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All Posts by James Nurton

James Nurton is a freelance journalist and editor, based in London, United Kingdom. He was previously editor of Managing Intellectual Property magazine and has worked on publications and events for AIPPI, AIPLA, INTA, WIPO, the EPO, and EUIPO. He is editorial consultant to MARQUES and a partner of Lextel, which provides editorial and thought leadership services to law firms.

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Green Light for Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court

The countdown to the launch of the EU Unitary Patent has begun, with the new system expected to start before the end of this year. The final legal step took place on January 19, when Austria deposited its instrument of accession to the Protocol on Provisional Application of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. It is the 13th country to take this step, meaning that the provisional application period has now entered into force. In practice, this means that UPC judges and other staff can now be recruited, IT systems set up and budget confirmed. The provisional period is expected to last at least eight months, i.e. until late September 2022, although it could be as long as 12 months.

INTA Weighs in at CJEU on EU Parallel Imports Case

The International Trademark Association (INTA) has made an amicus submission before the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) in a case concerning parallel imports and EU trademark law. (Case C-175/21 Harman International Industries, Inc. v. AB SA.) In the case at hand, Harman, which makes audiovisual equipment, brought trademark infringement proceedings in Poland against AB, a distributor. AB had put on the market goods featuring Harman’s trademarks, which it had obtained from a third party. Europe operates a system of regional exhaustion, as set out in Article 15(1) of the EUTM Regulation, and in parallel imports cases national courts have referred to “goods which have not been put on the market within the European Economic Area (EEA) by the right holder or with his consent.” (Gender-neutral language has not yet become established in EU jurisprudence). In this case, Harman argued that the goods had been imported into Poland and had not been put on the market within the EEA by Harman or with its consent. AB claimed it had received assurances when it bought the goods that the trademark rights were exhausted.

Trademark, Design and Copyright Landmarks in Europe During 2021

Last week, IPWatchdog selected five significant patent developments in Europe, examining what has happened this year and what can be expected in 2022. Here, we review five of the top trademark and copyright decisions and legislative changes across Europe and what’s coming up in the new year. One of the most significant trademark decisions of 2021 came in a case over Hasbro’s EUTM registration for MONOPOLY. The registration, for goods and services in classes 9, 16, 28 and 41, was declared invalid by the EUIPO Second Board of Appeal on the basis that Hasbro had acted in bad faith. On April 21, the EU General Court upheld that decision.

Five Key Patent Developments in Europe for 2021

As part of its review of 2021, IPWatchdog takes a look back on five patent stories from the past year in Europe, and highlights what further developments to expect in 2022. In 2021, Europe took a giant leap towards the implementation of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC). After years of delays arising from disputes over rules and language, the U.K. signing up and then withdrawing, and constitutional objections filed in Germany, it now seems highly likely that the new system will launch in late 2022. The pivotal step in this process was the decision by Germany’s Federal Constitutional on July 9 to reject as inadmissible two applications seeking to prevent the country from ratifying the UPC Agreement. (BVerfG, Beschluss des Zweiten Senats vom 23. Juni 2021- 2 BvR 2216/20 -, Rn. 1-81.) Following the decision, reported on IPWatchdog here, Germany ratified the Protocol on the Provisional Application of the UPCA, and Slovenia also did so in October.

Is Europe Running Out of Trademarks? Professor Beebe Talks EU Trade Mark Depletion

Is the European trademark system a victim of its own success? This was the question posed by Professor Barton Beebe of NYU School of Law at the Annual Sir Hugh Laddie Lecture at UCL-IBIL on November 9. Beebe argued that “trademark depletion is the most significant challenge the trademark system will face this century” and that, contrary to conventional wisdom,…

Judge Upholds UK Power to Set FRAND Terms

A judge has affirmed the ability of the UK courts to settle FRAND terms of a patent license covering foreign patents, despite the defendants challenging the court’s jurisdiction. But in his judgment, published on November 4 20201, His Honour Judge Hacon noted that the current framework for settling a global license between owners of standard essential patents (SEPs) and implementers “is plainly not satisfactory.” He explained: “[I]t does encourage expensive parallel litigation in several jurisdictions and more uncertainty than is necessary. I doubt that it can be sustained in the long term.” The case is one of many that SEP owners have brought before the courts since the UK Supreme Court judgment in the Unwired Planet and Conversant litigation established English courts’ jurisdiction to set global FRAND terms in August 2020.

DABUS Defeated Again—But Judges Divided

The England and Wales Court of Appeal has upheld lower rulings that two patent applications designating an artificial intelligence called DABUS as the inventor were deemed to be withdrawn. (Thaler v Comptroller General of Patents Trade Marks And Designs [2021] EWCA Civ 1374.) However, the three judges were split, with the two patent specialists on the panel taking different views. Dr. Stephen Thaler filed two UK patent applications in October and November 2018 for a “Food Container” and “Devices And Methods For Attracting Enhanced Attention” respectively. Parallel applications have been filed in many other jurisdictions, as reported previously by IPWatchdog.

England and Wales Court of Appeal Rules in SkyKick Trademark Case

Followers of European trademark developments will be familiar with the Sky v SkyKick litigation, in which the UK courts and the Court of Justice of the EU have addressed questions concerning trademark invalidity (see IPWatchdog report here). In the latest twist, the England and Wales Court of Appeal has reversed one of the main first instance findings. In its judgment, the Court allowed Sky’s appeal against a finding that its asserted trademarks for SKY were partially invalid due to lack of intention to use amounting to bad faith. The Court ruled that it was essential to determine whether the parts of the trademark registrations which were relied on were or were not applied for in good faith.

Green Light for Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court

The long-awaited EU Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) looks likely to be launched in 2022, after Germany’s top court rejected two challenges to ratification on Friday, July 9. In its decision, the Federal Constitutional Court rejected both the applications for preliminary injunction directed against the Act of Approval to ratify the Agreement of February 19, 2013 on a Unified Patent Court (UPCA). (BVerfG, Beschluss des Zweiten Senats vom 23. Juni 2021- 2 BvR 2216/20 -, Rn. 1-81.)

INTA Submits Comments to CJEU on Non-Challenge Clauses

Filing a request for revocation of a trademark, despite a non-challenge clause in a trademark agreement, constitutes an act of bad faith—according to an amicus submission filed by INTA in a case pending before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The German Federal Supreme Court has referred two questions to the CJEU in a dispute between two formerly related companies. (Case C-62/21, Leinfelder Uhren München.) They had signed agreements in which the defendants in this case undertook not to attack the plaintiff’s trademark, nor to assist a third party to do so. However, a lawyer acting on behalf of the defendants subsequently filed revocation actions for non-use against the plaintiff’s EU trademarks. In response, the plaintiff asked the German courts for an order requiring the defendants to instruct the lawyer to withdraw the revocation actions, and also for damages.

Nokia and Harting at the CJEU: The Issues Explained

Two cases pending at the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) address, respectively, questions on the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs), and the availability of interim measures in litigation. With the hearings expected later this year, IPWatchdog looks at the key issues raised. It is relatively rare for patent cases to come before the CJEU, as there are no EU Directives or Regulations directly governing patents. However, the Court does hear patent cases when they also involve other aspects of EU law, such as Article 102 TFEU, concerning abuse of a dominant position; the Enforcement Directive; and the Biotechnology Directive. In the past few months, the German courts have referred questions in two important patent cases.

No Unfair Advantage or Detriment in EUTM Case Involving PUMA Logo

Sports and fashion company Puma has lost an appeal before the EU General Court, following an eight-year dispute. The trademark case concerned figurative signs depicting leaping cats, and the judgment was published on May 19 (Case T-510/19). Puma, based in Germany, filed an opposition to an EU trademark (EUTM) application filed by Gemma Group in February 2013 for “Machines for processing of wood; machines for processing aluminum; machines for treatment of PVC” in class 7. The application depicted a blue cat leaping from left to right. Puma owns earlier marks for a cat leaping from right to left, registered for a wide range of goods including clothes, accessories and sports equipment.

Hasbro Loses Fight Over MONOPOLY Mark in Europe

Toy maker Hasbro has been rebuked by the EU General Court, after it was found to have applied to register an EU trademark (EUTM) for MONOPOLY in bad faith. The company has owned the MONOPOLY brand since acquiring Parker Bros in 1991. It filed the EUTM application, for various goods and services in classes 9, 16, 28 and 41, in April 2010 and the mark was registered in 2011. Hasbro owned three earlier EU word marks for MONOPOLY, which were registered in 1998, 2009 and 2010 and are still live. These covered some of the same goods and services as those specified in the 2010 application. After the latest application was registered, it was attacked by a Croatian company called Kreativni Doga?aji, which argued that the application was a “repeat filing” of the earlier marks and “was aimed at circumventing the obligation to prove genuine use of those marks.”

INTA Urges EUIPO Grand Board to Provide Guidance on Similarity Between Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

The International Trademark Association (INTA) submitted observations in a trademark case before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Grand Board of Appeal on April 1. The case concerns the similarity of goods in Class 32 (non-alcoholic beverages, including flavored carbonated beverages, waters and vitamin-enriched sparkling water, as well as beers) and goods in Class 33 (alcoholic beverages except beers, including wines, spirits, liqueurs, and alcoholic preparations for making beverages). The dispute arose after the owner of the mark VIÑA ZORAYA, registered in Class 33, filed an opposition to an EUTM application for ZORAYA in Class 32 based on Article 8(1)(b) EUTMR. The opposition was rejected on the basis that the goods were dissimilar.

Copyright Holders Can Restrict Framing, Says CJEU

Copyright holders can require licensees to implement technical measures to prevent infringement, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has ruled in its latest decision on the “right of communication to the public” in EU copyright law. (Case C-392/19 VG Bild-Kunst v. Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.) The Court’s Grand Chamber, comprising 15 judges, gave its ruling on questions referred from Germany in a dispute between a copyright collecting society for visual art, VG Bild-Kunst, and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), a cultural heritage foundation that operates a digital library called Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. The digital library includes thumbnails of images and links to the institution providing the subject matter.