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.

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When and where Facebook has to remove illegal information – an EU perspective

pexels-photo-1471752.jpegThe Advocate General of the European Court   has given its position on case C‑18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek срещу Facebook Ireland Limited, which concerns the following:

Ms Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek was a member of the Nationalrat (National Council, Austria), chair of the parliamentary party die Grünen (‘the Greens’) and the federal spokesperson of that party.

Facebook Ireland Limited, a company registered in Ireland having its headquarters in Dublin, is a subsidiary of the United States corporation Facebook Inc. Facebook Ireland operates, for users outside the United States and Canada, an online social network platform accessible at the address http://www.facebook.com. That platform enables users to create profile pages and to publish comments.

On 3 April 2016 a user of that platform shared on their personal page an article from the Austrian online news magazine oe24.at entitled ‘Greens: Minimum income for refugees should stay’. That publication had the effect of generating on the platform a ‘thumbnail’ of the original site, containing the title and a brief summary of the article, and a photograph of the applicant. That user also published, in connection with that article, an accompanying disparaging comment about the applicant accusing her of being a ‘lousy traitor of the people’, a ‘corrupt oaf’ and a member of a ‘fascist party’. The content placed online by that user could be consulted by any user of the platform in question.

By letter of 7 July 2016, the applicant, inter alia, asked Facebook Ireland to delete that comment.

As Facebook Ireland did not remove the comment in question, the applicant brought an action before the Handelsgericht Wien (Commercial Court, Vienna, Austria) and requested that court to issue an injunction ordering Facebook Ireland to cease publication and/or dissemination of the photographs of the applicant if the accompanying message disseminated the same allegations and/or ‘equivalent content’, namely that the applicant was a ‘lousy traitor of the people’ and/or a ‘corrupt oaf’ and/or a member of a ‘fascist party’.

On 7 December 2016 the Handelsgericht Wien (Commercial Court, Vienna) made the interlocutory order applied for.

Facebook Ireland subsequently disabled access in Austria to the content initially published.

On appeal, the Oberlandesgericht Wien (Higher Regional Court, Vienna, Austria) upheld the order made at first instance as regards the identical allegations. In doing so, it did not grant Facebook Ireland’s request that the interlocutory order be limited to the Republic of Austria. On the other hand, it held that the obligation to cease the dissemination of allegations of equivalent content related only to those brought to the knowledge of Facebook Ireland by the applicant in the main proceedings, by third parties or otherwise.

The courts of first and second instance based their decisions on Paragraph 78 of the UrhG and Paragraph 1330 of the ABGB, and took the view, in particular, that the public comment contained statements which were excessively harmful to the applicant’s reputation and gave the impression that she was involved in unlawful conduct, without providing the slightest evidence in that regard. Nor, according to those courts, was it permissible to rely on the right to freedom of expression for statements relating to a politician if there was no connection with a political debate or a debate that was in the public interest.

The two parties to the main proceedings brought actions before the Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court, Austria), which considered that the statements at issue were intended to damage the applicant’s reputation, to insult her and to defame her.

The referring court is required to adjudicate on the question whether the cease and desist order made against a host provider which operates a social network with a large number of users may also be extended, worldwide, to statements with identical wording and/or having equivalent content of which it is not aware.

In that regard, the Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court) states that, according to its own case-law, such an obligation must be considered to be proportionate where the service provider was already aware that the interests of the person concerned had been harmed on at least one occasion as a result of the contribution of a recipient of the service and where the risk that other infringements would be committed is thus demonstrated.

It was in those circumstances that the Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court), by decision of 25 October 2017, received at the Court on 10 January 2018, decided to stay proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court:

‘(1) Does Article 15(1) of Directive [2000/31] generally preclude any of the obligations listed below of a host provider which has not expeditiously removed illegal information, specifically not just this illegal information within the meaning of Article 14(1)(a) of [that] directive, but also other identically worded items of information:

(a)  worldwide?

(b)  in the relevant Member State?

(c)  of the relevant user worldwide?

(d)  of the relevant user in the relevant Member State?

(2)  In so far as Question 1 is answered in the negative: Does this also apply in each case for information with an equivalent meaning?

(3)   Does this also apply for information with an equivalent meaning as soon as the operator has become aware of this circumstance?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

(1) Article 15(1) of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘the Directive on electronic commerce’) must be interpreted as meaning that it does not preclude a host provider which operates a social network platform from being ordered, in the context of an injunction, to seek and identify, among all the information disseminated by users of that platform, the information identical to the information that has been characterised as illegal by a court that issued that injunction. In the context of such an injunction, a host provider may be ordered to seek and identify the information equivalent to that characterised as illegal only among the information disseminated by the user that disseminated that illegal information. A court adjudicating on the removal of such equivalent information must ensure that the effects of its injunction are clear, precise and foreseeable. In doing so, it must weigh up the fundamental rights involved and take account of the principle of proportionality.

(2) As regards the territorial scope of a removal obligation imposed on a host provider in the context of an injunction, it should be considered that that obligation is not regulated either by Article 15(1) of Directive 2000/31 or by any other provision of that directive and that that provision therefore does not preclude that host provider from being ordered to remove worldwide information disseminated via a social network platform. Nor is that territorial scope regulated by EU law, since in the present case the applicant’s action is not based on EU law.

(3)  Article 15(1) of Directive 2000/31 must be interpreted as meaning that it does not preclude a host provider from being ordered to remove information equivalent to the information characterised as illegal, provided that a removal obligation does not entail general monitoring of the information stored, and is the consequence of awareness resulting from the notification made by the person concerned, third parties or another source.

Be aware if someone tries to register your brand as a .eu domain

computer-3368242_960_720.jpgThe European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the .eu and .ею domain registry manager EURid announced the launch of a new service which will help the fight against bad faith domain registrations.

Some people have taken advantage of early publication of EUTM applications and registered the EUTM as a .eu domain name in bad faith. Effectively reducing the risk of such cyber-squatting infringements requires adopting preventive actions such as raising awareness and pro-actively informing the EUTM holders.
 
As of 18 May, holders and applicants of a EUTM can opt-in to receive alerts as soon as a .eu domain name is registered that is identical to their EUTM (application). By receiving such alert, EUTM holders are informed much faster and may take appropriate action much sooner.

For more information here.

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.

Smart Things cannot be a trademark in The EU

turn-on-2944067_960_720Samsung Electronics won an invalidation proceeding against the following European trademark registered for classes 9, 20 and 35:

CJ4JX4FZVCC523YA2TMALSKFLF2IXTTD6ZP4RRADRLOBXNKHQC5VQYW6R6XX2PINLSBVEBY5EVR5K.jpg

The invalidation was based on absolute grounds – descriptiveness in relation to the trademark’s goods and services. The applicant argued that its mark was distinctive because when it was applied for in 2012 it wasn’t included in dictionaries and on top of that the concept for the internet of things wasn’t popular among consumers.

Initially, the EUIPO dismissed Samsung’s request stating that although Smart Things are descriptive words the presence of an emoticon in the sign is enough to create a necessary level of distinctiveness.

The decision was appealed.

According to the Board of Appeal, the trademark at hand is fully descriptive for the relevant goods and services and this cannot be overcome by the emoticon. What’s more, this phrase has to be left free for use for all market participant taking into account that it is highly used for different technologies. The fact that it wasn’t included in a dictionary in 2012 is irrelevant for the case.

Source: WIPR.

EPO launched a new beta version of ESPACENET

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The European Patent Office launched the beta version of its refreshing database for patent searching ESPACENET. The new version is more modern, dynamic, intuitive and it is optimised to work on different devices including desktop PCs, tablets and smartphones.

The beta version is accessible here. For more information about it, you can watch the hereunder video presentation. EPO encourages sending feedback, which can be done from here.

Shift the blame for copyright infringement to your parents – an EU Court decision

pirate-2129571_960_720The European Court has ruled in case C‑149/17,Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co. KG v Michael Strotzer, which concerns the following:

Bastei Lübbe is the holder, as a phonogram producer, of the copyright and related rights in the audio version of a book.

Mr Strotzer is the owner of an internet connection through which, on 8 May 2010, that audio book was shared, for the purpose of downloading, with an unlimited number of users of a peer-to-peer internet exchange. An expert correctly attributed the IP address in question to Mr Strotzer.

By letter of 28 October 2010, Bastei Lübbe warned Mr Strotzer to cease and desist the infringement of copyright which had occurred. That warning notice was unsuccessful and Bastei Lübbe brought an action before the Amtsgericht München (Local Court, Munich, Germany) against Mr Strotzer as the owner of the IP address in question, seeking damages.

However, Mr Strotzer denies having himself infringed copyright and maintains that his connection was sufficiently secure. In addition, he asserts that his parents, who live in the same household, also had access to that connection but that to his knowledge they did not have the work in question on their computer, were not aware of the existence of the work and did not use the online exchange software. In addition, Mr Strotzer’s computer was switched off at the time when the infringement in question was committed.

The Amtsgericht München (Local Court, Munich) dismissed Bastei Lübbe’s action for damages on the ground that Mr Strotzer could not be held liable for the infringement of copyright in question, because he had stated that his parents could also have committed the infringement in question.

Bastei Lübbe appealed against the decision of the Amtsgericht München (Local Court, Munich) before the Landgericht München I (Regional Court, Munich I, Germany).

That court is inclined to hold Mr Strotzer liable in that it does not follow from his explanations that a third party used the internet connection at the time of the infringement. It considers that Mr Strotzer is therefore seriously likely to have committed the copyright infringement.

That court nevertheless considers itself to be compelled to apply Paragraph 97 of the Law on copyright and related rights, as amended by the Law of 1 October 2013, as interpreted by the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany), which in its view might preclude the defendant from being held liable.

In fact, according to the case-law of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice), as interpreted by the referring court, it is for the applicant to allege and prove the infringement of copyright. The Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) considers, moreover, that the owner of an internet connection is presumed to have committed such an infringement provided that no other person was able to use the internet connection at the time of the infringement. However, if the internet connection was not sufficiently secure or was knowingly made available to other persons, then the owner of that connection is not presumed to have committed the infringement.

In that case, the case-law of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) nonetheless places on the owner of the internet connection a secondary burden to present the facts. The owner discharges that secondary burden to the requisite standard by explaining that other persons, whose identity he discloses, where appropriate, had independent access to his internet connection and are therefore capable of having committed the alleged infringement of copyright. Although a family member of the owner of the internet connection had access to that connection, the owner of that connection is not, however, required to provide further details relating to the time and the nature of the use of that connection, having regard to the protection of marriage and family guaranteed by Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) and the corresponding provisions of the German Basic Law.

In those circumstances, the Landgericht München I (Regional Court, Munich I) decided to stay proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘1. Should Article 8(1) and (2), in conjunction with Article 3(1), of Directive 2001/29/EC be interpreted as meaning that “effective and dissuasive sanctions” for infringements of the right to make works available to the public are still provided for even when the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing is excluded from liability to pay damages if the owner of that internet connection can name at least one family member who, besides him or her, might have had access to that internet connection, without providing further details, established through appropriate investigations, as to when and how the internet was used by that family member?

2. Should Article 3(2) of Directive 2004/48/EC be interpreted as meaning that “effective” measures for the enforcement of intellectual property rights are still provided for even when the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing is excluded from liability to pay damages if the owner of that internet connection can name at least one family member who, besides him or her, might have had access to that internet connection, without providing further details, established through appropriate investigations, as to when and how the internet was used by that family member?’

The Court ‘s decision:

Article 8(1) and (2) 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, read in conjunction with Article 3(1) thereof, and Article 3(2) 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 precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, under which, as interpreted by the relevant national courts, the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be held liable to pay damages if he can name at least one family member who might have had access to that connection, without providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by that family member.