Breaking news – Bad faith, goods and services, and trademark applications

startup-photos.jpgThe Advocate General of the European Court TANCHEV issued his opinion in the case C‑371/18 Sky plc, Sky International AG, Sky UK Limited v SkyKick UK Limited, SkyKick Inc. This case concerns one very trendy issue: to what extent the unreasonable wide scope of goods and services of one trademark application constitute bad faith. In details:

Sky is the owner of a family of SKY trademarks registered for different classes of goods and services such as  3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 25, 28 and 35 to 45.

Sky brought an action alleging that SkyKick had infringed those trade marks. For the purposes of their infringement claims, Sky rely upon the registrations of the trade marks in respect of the following goods and services (although not every trade mark is registered for all these goods and services): (i) computer software (Class 9); (ii) computer software supplied from the internet (Class 9); (iii) computer software and telecoms apparatus to enable connection to databases and the internet (Class 9); (iv) data storage (Class 9); (v) telecommunications services (Class 38); (vi) electronic mail services (Class 38); (vii) internet portal services (Class 38); and (viii) computer services for accessing and retrieving information/data via a computer or computer network (Class 38).

Sky have made extensive use of the trade mark SKY in connection with a range of goods and services, and in particular goods and services relating to Sky’s core business areas of (i) television broadcasting, (ii) telephony and (iii) broadband provision. SkyKick accept that, by November 2014, SKY was a household name in the United Kingdom and Ireland in those areas. However, Sky do not offer any email migration or cloud backup goods or services, nor is there any evidence that they plan to do so in the immediate future.

SkyKick contend that each of the trade marks should be declared (partly) invalid on the ground that they are registered for goods and services that are not specified with sufficient clarity and precision.

The referring court states that that contention raises two issues. The first issue is whether that ground for invalidity may be relied upon against a registered trade mark.

The judgment of 19 June 2012, Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (C‑307/10, EU:C:2012:361) established (and Article 33(2) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 (4) now requires) that an applicant for a trade mark must specify the goods and services in respect of which registration is sought with sufficient clarity and precision to enable the competent authorities and third parties to determine on the basis of that term alone the extent of the protection conferred by the trade mark. If the applicant fails to do so, the competent authority should refuse to allow the application to proceed to registration without the specification being amended to make it sufficiently clear and precise.

According to the referring court, it does not necessarily follow that, if the applicant fails to do so and the authority fails to ensure that the applicant rectifies the lack of clarity or precision during the examination of the application, the trade mark can be declared invalid on that ground after registration. The grounds for invalidity listed in the regulation do not contain any express requirement that the specification of goods and services in an application for registration of an EU trade mark should be clear and precise. The position is, in essence, the same in relation to a national trade mark.

The second issue raised by the referring court is whether, if the ground for invalidity can be relied upon, the specifications of any of the trade marks are objectionable.

The referring court considers that registration of a trade mark for ‘computer software’ is too broad, unjustified and contrary to the public interest. However, it also states that it does not necessarily follow that that term is lacking in clarity and precision. Indeed, it appears prima facie to be a term whose meaning is reasonably clear and precise. Thus, it is sufficiently clear and precise to make it possible to decide whether SkyKick’s goods are identical to it. On the other hand, the referring court finds it difficult to see why the reasoning of the Trade Mark Offices forming the European Trade Mark and Design Network (TMDN), as set out in the Common Communication of 20 November 2013, with regard to ‘machines’ in Class 7 is not equally applicable to ‘computer software’. (5)

Moreover, the referring court queries whether the validity of the marks at issue may be affected by the applicant’s bad faith at the moment of applying for registration of the trade marks.

SkyKick contend in the main proceedings that the trade marks were registered in bad faith because Sky did not intend to use the trade marks in relation to all of the goods and services specified in the respective specifications. SkyKick accept that Sky intended to use the trade marks in relation to some of the goods and services specified. Nevertheless, SkyKick’s primary case is that the trade marks are invalid in their entirety. In the alternative, SkyKick’s secondary case is that the trade marks are invalid to the extent to that the specifications cover goods and services for which Sky had no intention to use the trade marks.

The referring court states that, in comparison with the case-law of the Courts of the European Union, UK courts and tribunals have focused more closely on the requirement of intention to use, on account of the role that section 32(3) of the United Kingdom Trade Marks Act 1994 (‘the 1994 Act’) plays in the UK trade mark system. (6)

However, the referring court queries whether that provision is compatible with EU law. Should it be held to be compatible, then the referring court also has doubts as to the scope of the requirement of intention to use the trade mark.

Therefore, the High Court of Justice (England and Wales), Chancery Division, decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Can an EU trade mark or a national trade mark registered in a Member State be declared wholly or partially invalid on the ground that some or all of the terms in the specification of goods and services are lacking in sufficient clarity and precision to enable the competent authorities and third parties to determine on the basis of those terms alone the extent of the protection conferred by the trade mark?

(2) If the answer to [the first] question is [in the affirmative], is a term such as “computer software” too general and [does it cover] goods which are too variable to be compatible with the trade mark’s function as an indication of origin for that term to be sufficiently clear and precise to enable the competent authorities and third parties to determine on the basis of that term alone the extent of the protection conferred by the trade mark?

(3) Can it constitute bad faith simply to apply to register a trade mark without any intention to use it in relation to the specified goods or services?

(4) If the answer to [the third] question is [in the affirmative], is it possible to conclude that the applicant made the application partly in good faith and partly in bad faith if and to the extent that the applicant had an intention to use the trade mark in relation to some of the specified goods or services, but no intention to use the trade mark in relation to other specified goods or services?

(5)  Is section 32(3) of the UK Trade Marks Act 1994 compatible with [Directive (EU) 2015/2436 (7)] and its predecessors?’

The Advocate General’s opinion:

(1)  A registered EU trade mark or national trade mark may not be declared wholly or partially invalid on the sole ground that some or all of the terms in the specification of goods and services lack sufficient clarity and precision. A lack of clarity and precision in the specification of goods and services may nevertheless be taken into account when assessing the scope of protection to be given to such a registration.

(2)  However, the requirement of clarity and precision may be covered by the ground for refusal or invalidity of marks which are contrary to public policy, as laid down in Article 3(1)(f) of First Council Directive 89/104  and Article 7(1)(f) of Council Regulation No 40/94 , in so far as registration of a trade mark for ‘computer software’ is unjustified and contrary to the public interest. A term such as ‘computer software’ is too general and covers goods and services which are too variable to be compatible with the trade mark’s function as an indication of origin for that term to be sufficiently clear and precise to enable the competent authorities and third parties to determine on the basis of that term alone the extent of the protection conferred by the trade mark.

(3)  In certain circumstances, applying for registration of a trade mark without any intention to use it in connection with the specified goods or services may constitute an element of bad faith, in particular where the sole objective of the applicant is to prevent a third party from entering the market, including where there is evidence of an abusive filing strategy, which it is for the referring court to ascertain.

(4) In the light of Article 13 of Directive 89/104 and Article 51(3) of Regulation No 40/94, where the ground for invalidity exists in respect of only some of the goods or services for which the trade mark is registered, the trade mark is to be declared invalid as regards those goods or services only.

(5) Section 32(3) of the United Kingdom Trade Mark Act 1994 is compatible with Directive 89/104 provided that it is not the sole basis for a finding of bad faith.

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Brief IP news

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3. Patentability of pharmaceutical inventions, 15.01.2020 – 16.01.2020, Brussels. For more information here.

Source: Intellectual Property Center at the UNWE. More information can be found here

Copyrighted works and media reports – a European Court’s decision

reporter-852096_960_720The European Court has ruled in case C‑516/17 Spiegel Online GmbH срещу Volker Beck, which in brief concerns the question to what extent media companies can use copyrighted works for news reporting. The background is as follow:

Mr Beck had been a member of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament, Germany) since 1994 at the time when the referring court decided to make a reference to the Court. He is the author of a manuscript on criminal policy relating to sexual offences committed against minors. That manuscript was published under a pseudonym in an article to a book published in 1988. At the time of publication, the publisher changed the title of the manuscript and shortened one of its sentences. By letter of 5 May 1988, the author raised an objection with the publisher and called on him, to no avail, to indicate that fact expressly when the book was distributed. Over the following years, Mr Beck, who was criticised for the statements contained in the article, repeatedly contended that the meaning of his manuscript had been altered by the publisher of the book. Mr Beck has distanced himself from the content of that article from at least 1993.

In 2013, Mr Beck’s manuscript was discovered in certain archives and was put to him on 17 September 2013 when he was a candidate in parliamentary elections in Germany. The following day, Mr Beck provided various newspaper editors with that manuscript in order to show that it had been amended by the publisher for the purposes of the publication of the article in question. He did not, however, give consent for the editors to publish the manuscript and article. Instead, he personally published them on his own website accompanied across each page by the statement ‘I dissociate myself from this contribution. Volker Beck’. The pages of the article published in the book in question additionally bore the words: ‘[The publication of] this text is unauthorised and has been distorted by the publisher’s editing at its discretion of the heading and body of the text’.

Spiegel Online operates the internet news portal Spiegel Online. On 20 September 2013, it published an article in which it contended that, contrary to Mr Beck’s claim, the central statement appearing in his manuscript had not been altered by the publisher and therefore that he had misled the public over a number of years. In addition to the article, the original versions of the manuscript and book contribution were available for download by means of hyperlinks.

Mr Beck brought an action before the Landgericht (Regional Court, Germany) challenging the making available of complete texts of the manuscript and article on Spiegel Online’s website, which he considers to be an infringement of copyright. That court upheld Mr Beck’s action. After its appeal was dismissed, Spiegel Online brought an appeal on a point of law (Revision) before the referring court.

That court considers that the interpretation of Article 5(3)(c) and (d) of Directive 2001/29, read in the light of fundamental rights, in particular of freedom of information and of freedom of the press, is not obvious. It asks inter alia whether that provision allows any discretion for the purposes of its transposition into national law. It notes in that regard that, according to the case-law of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court, Germany), national legislation which transposes an EU directive must be measured, as a rule, not against the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany), of 23 May 1949 (BGBl 1949 I, p. 1), but solely against the fundamental rights guaranteed by EU law, where that directive does not allow the Member States any discretion in its transposition.

In those circumstances, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Do the provisions of EU law on the exceptions or limitations [to copyright] laid down in Article 5(3) of Directive 2001/29 allow any discretion in terms of implementation in national law?

(2) In what manner are the fundamental rights of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to be taken into account when determining the scope of the exceptions or limitations provided for in Article 5(3) of Directive 2001/29 to the exclusive right of authors to reproduce (Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29) and to communicate to the public their works, including the right to make their works available to the public (Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29)?

(3) Can the fundamental rights of freedom of information (second sentence of Article 11(1) of the Charter) or freedom of the press (Article 11(2) of the Charter) justify exceptions or limitations to the exclusive rights of authors to reproduce (Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29) and communicate to the public their works, including the right to make their works available to the public (Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29), beyond the exceptions or limitations provided for in Article 5(3) of Directive 2001/29?

(4) Is the making available to the public of copyright-protected works on the web portal of a media organisation to be excluded from consideration as the reporting of current events not requiring permission as provided for in Article 5(3)(c), second case, of Directive 2001/29, because it was possible and reasonable for the media organisation to obtain the author’s consent before making his works available to the public?

(5) Is there no publication for quotation purposes under Article 5(3)(d) of Directive 2001/29 if quoted textual works or parts thereof are not inextricably integrated into the new text — for example, by way of insertions or footnotes — but are made available to the public on the Internet by means of a link in [Portable Document Format (PDF)] files which can be downloaded independently of the new text?

(6)  In determining when a work has already been lawfully made available to the public within the meaning of Article 5(3)(d) of Directive 2001/29, should the focus be on whether that work in its specific form was published previously with the author’s consent?’

The Court’s decision:

1.  Article 5(3)(c), second case, and (d) 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 not constituting measures of full harmonisation of the scope of the exceptions or limitations which they contain.

2. Freedom of information and freedom of the press, enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, are not capable of justifying, beyond the exceptions or limitations provided for in Article 5(2) and (3) of Directive 2001/29, a derogation from the author’s exclusive rights of reproduction and of communication to the public, referred to in Article 2(a) and Article 3(1) of that directive respectively.

3. In striking the balance which is incumbent on a national court between the exclusive rights of the author referred to in Article 2(a) and in Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29 on the one hand, and, on the other, the rights of the users of protected subject matter referred to in Article 5(3)(c), second case, and (d) of that directive, the latter of which derogate from the former, a national court must, having regard to all the circumstances of the case before it, rely on an interpretation of those provisions which, whilst consistent with their wording and safeguarding their effectiveness, fully adheres to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

4. Article 5(3)(c), second case, of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as precluding a national rule restricting the application of the exception or limitation provided for in that provision in cases where it is not reasonably possible to make a prior request for authorisation with a view to the use of a protected work for the purposes of reporting current events.

5. Article 5(3)(d) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘quotations’, referred to in that provision, covers a reference made by means of a hyperlink to a file which can be downloaded independently.

6.  Article 5(3)(d) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that a work has already been lawfully made available to the public where that work, in its specific form, was previously made available to the public with the rightholder’s authorisation or in accordance with a non-contractual licence or statutory authorisation.

Global Innovation Index 2019

gii_2019_1200.jpgWIPO published its Global Innovation Index for 2019. Switzerland was ranked as the most innovative nation in the world followed by Sweden and the US. The rest of the countries in the top 10 are Nederland, Finland, the UK, Singapour, Germany, Denmark, and Israel.

Bulgaria is ranked 40 which is three places behind the last year’s position. More data for the country can be found here.

More information regarding this index you can found here.

Breaking news – Brazil joins the Madrid Protocol

brazil-3001462_960_720WIPO reports the exciting news about the accession of Brazil to the Madrid Protocol for international registration of trademarks. The Protocol will come into force for the country on 02.10.2019. After this date, every applicant from a country part of the Madrid System will be able to designate Brazil in its international trademark applications. This is huge facilitation and a very cost-effective way for trademark registration.

For more information here.