BREAKING NEWS – Military reports and copyright – a European Court’s decision

us-army-379036_960_720The European court has issued its decision on the case C‑469/17 Funke Medien NRW GmbH v Bundesrepublik Deutschland. This case concerns whether or not military reports can be subject to copyright protection. The background is as follow:

The Federal Republic of Germany prepares a military status report every week on the deployments of the Bundeswehr (Federal armed forces, Germany) abroad and on developments at the deployment locations. The reports are referred to as ‘Unterrichtung des Parlaments’ (‘Parliament briefings’; ‘UdPs’), and are sent to selected members of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament, Germany), to sections of the Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (Federal Ministry of Defence, Germany) and other federal ministries, and to certain bodies subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Defence. UdPs are categorised as ‘Classified Documents — Restricted’, which is the lowest of the four levels of confidentiality laid down under German law. At the same time, the Federal Republic of Germany publishes summaries of UdPs known as ‘Unterrichtung der Öffentlichkeit’ (‘public briefings’), which are available to the public without any restrictions.

Funke Medien operates the website of the German daily newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. On 27 September 2012, it applied for access to all UdPs drawn up between 1 September 2001 and 26 September 2012. That application was refused by the competent authorities on the ground that disclosure of the information in those UdPs could have adverse effects on security-sensitive interests of the Federal armed forces. In that context, the competent authorities referred to the regularly published public briefings, which are versions of UdPs that do not affect those interests. Funke Medien nevertheless obtained, by unknown means, a large proportion of the UdPs, which it published in part as the ‘Afghanistan Papiere’ (‘the Afghanistan papers’) and could be read online as individually scanned pages accompanied by an introductory note, further links and a space for comments.

The Federal Republic of Germany, which takes the view that Funke Medien thereby infringed its copyright over the UdPs, brought an action for an injunction against Funke Medien, which was upheld by the Landgericht Köln (Regional Court, Cologne, Germany). The appeal brought by Funke Medien was dismissed by the Oberlandesgericht Köln (Higher Regional Court, Cologne, Germany). In its appeal on a point of law (Revision), brought before the referring court, Funke Medien maintained its contention that the action for an injunction should be dismissed.

The referring court notes that the reasoning of the Oberlandesgericht Köln (Higher Regional Court, Cologne) is based on the premiss that UdPs may be protected under copyright as ‘literary works’ and that they are not official texts excluded from the protection emanating from that right. It nevertheless states that that court has not made any finding of fact from which it can be concluded that UdPs are original creations.

However, the referring court considers that it is not possible to dismiss the judgment of the Oberlandesgericht Köln (Higher Regional Court, Cologne) and to remit the case to that court to allow it to make findings to that effect a posteriori, if copyright infringement of UdPs, which must be presumed for the purposes of an appeal on a point of law (Revision), is, in any event, covered by the derogation relating to reporting current events or quotations, laid down in Paragraphs 50 and 51 of the UrhG, or if such an infringement is justified by freedom of information or the freedom of the press, laid down respectively in the first and second sentences of Article 5(1) of the Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany) of 23 May 1949 (BGBl. 1949 I, p. 1; ‘the GG’) and in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’). According to the referring court, if that is the case, then judgment could be given in the case to the effect that the referring court would be required to amend the judgment of the Landgericht Köln (Regional Court, Cologne) and dismiss the action for an injunction which the Federal Republic of Germany brought before it.

The referring court considers, in that regard, that the interpretation of Article 2(a), Article 3(1) and 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 those provisions allow any discretion for the purposes of their 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 GG, 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 Union law on the exclusive right of authors to reproduce (Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29) and publicly communicate their works, including the right to make works available to the public (Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29), and the exceptions or limitations to these rights (Article 5(2) and (3) of Directive 2001/29) allow any latitude in terms of implementation in national law?

(2) In which way are the fundamental rights of the [Charter] to be taken into account when ascertaining the scope of the exceptions or limitations provided for in Article 5(2) and (3) of Directive 2001/29 to the exclusive right of authors to reproduce (Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29) and publicly communicate their works, including the right to make 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 media (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 publicly communicate their works, including the right to make works available to the public (Article 3(1) Directive 2001/29), beyond the exceptions or limitations provided for in Article 5(2) and (3) of Directive 2001/29?’

The Court’s decision:

1.  Article 2(a) and 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 constituting measures of full harmonisation of the scope of the exceptions or limitations which they contain. Article 5(3)(c), second case, and (d) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as not constituting measures of full harmonisation of the scope of the relevant exceptions or limitations.

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.

Advertisements

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.

Some answers regarding the EU Copyright reform

flag-2608475_960_720.jpgThe European Commission published answers to a variety of questions regarding the Copyright reform that has been approved recently. The questions are as follow:

1. The European Parliament voted on the new copyright rules at EU level – what are they about?
2. Why do we need to modernise the EU copyright rules?
3. Are the new copyright rules limiting users and their freedom online?
4. Will the Directive impose upload filters online?
5. Will the Copyright Directive prevent users from expressing themselves on internet in the same way as now? Will memes and GIFs be banned?
6. How will the new Copyright rules tackle the discrepancy between the remuneration of creators and that of certain online platforms (the so-called ‘value gap’)?
7. How will the new copyright rules on user-uploaded platforms benefit the users?
8. What are the services covered by the new rules on user-uploaded platforms?
9. What will be the special regime for startups and smaller enterprises?
10. What will happen to online encyclopaedias (like Wikipedia) that are based on content uploaded by users?
11. How will the new press publishers’ right work?
12. Are small and emerging press publishers going to be affected by the reform?
13. Is the new Copyright Directive creating a “hyperlink tax”?
14. With the new rules, will the use of “snippets” be forbidden?
15. How will the new Directive benefit journalism and journalists?
16. How will the Directive ensure fair remuneration for individual authors and performers?
17. How will the new copyright rules strike a fairer balance in the relationships between creators and their contractual partners?
18. What is the contract adjustment mechanism? Does it interfere with contractual freedom?
19. What is the revocation mechanism and why is it needed?
20. What are the new exceptions to copyright laid down in the Copyright Directive?
21. How will the new copyright rules benefit researchers?
22. What is the purpose of the other, general, text and data mining exception?
23. Who will benefit from the new teaching exception?
24. Will the new copyright rules enhance the preservation and availability of cultural heritage?
25. What will it change for users with regards to “public domain” content?
26. How will the new copyright rules foster the availability of EU audiovisual works on video-on-demand platforms?

You can find the answers here.

New rules for handling appeals before the EU Court of Justice

flag-2608475_960_720.jpgPress release by the European Council:

In order to improve the functioning of the Court of Justice of the EU, which has seen a huge increase in the number of cases brought before it, the Council today adopted a new filtering mechanism for appeals by changing the Statute of the Court of Justice of the EU. In order to implement the change in practice, the Council also approved a set of amendments to the Court’s Rules of Procedure.

“The improved rules will facilitate the work of the Court of Justice of the EU by introducing a filtering mechanism for identifying appeals that merit examination, thus allowing the court to concentrate on its core business. The Court of Justice is overburdened and must prioritise. This decision will increase efficiency and enhance legal protection in the EU.”

      George Ciamba, Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs

The regulation agreed today will introduce a new filtering mechanism for appeals relating to decisions by certain EU agencies and offices. Appeals brought in cases which have already been considered twice, first by an independent board of appeal, then by the General Court, will not be allowed to proceed before the Court of Justice unless it is demonstrated that they raise an issue that is significant with respect to the unity, consistency or development of EU law. Statistics show that many such appeals, in fact, end up being dismissed on the grounds that they are either patently unfounded or manifestly inadmissible.

Specifically, the new rules will apply to appeal procedures emanating from one of the following EU agencies and offices:

the European Union Intellectual Property Office;
the Community Plant Variety Office;
the European Chemicals Agency; and
the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
There has been a large increase over the past few years in the number of cases brought before the Court of Justice. The new procedure will reduce the workload of the court, allowing it to concentrate on cases that require its full attention.

The regulation adopted today is based on a proposal from the Court of Justice and has been agreed in negotiations between the Court of Justice, the Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council. The Council today also approved an accompanying set of amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice setting out the new system for handling appeals in detail.

For more information here.

Breaking News – The EU Council approves DSM Directive

The EU Council has approved the DSM Directive. You can see how every Member State voted below:

D4LjnrFXkAAgJe0.jpg

The next step is the transposition of this Directive into the national legislation of every EU Member State, which has to be done within 24 months.

Source: IP Kat.

Breaking news – EU Parliament gave its approval to the EU copyright reform

2048393.jpgToday, 26.03.2018, the European Parliament approved the controversial copyright reform with 348 votes in favor, 274 against. This brings the reform one step closer to its final adoption in the EU. What will follow is formal approval by the European ministers. In a nutshell this reform concerns:

  • Social media platforms will have to keep even a closer eye on every possible copyright violation;
  • Web content providers will have to sign license agreements with right holders;
  • News providers will have to negotiate and get a license from publishers in order to use their news and articles;
  • Non-profit organizations, including websites such as Wikipedia, are not bound to these rules;
  • Startup companies with annual turnover up to 10 million dollars are excluded too.

More information can be found here.

Source: DW.