Posts Tagged Peter Pinckney v KDG Mediatech AG
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!
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.