Audiovisual archives and transfer of copyrights

set-3884399_960_720.jpgThe Advocate General of the European Court G. HOGAN has issued it opinion in case C‑484/18 Société de perception et de distribution des droits des artistes-interprètes de la musique et de la danse (Spedidam), PG, GF v Institut national de l’audiovisuel.

The case concerns the following:

The INA is a commercial State body established by law in 1974. It is responsible for conserving and promoting the national audiovisual heritage. It keeps the audiovisual archives of ‘national broadcasting companies’ (national radio and television stations) and helps with their exploitation.

As I have already observed, PG and GF are the two sons and successors in title of ZV, a world-famous jazz drummer. They allege that the INA marketed on its website without their authorisation 26 video recordings and a phonogram reproducing performances by their late father. They brought an action based on Article L. 212-3 of the Intellectual Property Code, under which a written authorisation of the performer is required for the fixation of its performance, its reproduction and its communication to the public.

The INA pleads in response that Article 49(II) of the Law on freedom of communication allows it to exploit the archives in return for paying performers royalties set by collective agreements concluded with their representative trade unions. PG and GF counter in turn, inter alia, that these statutory provisions which derogate from the protection of performers conflict with the provisions of Directive 2001/29.

By judgment of 24 January 2013, the tribunal de grande instance de Paris (Regional Court, Paris, France) ordered the INA to pay PG and GF the sum of EUR 15 000 in compensation for the damage suffered as a result of the unauthorised exploitation of the interpretations in question. By a judgment of 11 June 2014, the cour d’appel de Paris (Court of Appeal, Paris, France) confirmed in substance the judgment delivered at first instance.

In particular, these two courts considered that the application of Article 49(II) of the Law on freedom of communication was subject to the prior authorisation of the performer, whereas proof of such authorisation would not have been provided by the INA.

However, by judgment of 14 October 2015, the Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation) overturned the judgment of the cour d’appel (Court of Appeal). It ruled that the cour d’appel (Court of Appeal) erred in holding that the application of the derogating regime was subject to proof that the performer had authorised the first exploitation of his performance, thus adding to the law a condition that it did not include. Following this judgment, the cour d’appel de Versailles (Court of Appeal, Versailles, France), at the request of the INA, dismissed the claims for compensation which had been brought against it.

Having heard the appeal brought by the successors in title against the latter judgment, the Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation) entertained doubts about the compatibility with EU Law of the French legislation and the interpretation of various provisions of Directive 2001/29.

According to the Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation), the special regime enjoyed by the INA does not fall within any of the exceptions and limitations to the rights referred to in Articles 2 and 3 of Directive 2001/29, provided for in Article 5 of the directive. The Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation) is also of the opinion that the solution adopted by the Court in Soulier and Doke (3) is not applicable to the present case. That latter case concerned the reproduction of out of print books. While it is true that the legislation on out of print books at issue in Soulier and Doke had derogated from the protection guaranteed to authors by Directive 2001/29, the scheme introduced for the benefit of the INA in the general interest is intended to reconcile the rights of performers with those of producers as being of equal value within the system of that directive.

In those circumstances, the Cour de cassation (Court of Cassation) decided to stay the proceedings and refer the following question to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘Must Article 2(b), Article 3(2)(a) and Article 5 of Directive 2001/29 … be interpreted as not precluding national rules, such as those laid down in Article 49(II) of [the Law on freedom of communication], as amended by Article 44 of Law No 2006-961 of 1 August 2006, from establishing, for the benefit of the [INA], the beneficiary of the exploitation rights of national broadcasting companies in the audiovisual archives, derogating provisions under which the terms on which performers’ works can be exploited and the remuneration for that exploitation are governed by agreements concluded between the performers themselves or the employee organisations representing performers and that institute, which must specify, inter alia, the scale of remuneration and the arrangements for payment of that remuneration?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

Article 2(b), Article 3(2)(a) and Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as precluding a national rule, insofar as it provides for a transfer to the Institut national de l’audiovisuel (French National Audiovisual Institute) of the performers’ rights.


To love Y is not as to fly

heart-shape-1714807_960_720.jpgThe European Court ruled in case C‑99/18 P, FTI Touristik GmbH v Harald Prantner и Daniel Giersch, which in brief concerns an attempt by both individuals to register the following European trademark:

download.pngIts classes of goods and services are as follow:

– Class 16: “Printed matter; photographs; stationery; wrapping materials; printed publications; books; handbooks [manuals]; pamphlets; newsletters; albums; newspapers; magazines and periodicals; tickets; vouchers; coupons and travel documents; passes; tags and labels; posters; postcards; calendars; diaries; instructional material”;

–  Class 39: “Transport; travel arrangement; travel information; provision of car parking facilities; transportation of goods, passengers and travelers by air, land, sea and rail; airline and shipping services; airport check-in services; arranging of transportation for passengers, goods and trips by land and sea; airline services; baggage handling services; cargo handling and freight services; arranging, operating and providing facilities for cruises, tours, excursions and vacations; aircraft chartering; rental and hire of aircraft, cars and boats; taxi services; bus services; chauffeuring; coach services; train services; airport transfer services; airport parking services; aircraft parking services; escorting of travellers; travel agency services; advisory, consultancy and information services relating to all the aforesaid services; providing information regarding transportation services; providing travel information online; travel booking via computer databases or the Internet”;

–  Class 43: “Services for providing food and drink, temporary accommodation; restaurant and bar services; food and drink catering; provision of holiday accommodation; booking and reservation services for restaurants and holiday accommodation; hotels and/or restaurants; reservations in connection with running hotels.”

Against this application, an opposition was filed by FTI Touristik on the ground of the following early registered European trademark for classes 16, 39, 41, 43:

download (1).png

EUIPO ruled that there is no significant similarity between the signs at hand, stating that:

“Phonetically, it found, in essence, that for the public that did not know the English term “fly”, the signs at issue bore no similarity. For consumers that did know the English word “fly”, there was a phonetic similarity provided that the mark applied for was associated with the word “fly”. However, this seemed rather unlikely since, first, there was a great difference between the letter “y” and the stylised heart in the mark applied for and, secondly, it was unusual to replace the letter “y” with a heart symbol. Conceptually, it found, that, for the public that did not know the English term “fly”, the signs at issue bore no similarity. For consumers that did know and understand the English word “fly”, there was a conceptual similarity provided that the word “fly” was identified in the mark applied for. However, this seemed unlikely for the same reasons as those set out in the context of the assessment of the phonetic similarity.”

The decision was appealed.

The European court agreed with EUIPO dismissing the appeal. Most consumers will not understand an image of the heart in the later mark as Y letter. Even in case that this is possible the additional element .de in the earlier mark is sufficient to make the necessary distinction between the signs.

Can we do a visual search for trademarks in Croatia?

dubrovnik-512798_960_720.jpgEUIPO reports about the newly available option for trademark search by visual elements for Croatia. This is possible after the Croatian Patent Office gave the necessary access for this purpose to the global trademark database TMView, which can be used for conduction such trademark search.

The other countries that allow this search are: Estonia, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, UK, Malta, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

For more information here.

La Liga was fined with 250 000 Euro for breaching GDPR

pexels-photo-2101030The organizer of the Spanish top football division La Liga was fined with $250 000 because of breach of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

The reason for that sanction was the La Liga practice potentially to use its mobile app to spy whether bars and restaurants show football matches without paying license fees.  According to the information, this could be done through phones microphones.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency considered this as breaching of the GDPR.

According to La Liga, this decision was wrong and unfair because the Agency failed to understand the mobile app technology and how it works.

Source: TBO.

How clicking on the thumb reflect on your privacy?

like-3033202_960_720.jpgThe Advocate General of the European Court has given its opinion on case C‑40/17 Fashion ID GmbH & Co.KG v Verbraucherzentrale NRW e.V., Facebook Ireland Limited, Landesbeauftragte für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit Nordrhein-Westfalen.

The case concerns the following thumb case:

Fashion ID (‘the Defendant’)’ is an online retailer. It sells fashion items on its website. The Defendant embedded the ‘Like’ plug-in supplied by Facebook Ireland Limited (‘Facebook Ireland’)(4) in its website. As a result the so-called Facebook ‘Like’ button appears on the Defendant’s website.

The order for reference further explains how the (non-visible) part of the plug-in functions: when a visitor lands on the Defendant’s website on which the Facebook ‘Like’ button is placed, his browser automatically sends information concerning his IP address and browser string to Facebook Ireland. The transmission of this information occurs without it being necessary to actually click on the Facebook ‘Like’ button. It also seems to follow from the order for reference that when the Defendant’s website is visited, Facebook Ireland places different kinds of cookies (session, datr and fr cookies) on the user’s device.

Verbraucherzentrale NRW (‘the Applicant’), a consumer protection association, brought judicial proceedings against the Defendant before a Landgericht (District Court, Germany). The Applicant sought an order to force the Defendant to cease integrating the social plug-in ‘Like’ from Facebook on the grounds that the Defendant allegedly did not:

–   ‘expressly and clearly explain the purpose of the collection and use of the data transmitted in that way to users of the internet page before the provider of the plug-in begins to access the user’s IP address and browser string, and/or

–  obtain the consent of users of the internet page to access to their IP address and browser string by the plug-in provider and to the data usage, in each case prior to the access occurring, and/or

–   inform users who have given their consent within the meaning of second head of claim that this can be revoked at any time with effect for the future, and/or

–   inform that “If you are a user of a social network and do not wish that social network to collect data about you via our website and link these to your user data saved on the social network, you must log out of the social network before visiting our website”.’

The Applicant claimed that Facebook Inc. or Facebook Ireland saves the IP address and browser string and links them to a specific user (member or non-member). The Defendant’s argument in response is a lack of knowledge in this respect. Facebook Ireland argues that the IP address is converted to a generic IP address and is saved only in this form and that there is no allocation of the IP address and browser string to user accounts.

The Landgericht (District Court) ruled against the Defendant on the first three pleas. The Defendant appealed. A cross-appeal was lodged by the Applicant in respect of the fourth plea.

It is within that factual and legal context that the Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf (Higher Regional Court, Düsseldorf) decided to refer the following questions to the Court:

‘(1)  Do the rules in Articles 22, 23 and 24 of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ 1995 L 281, p. 31) preclude national legislation which, in addition to the powers of intervention conferred on the data-protection authorities and the remedies available to the data subject, grants public-service associations the power to take action against the infringer in the event of an infringement in order to safeguard the interests of consumers?

If Question 1 is answered in the negative:

(2)  In a case such as the present one, in which someone has embedded a programming code in his website which causes the user’s browser to request content from a third party and, to this end, transmits personal data to the third party, is the person embedding the content the “controller” within the meaning of Article 2(d) of [Directive 95/46] if that person is himself unable to influence this data- processing operation?

(3)  If Question 2 is answered in the negative: Is Article 2(d) of [Directive 95/46] to be interpreted as meaning that it definitively regulates liability and responsibility in such a way that it precludes civil claims against a third party who, although not a “controller”, nonetheless creates the cause for the processing operation, without influencing it?

(4) Whose “legitimate interests”, in a situation such as the present one, are the decisive ones in the balancing of interests to be undertaken pursuant to Article 7(f) of [Directive 95/46]? Is it the interests in embedding third-party content or the interests of the third party?

(5)  To whom must the consent to be declared under Articles 7(a) and 2(h) of [Directive 95/46] be made in a situation such as that in the present case?

(6)      Does the duty to inform under Article 10 of [Directive 95/46] also apply in a situation such as that in the present case to the operator of the website who has embedded the content of a third party and thus creates the cause for the processing of personal data by the third party?

The Advocate’s opinion:

–  Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data does not preclude national legislation which grants public-service associations standing to commence legal proceedings against the alleged infringer of data protection legislation in order to safeguard the interests of consumers.

–  A person that has embedded a third-party plug-in in its website, which causes the collection and transmission of the user’s personal data (that third party having provided the plug-in), shall be considered to be a controller within the meaning of Article 2(d) of Directive 95/46. However, that controller’s (joint) responsibility is limited to those operations for which it effectively co-decides on the means and purposes of the processing of the personal data.

–   For the purpose of the assessment of the possibility to process personal data under the conditions set out in Article 7(f) of Directive 95/46, the legitimate interests of both joint controllers at issue have to be taken into account and balanced against the rights of the data subjects.

–  The consent of the data subject obtained under Article 7(a) of Directive 95/46 has to be given to a website operator which has embedded the content of a third party. Article 10 of Directive 95/46 shall be interpreted as meaning that the obligation to inform under that provision also applies to that website operator. The consent of the data subject under Article 7(a) of Directive 95/46 has to be given, and information within the meaning of Article 10 of the same directive provided before the data are collected and transferred. However, the extent of those obligations shall correspond with that operator’s joint responsibility for the collection and transmission of the personal data.

How important trademark disclaimers are?

midsummer-2263200_960_720.jpgThe European Court has ruled in case C‑705/17 Patent- och registreringsverket v Mats Hansson.

In nutshell, this case concerns whether disclaimers regarding the trademark scope of protection have to be taken into consideration for the purpose of trademark assessment. What exactly happened?

Swedish company Norrtelje Brenneri Aktiebolag registered in 2007 the following trademark in Class 33 of the Nice Agreement:

That registration was accompanied by a disclaimer stating that ‘registration does not give an exclusive right over the word RoslagsPunsch’. The disclaimer was required by the Swedish Patent Office as a condition of registration of the trademark because the term ‘Roslags’ refers to a region of Sweden and the term ‘Punsch’ describes one of the goods covered by the registration.

Mr Hansson, as an individual, applied in 2015 for registration of the word mark ‘ROSLAGSÖL’ in Sweden for goods in Class 32, in particular non-alcoholic beverages and beers.

The Swedish Patent Office rejected the application for registration because of the likelihood of confusion between the new application and the earlier trademark. The problem was that the term ‘Roslags’ is descriptive. The fact that both signs also included other words or figurative elements did not reduce the similarity. Moreover, the signs referred to identical or similar products which address the same customers.

Mr Hansson appealed this decision before the Patents and Market Court, arguing that there was no likelihood of confusion between the signs in question. As regards the effect of the disclaimer relating to the earlier trademark on the outcome of the action, the Patent Office argued before that court that an element of a trademark which has been excluded from protection by means of a disclaimer must in principle be regarded as not distinctive. In the present case, registration of the earlier trade mark had been granted with such a disclaimer because the trademark included a term that was descriptive of a geographical region, ‘Roslags’.

However, The Patent Office’s practice concerning the non-distinctive character of geographical names had developed in the meantime, putting into practice the conclusions in paragraphs 31 and 32 of the judgment of 4 May 1999, Windsurfing Chiemsee(C‑108/97 and C‑109/97, EU:C:1999:230). The term ‘Roslags’ was now capable of registration in itself as a trademark and was distinctive for the goods at issue in the present case so that it could even dominate the overall impression given by the earlier trade mark. It thus followed from a global assessment of the signs at issue that because of the common element ‘Roslags’ the relevant public could have the impression that the goods referred to by those signs had the same commercial origin.

The Patents and Market Court allowed Mr Hansson’s application and approved the registration of his sign as a trademark, finding that there was no likelihood of confusion. The court also stated that, despite the disclaimer, the terms to which it related had to be taken into account in the assessment of that likelihood, in so far as they could have an effect on the overall impression created by the earlier trade mark, and hence on the extent of protection of that mark. According to the court, the purpose of the disclaimer was to make it clear that the exclusive right deriving from registration of the earlier trade mark did not relate to the terms referred to as such.

The Patent Office appealed against the judgment of the court to the Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal, Stockholm, Sweden.

That court explains that in its view Directive 2008/95 and the associated case-law confirm that the substantive rules on the protection of a national trade mark are in principle fully harmonized at the level of EU law, while the procedural rules are within the competence of the Member States. It therefore asks whether a national rule allowing a disclaimer to be made may be categorised as a procedural rule, even though it has the effect of changing the criteria on which is based the global assessment to be carried out in order to examine the likelihood of confusion within the meaning of Article 4(1)(b) of that directive.

That court is uncertain whether that provision, having regard in particular to the settled case-law of the Court according to which the assessment of the likelihood of confusion must be based on an overall impression and the perceptions of consumers play a dominant part in the global assessment of that likelihood, may be interpreted as meaning that a disclaimer can affect that assessment because an element of the earlier trade mark was, at the time of registration, expressly excluded from protection by means of that disclaimer, so that that element must be given less importance in the analysis of the overall impression than it would have had in the absence of the disclaimer.

So the Svea Court of Appeal, Patents and Market Court of Appeal decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Must Article 4(1)(b) of [Directive 2008/95] be interpreted as meaning that the global assessment of all relevant factors which is to be made in an assessment of the likelihood of confusion may be affected by the fact that an element of the trade mark has expressly been excluded from protection on registration, that is to say, that a so-called disclaimer has been entered on registration?

(2) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, can the disclaimer in such a case affect the global assessment in such a way that the competent authority has regard to the element in question but gives it a more limited importance so that it is not regarded as being distinctive, even if the element would de facto be distinctive and prominent in the earlier trade mark?

(3) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative and the answer to the second question in the negative, can the disclaimer even so affect the global assessment in any other way?’

The European Court’s decision:

Article 4(1)(b) of Directive 2008/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks must be interpreted as precluding national legislation making provision for a disclaimer whose effect would be to exclude an element of a complex trade mark, referred to in that disclaimer, from the global analysis of the relevant factors for showing the existence of a likelihood of confusion within the meaning of that provision, or to attribute to such an element, in advance and permanently, limited importance in that analysis.

The 2 millionth EU trademark application has been reached

flag-2608475_960_720.jpgEUIPO announced the 2 millionth EUTM application which was filed by the Czech company Crefoport s.r.o.

Only in 2018, there were more than 150 000 new applications for EU trademarks. All of that shows the dynamic interest toward these trademarks from around the world. What’s more, every new applicant has to be more careful when filing new EU trademarks taking into account the possible conflicts with already registered signs. One of the option to avoid this negative perspective is conduction preliminary trademark search followed by an in-depth analysis.