The Full Federal Court in the Regency Media Pty Ltd v MPEG LA, LLC [2014] FCAFC 183 has dismissed an appeal from a patent licensee, Regency, which purported to terminate licensing arrangements with MPEG under s.145 of the Patents Act.

Section 145 permits either party to a contract relating to “a patented invention” to terminate the contract on three months’ written notice at any time after the patent, or all the patents, by which the invention is protected at the time the contract was made, have ceased to be in force.

The central issue in the appeal was the meaning of “a patented invention” in s 145(1).  Regency contended that this phrase permitted termination when any patent (i.e a single patented invention) the subject of the licensing arrangement had expired.

Whilst the Full Court rejected the trial judge’s reasoning, it nevertheless found that s 145(1) did not permit termination of a patent licence until all licensed patents had ceased to be in force.  This was because, as the Full Court reasoned, the Acts Interpretation Act required them to interpret the singular reference to “a patented invention” in s 145 to include the plural.

The licensee had accordingly improperly purported to terminate its licence agreement when some, but not all, of MPEG’s patents had expired.