The short answer is … we don’t know yet!
A slightly longer answer is: It will, in the end, depend on the CJEU’s own interpretation of Article 5 of the Unitary Patent Protection Regulation (UPPR) and its understanding of the nature of the Unitary Patent Court Agreement (UPCR).
And a straightforward answer may be: Only very rarely, if at all, because of three reasons:
- The CJEU is not a regular third instance above the two instances of the Unified Patent Court.
- The centralised structure of the Unified Patent Court – involving a Central Division in the first instance and a sole Court of Appeal as the second instance – will largely ensure uniform interpretation of substantive patent law anyway.
- As substantive patent law is largely harmonised in Europe already and thus falls under the acte-clair-doctrine, there are only very limited substantive patent law issues left that are in risk of being interpreted differently in different countries (or by different local/regional UPC divisions) and would thus need to be decided by a preliminary ruling according to Art 267 TFEU.
The more detailed answer. While all this may or may not be true, it still makes sense to (again) look closer into Article 5 UPPR, which has been introduced as Article 5a into the draft Regulation on the EU Council meeting of 28/29 June 2012 in exchange of former Articles 6 to 8 draftUPPR that caused so much headaches to (parts of) the profession and industry (see e.g. here and here), especially in the UK (see here). The removed UPPR articles have been introduced into the UPCA as new Articles 14f to 14i. New Article 5 UPPR and its crucial § 3 reads:
Article 5 (Uniform protection)
1. The European patent with unitary effect shall confer on its proprietor the right to prevent any third party from committing acts against which that patent provides protection throughout the territories of the participating Member States in which it has unitary effect, subject to applicable limitations.
2. The scope of that right and its limitations shall be uniform in all participating Member States in which the patent has unitary effect.
3. The acts against which the patent provides protection referred to in paragraph 1 and the applicable limitations shall be those defined by the law applied to European patents with unitary effect in the participating Member State whose national law is applicable to the European patent with unitary effect as an object of property in accordance with Article 7.
But what does that mean?
After the last-minute amendments of the Unitary Patent Regulation (UPR) by the European Council on 28/29 June, who suggested
that Articles 6 to 8 of the Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted
lead to a removal of this matter from the EU Parliament’s agenda and unleashed a wave of revulsion among members of the EU Parliament in general and those of its legal committee (JURI) in particular (see here and here), the direction in which today’s JURI meeting would go was not utterly hard to predict.
And in fact, today’s press release confirmed what could have been expected anyway:
The European Council’s move to change the draft law to create an EU patent would “infringe EU law” and make the rules “not effective at all“, Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE), who is responsible for the draft legislation, told the Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Most MEPs strongly criticised the European Council’s move and agreed to resume the discussion in September.
Apparently, this opinion is backed by the Parliament’s legal service, assuming that deleting Articles 6 to 8 UPR would “affect the essence of the regulation” thus be incompatible with EU law.
The EU Council thus made a big step forward on its way to achieve the final goal, as expressed in the annex of Doc 10059/12 of 24 May 2012:
On the 1st of April 2014 the system should be ready for the first registration of a European patent with unitary effect.
However, a number of steps – and one big legal problem – still remain to be taken. Already this July, the EU Parliament will have its first plenary session on the EU Patent Package that was postponed on 19 December 2011 by JURI (cf. minutes) and the EU Council will consider the issue as well:
- 3./4. July 2012: Parliamentary deliberations and votes on the three aspects of the “EU Patent Package” (unitary patent, translation arrangement, unified patent court);
- July 2012: Adoption of the Unitary Patent Regulation (unitary patent, translation arrangement) by the EU Council.
But it cannot be expected that the process will run smoothly, as the top-level negotiations at last week’s EU Summit ‘suggested’ – apparently under the pressure of David Cameron and eurosceptic Tory MPs lead by Bill Cash, Chairman of the influential Scrutiny Committee and ‘herald of the apocalypse‘ -
that Articles 6 to 8 of the [Unitary Patent] Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted.
Today, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has published the final decision in Case C‑324/09 (L’Oréal SA et al. vs. eBay International AG et al.).
From the Court decision we learn that L’Oréal is a manufacturer and supplier of perfumes, cosmetics and hair-care products. In the United Kingdom it is the proprietor of a number of national trade marks. It is also the proprietor of Community trade marks. L’Oréal operates a closed selective distribution network, in which authorised distributors are restrained from supplying products to other distributors.
Furthermore, eBay operates an electronic marketplace on which are displayed listings of goods offered for sale by persons who have registered for that purpose with eBay and have created a seller’s account with it. eBay charges a percentage fee on completed transactions. eBay enables prospective buyers to bid for items offered by sellers. It also allows items to be sold without an auction, and thus for a fixed price, by means of a system known as ‘Buy It Now’. Sellers can also set up online shops on eBay sites. An online shop lists all the items offered for sale by one seller at a given time. Sellers and buyers must accept eBay’s online-market user agreement. One of the terms of that agreement is a prohibition on selling counterfeit items and on infringing trade marks. In some cases eBay assists sellers in order to enhance their offers for sale, to set up online shops, to promote and increase their sales. It also advertises some of the products sold on its marketplace using search engine operators such as Google to trigger the display of advertisements.
According to the factual section of the Court decision, starting point was that on 22 May 2007, L’Oréal sent eBay a letter expressing its concerns about the widespread incidence of transactions infringing its intellectual property rights on eBay’s European websites. L’Oréal was not satisfied with the response it received and brought actions against eBay in various Member States, including an action before the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Chancery Division.
L’Oréal’s action before the High Court of Justice sought a ruling, first, that eBay and the individual defendants are liable for sales of 17 items made by those individuals through the website www.ebay.co.uk, L’Oréal claiming that those sales infringed the rights conferred on it by, inter alia, the figurative Community trade mark including the words ‘Amor Amor’ and the national word mark ‘Lancôme’. The Court decision confirmed that it was common ground between L’Oréal and eBay that two of those 17 items are counterfeits of goods bearing L’Oréal trade marks.
The Court (Grand Chamber) today ruled:
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The k/s/n/h::law blog
Some of the patent attorneys of the KSNH law firm have joined their efforts to research what is going on in the various branches of IP law and practice in order to keep themselves, their clients as well as interested circles of the public up to date. This blog is intended to present results of such efforts to a wider public.
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- kelle on Germany: Copyright Protection More Easily Available For Works Of “Applied Arts”
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days - KSNH Law - Intangible.Me on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days | ksnh::law on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- European Commission Takes Next Step Towards Legalising Software Patents in Europe | Techrights on EU Commission publishes Proposal of amendend Brussels I Regulation for ensuring Enforcement of UPC Judgements
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