subject for appeal. Meanwhile the infringement was clear. The Supreme Court did however cut immaterial damages down to a more reasonable IDR 1 billion (USD70,000).

This case sets out a clear pattern to argue for both validity and infringement. It would be interesting to see a Supreme Court case deal with the other usually opposite pattern, namely an allegation of infringement leading to an invalidity defence. There is a difference the other way around, since the IPO must be a party to be bound by a cancellation decision. The IPO would not normally be a party in an infringement claim, making a counterclaim for invalidity more complex to enforce.