He is a recognised leader in IP law and litigation, with almost three decades of trial and appellate experience in Australia. He is the Australian IP lawyer that local and international companies turn to when they need intelligent and strategic representation to navigate their complex issues.
Michael has been twice named Intellectual Property Partner of the Year at the Australian Partner of the Year Awards, in 2019 and 2021. The team that Michael leads has been named Intellectual Property Team of the Year at the Australian Law Awards three times, in 2015, 2017 and 2020.
He has leading ranking in influential legal industry directories: Chambers and Partners (Band 1, Trade Mark & Copyright), Legal 500 (Hall of Fame - Intellectual Property; Leading Individual – Media and Entertainment), Best Lawyers (ADR, Entertainment Law, Litigation, Intellectual Property), IP Stars (Copyright, Trade Marks) Who’s Who Legal (Trade Marks) and Doyles Guide (Preeminent – Contentious IP) to name a few.
Chambers Asia-Pacific (2023) describes Michael as “a market-leading IP practitioner with a wealth of experience in advising clients on a diverse range of contentious matters, and with particular experience in high profile copyright disputes”.
Legal 500 Asia-Pacific (2023) says of Michael: “The practice is headed up by the Sydney-based Michael Williams, who boasts ‘strong capabilities across the board‘ when it comes to trade mark, copyright, and patent matters.”
Michael has a diverse legal practice. His has litigated numerous cases relating to copyright, trade marks, patent infringement, trade secrets, false advertising, and anti-counterfeiting. He has represented trade associations and their members in successfully lobbying for important IP law reforms. He also has deep sectoral experience in a variety of industries such as media and entertainment (defamation, content protection), healthcare (medical devices, PPE, product liability) digital technology (software licensing, internet regulation, cyber security) and innovation strategy (IP commercialisation).
Michael is known for his outstanding track record in litigation and for extracting clients from complex disputes on favourable terms. Decisive and strategic advice, and effective advocacy, are the hallmarks of his approach. He is a strong communicator and tireless advocate for his clients, including in negotiations and alternative dispute resolution.
He is also known for identifying and implementing creative legal solutions to business problems, frequently involving challenging legal orthodoxy.
He has an unrivalled appellate IP practice, having run 4 of the most important IP appeals in the High Court of Australia:
- IceTV v Nine Network Australia . The first High Court decision in over 80 years on the test for infringement of original works.
- Roadshow Films v iiNet  The first High Court decision on the liability of online intermediaries for copyright infringement.
- Calidad v Seiko Epson Corporation  The first appeal to consider the right of repair under patent law, resulting in the overturning of more than 100 years of precedent and the adoption of a doctrine of patent exhaustion.
- Self Care IP Holdings v Allergan Australia  The High Court ‘s definitive restatement of the fundamental concept of trade mark use and rejection of using business reputation in infringement analysis under Australian law
These appeals represent a unique achievement, because they covered every core IP specialty: copyright, patents and trade mark law.
Michael is also widely published on IP law. His journal articles include: Searching for the silver bullet: How website blocking injunctions are changing online IP enforcement (2014) 25 AIPJ 59; Avoiding an Enforcement Free-For All in Multi-Jurisdictional IP Disputes: The Case for an organised System of Global IP Enforcement (2018) 28 AIPJ 38; Patenting Software Inventions, Abstract Ideas, and Judicial Characterisation: The Shift Away from Recognising Patentability of Copyright Software in Australia after Encompass, Rokt and Aristocrat (2020) 30 AIPJ 182; and Rewriting Judicial History or Just Refilling Ink? Patents and the Repair in Australia Post-Calidad: “Logic, Simplicity and Coherence with Legal Principle” prevail over “Rights Which they have held for more than a century” (2020) 31 AIPJ 147. His forthcoming paper “I, Robot: Is IP Law Ready for the age of AI? (on Thaler and other provocations to our existing systems)” will address the treatment of AI under IP law.
He is also a regular commentator in the media on developments in IP law and the future of legal practice in Australia. One of his key interests is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its interaction with IP law. He has appeared on episodes of the ABC Law Report dealing with the implications of AI, including the episode “Can machines invent, and animals create?” broadcast on Tue 3 Jan 2023.
Michael holds degrees in Economics (Majoring in Political Science) and Law (First Class Honours, prize list) from the University of Sydney.
His professional memberships include INTA, the ABA, Copyright Society of Australia and IPSANZ.
Representative litigation experience includes:
- Calidad Pty Ltd v Seiko Epson Corporation  HCA 41 (PATENTS, REPAIR, PATENT EXHAUSTION): Successful High Court appeal overturning findings of infringement, affirming right of repair and modification of patented articles and recognising of doctrine of exhaustion after 112 years in place of the previous doctrine of implied licence.
- Taxiprop Pty Ltd v Neutron Holdings Inc  FCA 1565 (TRADE MARKS, ACL, NON-USE): Successful defence of trade mark infringement and ACL claim against the use of LIME for electric scooters in Australia, successful prosecution of non-use application, and exercise of discretion to cut services of a registered trade mark for non-use.
- BCI Media Group Pty Ltd v Corelogic Australia Pty Ltd  FCA 1556 (COPYRIGHT, CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION, PRELIMINARY DISCOVERY): Successful application for discovery of information based on suspected copyright infringement and breach of confidence, arising out of alleged unauthorised access to online subscription database.
- State Street Global Advisors Trust Company v Maurice Blackburn Pty Ltd  FCA 1464 (ACL, TRADE MARKS, COPYRIGHT): Successful application for release from the Harman undertaking to use a class of documents discovered in Australian proceedings in proceedings before the Southern District of New York involving similar claims.
- Freelancer International Pty Ltd v Matthew O’Kane  NSWSC 159 (NSWSC) (CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION): Successful application for plaintiff seeking orders dismissing preliminary discovery action after threat to destroy company information carried out by ex-employee.
- State Street Global Advisers v Maurice Blackburn & Ors (VID113/2019) (ACL, TRADE MARKS, COPYRIGHT): Acting for State Street Global Advisers in its high-profile case over the promotion in Australia of a replica the Fearless Girl statue outside the New York Stock Exchange. This is an important test case for protection of global corporate brand assets in Australia.
- Qudos Mutual Limited v Infosys Limited  FCA 702 (COPYRIGHT, CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION) (Trial): Acting for financial institution in successful application for discovery from an IT supplier contracted to deliver an integrated banking platform.
- Encompass Corporation & Anor v InfoTrack (NSD734/2018) (PATENTS): Acting for the patentee and licensee of online search technology in patent infringement proceedings against a competitor. It is one of the most significant cases concerning software patents in decades with the Court considering when computer software can meet the threshold for "manner of manufacture". The appeal attracted a rare 5 member judicial bench to determine the eligibility of software under Australian patent law.
- Boomerang Investments v John Paggett & Ors (NSD1738/2017) (ENTERTAINMENT, COPYRIGHT): Currently acting for the band “Glass Candy”, in defence of infringement claims relating to the song “Love is in the Air”. The decision will clarify the extent of copyright protection over a short lyrical phrase (“Love is in the Air”) and accompanying musical phrase. A decision is anticipated in 2020.
- Crescent Funds Management (Aust) Ltd v Crescent Capital Partners Management Pty Limited (TRADE MARKS)  123 IPR 412: Acting successfully in defence of an appeal in a case where there was a finding of misleading of deceptive conduct against a business in the financial service industry (under ss 12DA, 12DB and 12GF of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001).
- Australian Mud Company Pty Ltd v Coretell Pty Ltd  351 ALR 83 (PATENTS) (Full Court appeal): Acting for the successful appellant an award of damages for unjustified threats of patent infringement. The appeal decision delivered important guidance on the requirements to prove the necessary causation to recover damages for unjustified threats. The award was overturned, resulting in no damages being payable.
- Coretell Pty Ltd v Australian Mud Company Pty Ltd  FCAFC 54 (PATENTS) (Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for a patentee in successful patent infringement proceedings against a competitor in connection with the use of core sample orientation technology used in connection with geological surveying operations and other drilling operations. Challenges to validity of the patents were dismissed.
- Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd v Global Gaming Supplies Pty Ltd  FCAFC 22 (TRADE MARKS) (Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for a major gaming machine manufacturer in its trade mark infringement proceedings against the participants in a joint venture from 1 October 2004 supplying refurbished gaming machines with counterfeit parts to overseas markets including the South American market.
- Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd v Allam  327 ALR 595 (ENFORCEMENT): Successfully having writ issued in High Court set aside based on material non-disclosure in application.
- Kafataris v Davis  120 IPR 206 (PATENTS) (Full Court appeal, trial): Acting in successful defence of an appeal in dispute over ownership of and entitlement to an innovation patent for betting options using a secondary or supplemental card game in a game of baccarat.
- Energizer Australia Pty Ltd v Procter & Gamble Australia Pty Ltd  FCA 347 (BRANDS) (Trial): Successfully obtaining a finding of contempt against a supplier of batteries following a successful claim for misleading or deceptive conduct over battery advertising.
- Samsung Electronics Australia Pty Limited v LG Electronics Australia Pty Limited  113 IPR 11 (ADVERTISING) (Trial): Acting for a major electronic manufacturing in claims for misleading and deceptive advertising against a competitor concerning comparative advertising claims over 3D television screen technology. The decision also provided key guidance on the use of survey evidence.
- Pavlovic v Universal Music Australia Pty Limited  NSWCA 313 (ENTERTAINMENT) (NSW Court of Appeal, trial): Acting for a major recording company in connection with a dispute over a label joint venture. The decision provided guidance on the requirements for holding parties to a settlement negotiated between their legal practitioners.
- Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd v Global Gaming Supplies Pty Ltd  297 ALR 406 (High Court appeal, Full Court appeal, trial): Acting in High Court appeal in case concerning alleged copyright infringement by participants in a joint venture from 1 October 2004 supplying refurbished gaming machines with counterfeit parts to overseas markets including the South American market.
- Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited  248 CLR 42 (COPYRIGHT) (High Court appeal, Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for the motion picture studios in their copyright infringement action against an Australian ISP. The case, one of the first in the world to consider the liabilities of ISPs, and determined key issues including the how infringements occur on file sharing systems, liability for authorisation and safe harbours under Australian law. The case was the precursor to the enactment of the Australian site blocking regime.
- Fernandez v Perez  NSWSC 1242 (ENTERTAINMENT): Acting in the successful defence of a major international artist (PitBull) against a contract claim brought by a music promoter.
- Procter & Gamble Australia Pty Limited v Energizer Pty Limited (No 2)  FCA 1347 (ADVERTISING) (Trial): Acting for the successful defendant against claims of misleading of deceptive conduct relating to advertising and promotion of personal razors.
- IceTV Pty Limited v Nine Network Australia Pty Limited  239 CLR 458 (COPYRIGHT) (High Court appeal, Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for a major Australian television network in its claim for infringement in program schedules. In its first judgment considering the scope of copyright protection in compilations since 1918, the High Court gave an authoritative ruling on copyright protection in Part III original works.
- Venus Adult Shops Pty Ltd v Fraserside Holdings Ltd  FCAFC 188 (COPYRIGHT) Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for successful copyright owner in claims of infringement in adult films. Defences based on claims of illegality in the films and their sale were dismissed in the appeal.
- Spatialinfo Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd  FCA 950 (COPYRIGHT, CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION) Settled before trial): Acting for Autodesk in major copyright infringement and confidential information action against Autodesk and Telstra by the creator of several computer programs used in a cadastral network system.
- Cooper v Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd  FCAFC 187 (COPYRIGHT) Full Court appeal, trial): Acting for the Australian recording industry in its landmark case against an operator of a hyperlinking pirate music website for copyright infringement. The case established the principles still in use today in copyright actions involving online file downloads from overseas websites. Special leave was refused.
- Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v Sharman License Holdings Ltd  222 FCR 465 (COPYRIGHT) (Full Court appeal, trial): ("the Kazaa case"): Acting for the Australian recording industry in its landmark win against the operators of the Kazaa file-sharing system. In conjunction with parallel legal action the United States, the case produced 16 judgments on the way to a historic multi-million dollar settlement.
- Nine Films & Television Pty Ltd v Ninox Television Limited  67 IPR 46 (COPYRIGHT) (Trial): Acting for a major Australian television network in defence of claims of copyright infringement in a television format. This is one of the very few decisions on the scope of copyright in television formats and provides guidance on when such formats will be infringed.
- Datadot Technology Ltd v Alpha Microtech Pty Ltd  FCA 962 (PATENTS) (Trial): Acting for the patentee in the first successful infringement action brought in relation to an innovation patent certified in Australia.
- CDPP v Ng, Tran and Le  NSWLC 17 (COPYRIGHT, CRIMINAL LAW): Acting for the Australian recording industry in support of the first criminal prosecution of internet pirates in Australia, relating to the download service known as "mp3wmaland". The two principals (Tran and Ng) were convicted and received prison sentences of 18 months, suspended for three years.
Awards and Recognition
Winner: Intellectual Property Partner of the Year
Ranked in Band #1 for Intellectual Property: Trade Mark & Copyright
Ranked in Hall of Fame for Intellectual Property
Recognised as a Leading Individual for Media and Entertainment and Data Protection
Preeminent – Leading Contentious Intellectual Property Lawyers – NSW; Preeminent – Leading Intellectual Property Lawyers – Australia
Ranked Gold for Enforcement and Litigation
Ranked Bronze for Litigation
Recognised as a Copyright Star, Trade Mark Star and Patent Star (Australia)
Recognised for Intellectual Property Law, Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Entertainment Law
Michael Williams is a market-leading IP practitioner with a wealth of experience in advising clients on a diverse range of contentious matters,..[one client comments Michael] “can dynamically change direction based on new information and thinks well on his feet."
Recognised for "his technical knowledge, gravitas and strategic thinking" and his ability to "provide a higher-level perspective."
Recognised as a Leading Individual for Data Protection
Recognised as a leading IP Expert
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