Can a phrase with the hashtag #darferdas be a valid trademark in Germany?

Is it possible for the hashtag phrase “#darferdas?”, which means “can he really do that#, to represent a valid trademark.

This case has come to an end recently after a decision by the German Federal Patent Court. The dispute has the following background:

AS applied to the German Patent Office for registration of the sign comprising the hashtag #darferdas? as a trademark in respect of goods in Class 25 – ‘Clothing, in particular, tee-shirts; footwear; headgear.’

The Patent Office rejected the application, since the sign at issue was, in its view, devoid of any distinctive character within the meaning of Paragraph 8(2)(1) of the Law on the protection of trademarks and other distinctive signs.

AS brought an action against that decision before the Federal Patents Court, Germany.

By order of 3 May 2017, that court dismissed the action. It held that the sign at issue represented a sequence of characters and words joined together essentially composed of common German words. It was merely a stylised presentation of a discussion point. The hashtag indicated solely that the public is invited to discuss the question ‘Darf er das?’ (‘Can he do that?’). The public would understand that question — placed, inter alia, on the front of tee-shirts — for what it is, namely a simple interrogative phrase.

AS brought an appeal against that decision before the Federal Court of Justice, Germany.

According to the referring court, it cannot be excluded that the use of the sign at issue on the front of clothing is one amongst several types of use. That sign could also be placed on the label sewn on the inside of garments. In that case, the public could perceive that sign as a mark, that is to say, as an indication of the commercial origin of the goods.

The referring court states that it is clear from its own case law that, in order for a sign to be regarded as having a distinctive character and, consequently, being eligible for registration as a mark, it is not necessary that every conceivable use of that sign be used as a mark. It is sufficient that use be plausible and there be practically significant possibilities of using the sign applied for in the case of the goods and services in respect of which protection is claimed in such a way that it is easily understood by the public as a trademark.

That court considers that that approach could be reconciled with paragraph 55 of the order of 26 April 2012, Deichmann v OHIM (C‑307/11 P, not published, EU:C:2012:254), according to which Article 7(1)(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark (OJ 1994 L 11, p. 1) could not be interpreted as requiring the Office for the Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM) to extend its examination, based on the facts, of distinctive character to uses of the mark applied for other than that recognised as the most likely.

However, harboring doubts in that connection, the Federal Court of Justice decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question on Article 3(1)(b) of Directive 2008/95 to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘Does a sign have distinctive character when there are in practice significant and plausible possibilities for it to be used as an indication of origin in respect of goods or services, even if this is not the most likely form of use of the sign?’

The European Court ruled that:

Article 3(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 trademarks must be interpreted as meaning that in examining the distinctive character of a sign in respect of which registration as a trademark is sought, all the relevant facts and circumstances must be taken into account, including all the likely types of use of the mark applied for. The latter corresponds, in the absence of other indications, to the types of use which, in the light of the customs in the economic sector concerned, can be practically significant.

Based on this the German Federal Patent Court has reconsidered its earlier position on the matter finding this time that #darferdas? can function as a trademark because it can be applied to sewn-in labels of clothing where traditionally trademarks are placed. From that perspective, consumers can perceive the sign as a mark.

Source: Michaela Ring, Adam Lai-Chieh Wan (Hoffmann Eitle) – Kluwer IP Law.

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Ferrari FXX K design elements and a European Court decision

The European Court has ruled in case C‑123/20 Ferrari SpA v Mansory Design & Holding GmbH and WH. 

This dispute focuses our attention on the limited edition Ferrari car model FXX K that is similar to another model 488 GTB. There is a visual difference between both models in some design elements.

The German company Mansory Design & Holding GmbH,WH starts to produce and offer those design elements as tuning parts which can be used by owners of 488 GTB to make their cars look like FXX K.

Ferrari initiated a lawsuit in Germany for infringement of unregistered Community design but lost it. The decision was appealed and the German Supreme Court asked the European Court to clarify whether the making available to the public of images of a product, such as the publication of photographs of a car, could lead to the making available to the public of a design on a part or a component part of that product and, if so, to what extent the appearance of that part or component part must be independent of the product as a whole in order for it to be possible to examine whether that appearance has individual character.

The EU Court has ruled, inter alia, that EU law must be interpreted as meaning that the making available to the public of images of a product, such as the publication of photographs of a car, results in the making available to the public of a design on a part of that product or on a component part of that product, as a complex product, provided that the appearance of that part or component part is clearly identifiable at the time that design is made available.

In the first place, the Court noted that the material conditions required for the protection of a Community design to arise, whether registered or not, namely novelty and individual character, are the same for both products and parts of a product. Provided that those material conditions are satisfied, the formal condition for giving rise to an unregistered Community design is that of making available to the public within the meaning of Article 11(2) of Regulation No 6/2002. 

In order for the making available to the public of the design of a product taken as a whole to entail the making available of the design of a part of that product, it is essential that the appearance of that part is clearly identifiable when the design is made available. However, that does not imply an obligation for designers to make available separately each of the parts of their products in respect of which they seek to benefit from unregistered Community design protection.

In the second place, the Court pointed out that the concept of ‘individual character’, within the meaning of Article 6 of Regulation No 6/2002, governs not the relationship between the design of a product and the designs of its component parts, but rather the relationship between those designs and other earlier designs.

In order for it to be possible to examine whether the appearance of a part of a product or a component part of a complex product satisfies the condition of individual character, it is necessary for that part or component part to constitute a visible section of the product or complex product, clearly defined by particular lines, contours, colours, shapes or texture. That presupposes that the appearance of that part or component part is capable, in itself, of producing an overall impression and cannot be completely lost in the product as a whole.

IOC won a dispute regarding the Olympic trademark in Germany

The International Olympic Committee succeeded in a dispute in Germany on a trademark associating with the Olympic Games.

The case at hand regards the following German trademark application for classes 28, 35 and 41:

The German Patent and Trademark Office refused this trademark based on the German Law on the Protection of the Olympic Emblem and Designations (OlympSchG). According to this law, any use of  “Olympiade”, “Olympia”, “olympisch” or similar is prohibited if it is not authorized by the the National Olympic Committee for Germany or the International Olympic Committee. 

The decision was appealed and overturned. Because of this The International Olympic Committee intervened filing an opposition against this mark based on early registered mark for OLYMPIC.

This time, however, the Patent Office didn’t find similarity between the signs dismissing the opposition. In the appeal the German Federal Patent Court upheld this decision as valid.

Another appeal followed and the German Federal Supreme Court overturned the decision entirely. According to the court, the opposition was admissible. The fact that special legislation protects the Olympic Games symbols and signs doesn’t mean that they cannot be protected by the trademark law too.

When comparing the signs, the Court found enough similarities in order to upheld the opposition. The figurative element in the mark applied for would be perceived as an indication for the Olympic fire. In addition the lower court didn’t take into consideration the enormous reputation the earlier mark possesses. What’s more the first element of the mark RETRO has descriptive character.

The case has now been referred back to the German Federal Patent Court for new decision.

Source:  Yvonne Stone, Jana Bogatz – D Young & Co LLP for Lexology.

To what extent linking and framing of copyrighted works is legal in the EU – a new EU Court decision

The European court has ruled in case C‑392/19 VG Bild-Kunst v Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. This case concerns the question to what extend linking and framing of copyrighted content can be illegal on the territory of the EU.

The case has the following background:

SPK is the operator of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB), a digital library devoted to culture and knowledge, which networks German cultural and scientific institutions.

The DDB website contains links to digitised content stored on the internet portals of participating institutions. However, as a ‘digital showcase’, the DDB itself stores only thumbnails, that is to say smaller versions of the original images of the subject matter. When the user clicks on one of those thumbnails, he or she is redirected to the page concerning the particular subject matter on the DDB website, which contains an enlarged version of the thumbnail concerned, with a resolution of 440 by 330 pixels. When that enlarged thumbnail is clicked on, or the ‘magnifying glass’ function is used, a further enlarged version of the thumbnail, with a maximum resolution of 800 by 600 pixels, is overlaid by means of a ‘lightbox’. Further, the ‘Display object on original site’ button contains a direct link to the website of the institution providing the subject matter, either to its home page or to the page relating to that subject matter.

VG Bild-Kunst maintains that the conclusion with SPK of a licence agreement for the use of its catalogue of works in the form of thumbnails should be subject to the condition that the agreement include a provision whereby the licensee undertakes, when using the protected works and subject matter covered by the agreement, to implement effective technological measures against the framing by third parties of the thumbnails of the protected works or subject matter displayed on the DDB website.

SPK considers that such a term in the agreement is not reasonable in the light of the legislation relating to copyright, and brought an action before the Regional Court of Berlin, Germany seeking a declaration that VG Bild‑Kunst is required to grant SPK that licence without any condition requiring SKK to implement such technological measures.

That action was dismissed by the Regional Court of Berlin. An appeal having been brought by SPK, the judgment of the Landgericht Berlin was set aside by the Higher Regional Court of Berlin, Germany. By its appeal on a point of law, VG Bild-Kunst seeks the dismissal of SPK’s action.

The Federal Court of Justice, Germany points out, first, that, pursuant to the first sentence of Paragraph 34(1) of the VGG, which transposes Article 16 of Directive 2014/26, collecting societies are obliged to grant to any person who so requests, on reasonable terms, a licence to use the rights whose management is entrusted to them.

Second, in accordance with its case-law established in the period during which the national legislation repealed by the VGG was applicable, case-law which, in the opinion of the referring court, continues to be of some relevance, it was accepted that collecting societies could, exceptionally, depart from that obligation and refuse to grant a licence for the use of the rights management of which was entrusted to them, provided that that refusal did not constitute an abuse of monopoly power and that the licence application was objectionable by reference to overriding legitimate interests. In that regard, in order to determine whether there is an objectively justified exception, it was necessary to weigh up the interests of the parties concerned, taking into account the purpose of the legislation and the objective underlying the obligation that applies, in principle, to collecting societies.

The outcome of the appeal on a point of law depends on the issue whether, contrary to what was held by the appeal court, the embedding of a work – which is available on a website, in this instance that of the DDB, with the consent of the right holder – in the website of a third party by means of framing constitutes a communication to the public of that work within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29 where it circumvents protection measures against framing adopted by the right holder or imposed by him or her on a licensee. If that were the case, the rights of the members of VG Bild-Kunst would be liable to be affected and VG Bild-Kunst could properly subject the grant of a licence to SPK to the condition that SPK undertake, in the licence agreement, to implement such protection measures.

The referring court considers that, when thumbnails are embedded by framing in a third-party website so as to circumvent the technological protection measures adopted or imposed by the right holder, such embedding constitutes a communication to a new public. If that were not the case, the right of communication of a work to the public on the internet would, contrary to Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/29, be de facto exhausted as soon as that work was made freely accessible to all internet users on a website with the authorisation of the right holder, and that right holder would be unable to retain control of the economic exploitation of his or her work and to ensure adequate involvement in its use for economic purposes.

Federal Court of Justice is however uncertain as to the response to that question, having regard to the case-law of the Court in relation to the practice of framing (order of 21 October 2014, BestWater International, C‑348/13, not published, EU:C:2014:2315) and to the freedom of expression and information guaranteed by Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) in the digital context (judgment of 8 September 2016, GS Media, C‑160/15, EU:C:2016:644, paragraph 45), case-law which indicates that hyperlinks contribute to the smooth functioning of the internet and to the exchange of opinions and information, and accordingly it decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘Does the embedding of a work – which is available on a freely accessible website with the consent of the right holder – in the website of a third party by way of framing constitute communication to the public of that work within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29 where it circumvents protection measures against framing adopted or imposed by the right holder?’

The Court’s decision:

Article 3(1) 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 meaning that the embedding, by means of the technique of framing, in a third party website page, of works that are protected by copyright and that are freely accessible to the public with the authorisation of the copyright holder on another website, where that embedding circumvents measures adopted or imposed by that copyright holder to provide protection from framing, constitutes a communication to the public within the meaning of that provision.

Ferrari won an important lawsuit in the EU for its TESTAROSSA trademark and for the entire industry of old luxury cars

The European Court has ruled in joined cases C‑720/18 и C‑721/18 Ferrari SpA v DU.

These cases are important especially for manufacturers of luxury vehicles because they shed a light on the issue of old famous trademarks that are not completely used from the companies anymore.

The cases background is as follow:

Ferrari is the proprietor of the trade mark TESTAROSSA.

That mark was registered with the World Intellectual Property Organisation on 22 July 1987 as international trade mark 515 107 in respect of the following goods in Class 12 : ‘Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water, in particular motor cars and parts thereof.’

The same mark was also registered with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office on 7 May 1990 as mark No 11158448 for the following goods in Class 12: ‘Land vehicles, aircraft and water vehicles and parts thereof; motors and engines for land vehicles; car components, i.e. tow bars, luggage racks, ski racks, mudguards, snow chains, air deflectors, head restraints, seat belts, child safety seats.’

Since the Regional Court, Düsseldorf, Germany ordered the cancellation, on grounds of revocation, of the two Ferrari marks referred to in paragraphs 14 and 15 of this judgment (together ‘the marks at issue’) on the ground that, during a continuous period of five years, Ferrari had not made genuine use of those marks in Germany and in Switzerland, in respect of the goods for which they are registered, Ferrari appealed against the decisions of that court before the Higher Regional Court, Düsseldorf, Germany.

The referring court states that Ferrari sold a sports car model under the designation ‘Testarossa’ between 1984 and 1991 and sold the follow-up models 512 TR and F512 M until 1996. According to the referring court, in 2014, Ferrari produced a one-off piece with the model designation ‘Ferrari F12 TRS’. It is apparent from the order for reference that, during the period relevant to the assessment of the use of the marks at issue, Ferrari used those trade marks to identify replacement and accessory parts of very high-priced luxury sports cars previously sold under those trade marks.

Taking the view that the use of a mark does not always have to be extensive in order to be genuine, and also taking into account the fact that Ferrari used the marks at issue in respect of high-priced sports cars which are typically only produced in small numbers, the referring court does not share the view expressed by the court of first instance that the extent of use demonstrated by Ferrari is not sufficient to establish genuine use of those marks.

However, according to the referring court, it is doubtful whether account may be taken of such particular features in the case of the marks at issue, since those marks were registered not in respect of high-priced luxury sports cars, but generally in respect of motor cars and parts thereof. The referring court takes the view that, if account is taken of whether the marks at issue have been put to genuine use in the mass market for motor cars and parts thereof, it would be necessary to find at the outset that no such use has been made of them.

The referring court adds that Ferrari claims to have resold, after inspection, used vehicles bearing the marks at issue. The court of first instance did not regard that as renewed use of the marks at issue since, following the first release onto the market of the goods bearing those marks, the rights which Ferrari derived from them had been exhausted and it was not in a position to prohibit the resale of those goods.

Since the concept of ‘right-maintaining use of a mark’ cannot go further than that of right-infringing use of a mark, acts of use which the proprietor of that mark cannot prohibit third parties from performing, cannot, according to the court of first instance, constitute right-maintaining use of that mark. For its part, Ferrari claimed that the sale of used vehicles bearing the marks at issue thereby comprised a renewed commitment in respect of the vehicle concerned and therefore constituted a renewed right-maintaining use of the marks at issue.

The referring court adds that, in the main proceedings, Ferrari claimed that it provided replacement and accessory parts in respect of the vehicles bearing the marks at issue and offered maintenance services for those vehicles. In that regard, the referring court states that the court of first instance found that, between 2011 and 2016, turnover of approximately EUR 17 000 was achieved with the replacement parts actually sold by Ferrari in respect of the vehicles bearing the marks at issue, which was not sufficient to constitute right-maintaining use of the marks at issue. It is true that there are only 7 000 vehicles worldwide bearing the marks at issue. However, that fact alone does not explain the small quantities of replacement parts sold under the marks at issue.

While being aware of the case-law arising from the judgment of 11 March 2003, Ansul (C–40/01, EU:C:2003:145), the referring court observes, first, that it follows from the ‘Guidelines for examination of European Union trade marks’ (Part C, Section 6, No 2.8) of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that the application of that case-law should remain exceptional. 

Second, the referring court takes the view that there is a particular feature in the main proceedings, since the marks at issue also claim protection in respect of parts of motor cars, so that the application of the case-law arising from the judgment of 11 March 2003, Ansul (C–40/01, EU:C:2003:145) would mean that the marks at issue which have been used in respect of parts of motor cars are also used in respect of the motor cars, even if those motor cars have not been sold under those marks for more than 25 years. Furthermore, the question arises of whether genuine use of a mark can result from the fact that its proprietor still holds replacement parts and offers services in respect of the goods previously sold under that mark, but does not use that trade mark to designate those parts or services.

In relation to the territorial extent of the use required by Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95, the referring court notes that that provision requires use ‘in the Member State concerned’. Relying on the judgment of 12 December 2013, Rivella International v OHIM (C–445/12 P, EU:C:2013:826, paragraphs 49 and 50), it notes that the Court has held that the use of a trade mark in Switzerland does not prove genuine use of the trade mark in Germany. However, the case-law of the Federal Court of Justice, Germany assumes that the Convention of 1892 is still in force and is to be applied by the German courts, having regard to Article 351 TFEU. Such an application could, nevertheless, give rise to difficulties, in the case of a German trade mark which, although it cannot be cancelled under German law, cannot be relied on in opposition proceedings to preclude the registration of a trade mark of the European Union either.

Lastly, the referring court observes that, in the main proceedings, the question also arises as to which party must bear the burden of proving genuine use of a trade mark. In accordance with German case-law, the general principles of civil procedure are to be applied, which means that, also in the case of an application for revocation for non-use of a registered mark, it is the party bringing the action which bears the burden of proving the facts on which that application is based, even if these facts are negative facts, such as the lack of use of a mark.

In order to take into account the fact that the precise circumstances of the use of a mark are often beyond the knowledge of the applicant for revocation, German case-law imposes on the proprietor of the trade mark concerned a secondary burden to explain in a substantiated and comprehensive manner how it has used it. Once the proprietor of the trade mark has discharged that burden of explanation, it is for the applicant for the cancellation of that mark to disprove those explanations.

The application of those principles to the main proceedings would mean that a ruling could be given on those proceedings without an evidentiary hearing, since Ferrari has sufficiently explained in a substantiated manner the acts of use which it performed and has also offered proof, although DU confines himself to contesting Ferrari’s submission without offering any proof of his own. He would therefore have to be regarded as not having discharged the burden of proof. If, on the other hand, that burden of proof was to lie with Ferrari, as the proprietor of the marks at issue, the proof offered by it would have to be examined.

In those circumstances, the Higher Regional Court, Düsseldorf decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions, which are identical in both cases, to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) When assessing the question of whether use is genuine in terms of nature and extent within the meaning of Article 12(1) of [Directive 2008/95] in the case of a trade mark which is registered in respect of a broad category of goods, in this case land vehicles, in particular motor cars and parts thereof, but is actually only used in respect of a particular market segment, in this case high-priced luxury sports cars and parts thereof, is account to be taken of the market for the registered category of goods overall or may account be taken of the particular segment? If the use in respect of the particular market segment is sufficient, is the trade mark to be maintained in relation to that market segment in cancellation proceedings due to revocation?

(2) Does the sale of used goods which have already been released onto the market by the trade mark proprietor in the European Economic Area constitute use of the trade mark by the trade mark proprietor within the meaning of Article 12(1) of [Directive 2008/95]?

(3) Is a trade mark which is registered not only in respect of a product, but also in respect of parts of that product also used in a right-maintaining manner in respect of the product if that product is no longer sold, but there are still sales of trademarked accessory and replacement parts for the trademarked product sold in the past?

(4) When assessing whether there is genuine use, is consideration also to be given to whether the trade mark proprietor offers services which do not use the trade mark but are intended for the goods already sold?

(5) When examining the use of the trade mark in the Member State concerned (in this case Germany) within the meaning of Article 12(1) of [Directive 2008/95], pursuant to Article 5 of the [Convention of 1892], are uses of the trade mark in Switzerland also to be taken into consideration?

(6)  Is it compatible with [Directive 2008/95] to require the trade mark proprietor against which action is being taken due to revocation of the trade mark to comprehensively explain the use of the trade mark, but to impose the risk of evidence not being furnished on the cancellation applicant?’

The Court’s decision:

1.  Article 12(1) and Article 13 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 meaning that a trade mark registered in respect of a category of goods and replacement parts thereof must be regarded as having been put to ‘genuine use’ within the meaning of Article 12(1), in connection with all the goods in that category and the replacement parts thereof, if it has been so used only in respect of some of those goods, such as high-priced luxury sports cars, or only in respect of replacement parts or accessories of some of those goods, unless it is apparent from the relevant facts and evidence that a consumer who wishes to purchase those goods will perceive them as an independent subcategory of the category of goods in respect of which the mark concerned was registered.

2.   Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95 must be interpreted as meaning that a trade mark is capable of being put to genuine use by its proprietor when that proprietor resells second-hand goods put on the market under that mark.

3.  Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95 must be interpreted as meaning that a trade mark is put to genuine use by its proprietor where that proprietor provides certain services connected with the goods previously sold under that mark, on condition that those services are provided under that mark.

4.  The first paragraph of Article 351 TFEU must be interpreted as allowing a court of a Member State to apply a convention concluded between a Member State of the European Union and a non-member State before 1 January 1958 or, for States acceding to the European Union, before the date of their accession, such as the Convention between Switzerland and Germany concerning the Reciprocal Protection of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, signed in Berlin on 13 April 1892, as amended, which provides that the use of a trade mark registered in that Member State in the territory of the non-member State must be taken into consideration in order to determine whether that mark has been put to ‘genuine use’ within the meaning of Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95, until such time as one of the steps referred to in the second paragraph of Article 351 TFEU makes it possible to eliminate any incompatibilities between the TFEU and that convention.

5. Article 12(1) of Directive 2008/95 must be interpreted as meaning that the burden of proof that a trade mark has been put to ‘genuine use’, within the meaning of that provision, rests on the proprietor of that mark.

MALLE means Mallorca for Germans?

EUIPO has issued recently a decision on a case which has to check to what extent MALLE can mean the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca.

The case concerns a registered European trademark MALLE for classes  9, 35, 38 and 41 that regard goods and services such as CDs, TV shows, parties, music production and so on.

After receiving registration, the trademark owner started to send cease and desist letters to anyone who dare to use the name in relation to the above classes.

The problem is that MALLE  is a everyday word that means Mallorca for German consumers.

Because of that an invalidation proceeding was initiated against the mark.

The EUIPO invalidated this trademark based on absolute grounds – marks which consist exclusively of signs or indications that may serve, in trade, to designate geographical origin are not possible to be registered.

According to the Office, there is sufficient evidence in the form of many press articles for decades, which show clearly that German speaking consumers understand MALLE  as reference to Mallorca.

The fact that this conclusion concerns only one country in the EU is enough in order for the trademark to be invalidated.

There is a similar proceedings in Germany against national trademark MALLE .

Source: Yvonne Draheim – Hogan Lovells for Lexology

Revealing IP addresses, YouTube and the EU approach

post-letter-2828146_960_720The Advocate General of the European Court H. SAUGMANDSGAARD ØE issued its opinion on case C‑264/19 Constantin Film Verleih GmbH v YouTube LLC.

This dispute regards the main question whether the IP address of a copyright infringer is the same as the meaning of his/her actual address.

The case background is:

Constantin Film Verleih is a film distributor established in Germany.

YouTube, which is owned by Google and established in the United States, operates the internet platform with the same name.

In Germany, Constantin Film Verleih has exclusive exploitation rights in respect of the cinematographic works Parker and Scary Movie 5.

Between the months of June 2013 and September 2014, those two works were posted online on the ‘YouTube’ platform without Constantin Film Verleih’s consent. On 29 June 2013, the cinematographic work Parker was uploaded in its full-length version and in German under the username ‘N1’. It was viewed more than 45 000 times before it was blocked on 14 August 2013. During the month of September 2013, the cinematographic work Scary Movie 5 was uploaded in its full-length version under the username ‘N2’. It was viewed more than 6 000 times before it was blocked on 29 October 2013. On 10 September 2014, another copy of the second work was uploaded under the username ‘N3’. It was viewed more than 4 700 times before it was blocked on 21 September 2014.

Constantin Film Verleih demanded that YouTube and Google provide it with a set of information for each of the users who had uploaded those works.

The referring court found that the conditions for the right to information were satisfied. Consequently, the scope of the dispute in the main proceedings is limited to the content of the information that YouTube and/or Google must provide to Constantin Film Verleih. More specifically, the dispute concerns the following information:

–        the user’s email address,

–        the user’s telephone number,

–        the IP address used by the user to upload the files at issue, together with the precise point in time at which such uploading took place, and

–        the IP address last used by the user to access his or her Google/YouTube account, together with the precise point in time at which that access took place.

Ruling at first instance, the Regional Court, Frankfurt am Main, Germany rejected Constantin Film Verleih’s request that such information be provided.

On appeal, the Higher Regional Court, Frankfurt am Main, Germany ordered YouTube and Google to provide the email addresses of the users concerned, rejecting Constantin Film Verleih’s request as to the remainder.

By its appeal on a point of law, brought before the Federal Court of Justice, Constantin Film Verleih requested that YouTube and Google be ordered to provide it with all of the abovementioned information, including users’ telephone numbers and IP addresses. By their own appeal on a point of law, YouTube and Google requested that Constantin Film Verleih’s request be rejected in its entirety, including in so far as it concerns users’ email addresses.

Taking the view that the outcome of the two appeals on a point of law depended on the interpretation of the concept of ‘addresses’ contained in Article 8(2)(a) of Directive 2004/48, the Federal Court of Justice decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Do the addresses of the producers, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and other previous holders of the goods or services, as well as the intended wholesalers and retailers, mentioned in Article 8(2)(a) of Directive [2004/48] and covered, as appropriate, by the information referred to in Article 8(1) of [that] directive, also include

(a) the email addresses of service users and/or

(b) the telephone numbers of service users and/or

(c) the IP addresses used by service users to upload infringing files, together with the precise point in time at which such uploading took place?

(2)  If the answer to Question 1(c) is in the affirmative:

Does the information to be provided under Article 8(2)(a) of Directive [2004/48] also cover the IP address that a user, who has previously uploaded infringing files, last used to access his or her Google/YouTube user account, together with the precise point in time at which access took place, irrespective of whether any infringement [of intellectual property rights] was committed when that account was last accessed?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

Article 8(2)(a) of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘names and addresses’ set out in that provision does not cover, in respect of a user who has uploaded files which infringe intellectual property rights, the email address, the telephone number, the IP address used to upload those files or the IP address used when the user’s account was last accessed.

Accordingly, the Member States are not obliged, under that provision, to provide for the possibility, for the competent judicial authorities, to order that that information be provided in the context of proceedings concerning an infringement of an intellectual property right