Posts Tagged Intellectual property rights
A v M (Austria): Copyright infringement, locus delicti commissi in case of breach of obligation to pay.
For your second conflicts reading of the day I thought I should serve something more substantial. In A (an Austrian company) v M (a company located in Luxembourg) the Austrian Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof) had to decide on the determination of the locus delicti commissi in the event of infringement of copyright. M had effectively siphoned off to its website, some of A’s satellite broadcasts. Plenty of CJEU precedent is referred to (Hejduk; Austro Mechana; to name a few).
Thank you very much indeed Klaus Oblin for providing me with copy of the judgment – back in early June. Effectively, at issue was the infringement of a duty to pay. Klaus has excellent overview of the issues, of which the following are definitely worth highlighting. The Supreme Court justifiably of course emphasises autonomous interpretation of Article 7(2) Brussels I Recast. Yet autonomous interpretation does not provide all the answers. There are plenty of instances where locus delicti commissi is not easily identified, such as here.
The Oberster Gerichtshof seeks support in the Satellite Directive 93/83, but notes that the Directive includes no procedural clauses, let alone any regarding international jurisdiction (at 2.4.2. It refers to the German Bundesgerichtshof’s decision in Oscar). It then completes the analysis by reference to national law:
Section 42b(1) of the Act on Copyrights and Related Rights to classify breach of copyright as a tort (CJEU Kalfelis would have been a more correct reference) ; and
Section 907a(1) of the Civil Code) to identify the locus of the delicti commissi: because monetary debts in acordance with that section must be discharged at the seat of the creditor, the domestic courts at the Austrian seat of the collecting society have jurisdiction. In coming to its conclusion, the court (at 3.2) refers pro inspiratio to Austro Mechana, not just the CJEU’s judgment but also the ensuing national judgment.
Now, lest I am mistaken, in Austro Mechana the CJEU did not identify the locus delicti commissi: it simply qualified the harm arising from non-payment by Amazon of the remuneration provided for in Austrian law, as one in tort: at 52 of its judgment: it follows that, if the harmful event at issue in the main proceedings occurred or may occur in Austria, which is for the national court to ascertain, the courts of that Member state have jurisdiction to entertain Austro-Mechana’s claim. (emphasis added)
Given its heavy reliance on national law, I would suggest the judgment skates on thin ice. Reference to the CJEU seemingly was not contemplated but surely would have been warranted. Kainz is a case in point where locus delicti commissi was helpfully clarified by Luxembourg, Melzer one for locus damni.
(Handbook of) European Private international Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, heading 22.214.171.124.
I have reviewed the AG’s opinion in Hejduk here. The AG’s Opinion was exciting for it cited, even if only in a specific (IP; more specifically copyright) context, the difficulty in identifying locus damni. This, I suggested (realistically optimistic) flagged an obvious concern with the ECJ’s ruling in Bier. However the ECJ in its judgment, issued yesterday, was not having any of this. It applied relevant precedent (all recalled in my earlier posting), did not at all entertain the AG’s concerns with the locus damni assessment, and held that in the event of an allegation of infringement of copyright and rights related to copyright guaranteed by the Member State of the court seised, that court has jurisdiction, on the basis of the place where the damage occurred, to hear an action for damages in respect of an infringement of those rights resulting from the placing of protected photographs online on a website accessible in its territorial jurisdiction. That court has jurisdiction only to rule on the damage caused in the Member State within which the court is situated.
Plaintiff’s difficulties were of no concern to the ECJ. No surprise perhaps given the Brussels I Regulation’s near-exclusive concern for the position of the defendant.
Jurisdiction, intellectual property and the internet. Might CRUZ VILLALÓN AG in Pez Hejduk introduce the end of Bier?
Let me answer the question immediately: that is unlikely. It is however an interesting prospect and, who knows, might be a start. CRUZ VILLALÓN AG’s Opinion in Pez Hejduk, case C-441/13 (at the time of writing available in plenty of languages but not in English), provides an excellent tour d’horizon of the application of the special jurisdictional rule of Article 5(3) [following the recast, Article 7(3)] Brussels I, to cases involving infringements of an intellectual property right.
For trademarks, the most recent case is Coty, Case C-360/12, reviewed by Alberto Bellan here. Pez Hejuk concerns copyright: an intellectual property right for which no formality (such as registration) is required for it validly to exist. Pinckney, Wintersteiger, Football Dataco: the application of Article 5(3) [and the delineation with leges specialis in the IP field] is not exactly crystal clear and the need for distinguishing very high. This resulted in this particular case in the Handelsgericht Wien requesting ECJ back-up on the application in the case of Ms Hejduk, a professional photographer, suing EnergieAgentur for unauthorised use on its .de website of photographs which had only been authorised for one-off use during a conference.
In view of Pinckney et al, the AG splendidly and concisely distinguishes the various strands of case-law and the raison d’etre for their consecutive jurisdictional criteria – please refer to the opinion itself for a summary by me would not do it justice. Encouraged in particular by Portugal and the EC, the AG then further distinguishes current case. As noted by Eleonora Rosati here, the AG emphasises that not only would it be difficult for the defendant having potentially to face actions in multiple Member States, but also the plaintiff would have limited benefits from seeking limited damages in more jurisdictions, and would find it difficult to prove such damage given the accessibility of the site.
Which is why the AG suggests that further distinguishing is needed for what he calls cases involving ‘delocalised damages’ involving IP, leading to the suggestion that in such case, only the judges of the Member State in which the causal event occurred should have jurisdiction on the basis of Article 5(3) (general jurisdiction for the domicile of the defendant not withstanding, obviously: per Article 2 JR). In other words: only the locus delicti commissi would be upheld. Not the locus damni.
Now, no reference is made to the case in the AG’s Opinion, however, surely this amounts to no less than a reversal of Bier /Mines de Potasse d’Alsace, case C-21/76. the ECJ’s extension in Bier, away from the literal meaning of Article 5(3) has, as I often have emphasised, triggered a long series of cases in which the ECJ has had to massage the ripple effect of the locus damni rule. If it were (which of course is not at all certain) to take up the AG’s suggestion here, and drop locus damni, might it not eventually have to concede that in many if not all cases, it is difficult for the defendant having potentially to face actions in multiple Member States, and for the plaintiff to have to prove and seek limited damages in more jurisdictions.
On that basis (that however narrowly distinguished, siding with the AG would mean acknowledging the weakness of the locus damni rule), I find it very likely that the ECJ will not run with it. Whence it might either not distinguish Hejduk from Pinckney, or assimilate it with eDate Advertising, or further distinguish and add an alternative, Hejduk rule, in the event of ‘delocalised damages’.
One to look out for!
Digital import suffices for jurisdiction of the US International Trade Commission in patent infringement
Update November 2015 the CA reversed the finding of jurisdiction on 10 November 2015, confining it to material items. However its judgment was not unanimous (one dissent) nor unequivocal in argument. The case is likely therefore to be continued.
Update 26 August 2015 the CA reportedly was skeptical of the jurisdictional line taken by the ITC, citing in particular enforcement challenges as well as seperation of powers: extension of jurisdiction such as in this case may have to be determined by Congress, not by a regulator.
Update 4 August 2015: the US Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case mid August.
The US International Trade Commission has held (in re Align Technology Inc, 337-TA-833) that electronic /digital import of plans and manuals with a view to producing moulds for dental aligners (braces) suffices to give the ITC jurisdiction. As I understand the case, the companies violating Align Technology’s patents were based in Pakistan, without domestic residence of any kind in the United States. The data were then used by US-based dental practices to produce the braces.
The foreign residence of the patent infringers fed into arguments made by defendants that a cease and desist order by the ITC would be very difficult to enforce, an argument against upholding jurisdiction in the first place. The ITC was not swayed.
I understand Google, among others, argued that digital data do not qualify as ‘articles’ under relevant US law. Reminiscent to some degree of the dismissal of Google’s arguments by JÄÄSKINEN AG in Google Spain, the ITC disagreed: digital data are very real articles as, I would argue, the massive market for digital download already amply illustrates.
Rolex v Blomqvist. ECJ confirms irrelevance of ‘focus and target’ or ‘direction’ in intellectual property cases.
After its withholding of mere accessibility of a site as a jurisdictional trigger for copyright infringement in Pinckney, the ECJ has now accepted that the mere acquisition of a good by a person domiciled in an EU Member State, suffices to trigger the application of the EU Customs Regulation’s provisions on counterfeit and pirated goods. It is not necessary, in addition, for the goods at issue to have been the subject, prior to the sale, of an offer for sale or advertising targeting consumers of that State.
In Case C-98/13 Martin Blomqvist v Rolex Mr Blomqvist, a resident of Denmark, ordered a watch described as a Rolex from a Chinese on-line shop. The order was placed and paid for through the English website of the seller. The seller sent the watch from Hong Kong by post. The parcel was inspected by the customs authorities on arrival in Denmark. They suspended the customs clearance of the watch, suspecting that it was a counterfeit version of the original Rolex watch and that there had been a breach of copyright over the model concerned. In accordance with the procedure laid down by the customs regulation, Rolex then requested the continued suspension of customs clearance, having established that the watch was in fact counterfeit, and asked Mr Blomqvist to consent to the destruction of the watch by the customs authorities. Mr Blomqvist refused to consent to the destruction of the watch, contending that he had purchased it legally. Is there in the present case any distribution to the public, within the meaning of the copyright directive, and any use in the course of trade, within the meaning of the trade mark directive and the trade mark regulation?
The ECJ re-iterated earlier case-law (in particular L’Oreal /E-bay) that the mere fact that a website is accessible from the territory covered by the trade mark is not a sufficient basis for concluding that the offers for sale displayed there are targeted at consumers in the EU. However proof that the goods are intended to be put on sale in the European Union, is being provided, inter alia, where it turns out that the goods have been sold to a customer in the European Union, such as clearly in the case at issue.
That sales to the EU have taken place is enough. Proof that EU consumers were actually targeted is not required – at least not with a view to triggering intellectual property protection (cf consumer protection under i.a. the jurisdiction Regulation).
In the view of the EU of course this is not an ‘extraterritorial’ application of EU law: the territorial link is firmly established through the customer’s domicile.
Jurisdiction in copyright infringement with the involvement of the internet – The ECJ in Pinckney is satisfied with accessibility
[postscript 4 February 2014: the Cour de Cassation held on 22 January 2014, following the ECJ’s lead.]
Pro memoria: the case concerns an alleged infringement of a copyright which is protected by the Member State of the court seised (France), that court questioning its jurisdiction to hear an action to establish liability brought by the author (who lives in France) of a work against a company established in another Member State (Austria), which has in the latter State (Austria) reproduced that work on a material support which is subsequently marketed by companies (Crusoe and Elegy) established in a third Member State (the UK) through an internet site which is also accessible in the Member State of the court seised (France).
The Court of Appeal at Toulouse) held that the Tribunal de grande instance de Toulouse lacked jurisdiction on the ground that the defendant is domiciled in Austria and the place where the damage occurred cannot be situated in France, and that there was no need to examine the liability of Mediatech and Crusoe or Elegy in the absence of any allegation of collusion between them and Mediatech. The Cour de Cassation referred to the ECJ.
The ECJ concisely sets out its case-law in intellectual property rights vs personality rights infringements – I will not repeat the exercise here. It emphasises the (in my view conceptually wrong) link between applicable law and jurisdiction in the case of special jurisdictional rules. Unlike the AG, however, the court does not withhold ‘focus and target’ of the website as a criterion for jurisdiction. ‘(T)he possibility of obtaining a reproduction of the work to which the rights relied on by the defendant pertain from an internet site accessible within the jurisdiction of the court seised‘ (emphasis added) suffices. However if locus damni is the only jurisdictional ground for that Member State, that court, per the Shevill rule, only has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the damage caused in that Member State.
No doubt the IP community will chew a bit more on the judgment. The patchwork of litigation possibilities in IP infringement cases remains a challenge.
In  EWHC 3316 (Pat) Actavis v Eli Lilly, the High Court (Patents) upheld jurisdiction for the English courts to hear a case in which applicant seeks a pan-European declaration of non-infringement of a patent. Actavis, a generics manufacturer, sought declaration that it had not infringed Eli Lilly’s patent for Permetrexed, a cancer treatment.
Arnold J, along the lines of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lucasfilm v Ainsworth, held that forum non conveniens arguments would not sway the Court towards declining jurisdiction for the non-UK parts of the declaration (Germany, France, Italy, Spain). Arnold J referred to the de facto approximation of patent law in the various EU Member States:
‘As to the different national approaches, I accept that there are differences. In my view, however, the differences are rather less now than they have been in the past. Certainly, in recent years the European patent judiciary have been striving for consistency. I am sceptical that the remaining differences of approach, as opposed to other factors, are responsible for different outcomes in parallel cases. In any event, it seems to me to be manifest that it will reduce the likelihood of inconsistent decisions if one court at first instance and one court on appeal determines all five of Actavis’ claims. ‘
The judgment adds to the layer of complexity in intellectual property litigation. Prima facie the judgment may offer a great means to have pan-European patent infringement cases held in England (the very reference to a number of pending trial dates even in Germany, quietly underline the speed with which the UK can hear cases such as these).
Distinguishing is however of the essence:
– Actavis are headquartered in Switzerland (one will recall that under the Brussels I Regulation, the plaintiff’s domicile or nationality is generally irrelevant). Defendant is domiciled in the State of Indiana, United States. The declarations are not sought against any EU domiciled companies – Brussels I is not applicable. The outcome may be entirely different had the opposite been the case.
– The validity of Lilly’s patent is not sub judice. This too, even outside the Jurisdiction Regulation (where the exclusive ground of Article 22(4) would have trumped English jurisdiction), may have led to a different outcome under forum non conveniens arguments.
– Arnold J’s suggestion of de facto approximation may not hold with the ECJ for actions which do come within the Jurisdiction Regulation. As reported on this blog, even in Solvay, the ECJ does not drop its insistence per Roche that de lege lata, European patent law remains national.
All of this may lead indeed to the awkward result that patent infringement cases are more swiftly and expertly dealt with in EU courts against non-EU defendants, then against EU defendants.