Category: Intellectual Property

Lundbeck: Remedying IP Overprotection through Competition Law Enforcement in the Pharma Sector

By Konstantinos Sidiropoulos

Introduction

On 8 September 2016, the General Court (‘GC’) handed down a seminal judgment for the pharmaceutical sector in the Lundbeck case. The judgment is of particular importance, because it is the very first ruling of the EU Courts affirming that pharma pay-for-delay agreements (or reverse payment settlement agreements) may be subject to competition law scrutiny. Pay-for-delay (‘PFD’) agreements are agreements that are intended to delay the market entry of generic manufacturers with generic drugs in exchange for payments made by original pharmaceutical producers (i.e., holders of patents for an original branded drug). The GC, upholding the European Commission’s (‘Commission’) decision of 19 June 2013, held that Lundbeck and four generic producers had infringed EU competition law by entering into such agreements.

The Commission has lately been particularly active in this area. Indeed, PFD agreements were first regarded as potential targets for scrutiny under competition law in the EU as a result of the Commission’s Pharmaceutical Sector Inquiry, leading to the publication of its Pharmaceutical Sector Inquiry Final Report in July 2009. Since then, the Commission has been continuously monitoring patent settlements between originator and generic companies, publishing six reports on this matter – the latest of those being published in December 2015. Continue reading

CJEU sheds light on liability for operators of open Wi-Fi networks (Case C-484/14 Mc Fadden v Sony Music)

By Bernd Justin Jütte

One week after the Court of Justice (CJEU) handed down its Judgment in GS Media (see for a comment here), it has ruled on another important copyright case. In Mc Fadden v Sony Music the Court followed the Opinion of AG Szpunar (see for comment on this blog here) to a large extent while disagreeing on two crucial points. It decided that the operator of an open wireless network provides an ‘information society service’ (ISS) within the meaning of Article 14 E-Commerce Directive if he provides access to the network as part of his economic activities. This means he can avail himself of the liability exemption laid down in that provision. However, the operator of a wireless network can be required to protect the network with a password in order to deter users from infringing the rights of copyright holders. The Court further decided that the right holder can claim from network operators the costs related to an injunction (e.g. to prevent future infringements), but not the costs related to claims for primary infringements of copyrights by the users of the Wi-Fi network. Continue reading

Saving the Internet or linking limbo? CJEU clarifies legality of hyperlinking (C-160/15, GS Media v Sanoma)

By Bernd Justin Jütte

In a much awaited decision, the CJEU has ruled that linking to freely-available copyrighted content that has been uploaded without the consent of the right holder is, in principle, legal. However, it qualified that such a reference could infringe the right to communication to the public under Article 3(1) of the Information Society Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC) if certain elements were present. After AG Wathelet had provided his Opinion in early April (see post on this Blog here), the CJEU rendered its Judgement on 8 September 2016. Continue reading

Advocate General wants libraries to lend e-books (Opinion of AG Szpunar in C- 174/15, Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken)

By Bernd Justin Jütte

On 16 June 2016 Advocate Geneal (AG) Szpunar, who recently is very active in the field of European copyright (see also on this blog here), published his Opinion in Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken v Stichting Leenrecht. The case deals with the question whether public libraries are entitled to lend electronic versions of books (e-books) and, if so, under which conditions. The AG takes a favourable position regarding the lending of e-books under the Rental and Lending Rights Directive (Directive 2006/115/EC). Yet, what is more interesting than the actual outcome of his opinion is his very daring argumentation to treat e-books and printed books alike for the purpose of the said Directive. The opinion, if followed by the Court of Justice (CJEU), could also have an influence on the interpretation of the Information Society Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC) and more far-reaching questions of digital exhaustion.

It is quite noteworthy that AG Szpunar highlights in a rather long introduction the important role of libraries and their difficulties to adapt to the changing circumstances of book consumption. He identifies the case as one which would enable the Court “to help libraries not only to survive, but also to flourish.” (para. 1) This, so the AG, would be possible by answering the question whether libraries are allowed to lend e-books. Continue reading

Dirty links, porn previews without permission (Opinion of AG Wathelet in C-160/15, GS Media v Sanoma)

By Justin Jütte

Hyperlinking is one of the most important mechanisms that make the Internet workable and helps users to find and access information more easily. However, hyperlinking has come under scrutiny in the light of the provisions of the EU copyright rules. In the present case, the CJEU is being asked under which circumstances links to infringing material constitute a communication to the public. The request for a preliminary ruling by the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Supreme Court of the Netherlands) is part of a growing body of case-law on the interpretation of Article 3(1) of the InfoSoc Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC). This post discusses the AG’s interpretation of the right of communication to the public in relation material which is made available on the Internet without the consent of the rightholder. Continue reading

Pernicious Effect of Similar Medicinal Product’s Orphan Exclusivity: CJEU Dismisses Teva’s Appeal (C-138/15 P)

By Mayank Dixit

In a significant, yet unusual judgment the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) upheld the General Court’s decision (T-140/12; Teva Pharma v. EMA) that had affirmed the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) rejection of Teva’s generic drug application for Glivec® (active substance-imatinib), not due to the reference product’s own orphan drug exclusivity but in view of orphan drug exclusivity of a similar medicinal product – Tasigna® (active substance-nilotinib).

The judgment is bizarre not only because it interprets the underlying orphan drug regulation in a manner incongruous with the spirit and substance of the legislation, but also for its potential to provide an unfair leg-up to the brand drug companies for extending their market monopolies indefinitely. It simply fails to fathom the underlying welfare rationale of the Regulation, which is meant to ensure the same quality of treatment for patients of rare conditions as those suffering from other diseases. The Court’s decision provides a skewed playing field where the interest of patients and generic pharmaceutical companies will be impacted by the unjustified extension of monopoly periods of brand drug products thus ensuring exploitative pricing of life-saving drugs. Continue reading

Limited liability for free Wi-Fi access (Case C-484/14, Mc Fadden v Sony Music)

By Justin Jütte

The civil liability of intermediary service providers remains a hotly debated topic in EU law, especially in relation to infringement of intellectual property rights (IPRs). Whereas the Information Society Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC), as well the IP Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC) provide that owners of IPRs can, in principle, request injunctions against intermediaries, the E-Commerce Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC) exempts certain intermediaries from indirect liability under certain, well defined circumstances. The present case raises questions as to the scope and interpretation of Article 12 of the E-Commerce Directive, in particular with regard to fundamental rights. Concretely, the referring court in Tobias Mc Fadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH asks under which circumstances and to what extent operators of publicly accessible Wi-Fi networks can be held liable for infringements of works protected by copyright, and what type of injunctions can be ordered against such operators.

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Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: January 2016

Seminar „Rethinking EU Competences“

Inter-University Center, Dubrovnik, 17-23 April 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 January 2016.

Conference „Europe’s crisis: What future for immigration and asylum law and policy“

Queen Mary University of London, 27-28 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 February 2016.

LCII Conference „Regulating Patent ‘Hold-up’“

Brussels, 29 February 2016. Deadline for (paid) registration: 25 February 2016.

ASIL Interest Group Meeting „Regional Approaches to International Adjudication“

Washington, 30 March-2 April 2016 (exact date TBD). Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 February 2016.

Are Remedies for Breaching Standard Essential Patents Prohibited by Article 102 TFEU?

By Sam Abboud

In Case C-170/13 Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd v ZTE Corp & ZTE Deutschland GmbH, (Judgment of the 5th Chamber, CJEU, 16 July 2015)the CJEU was asked to rule for the first time on whether seeking an injunction and other associated remedies by the owner of a Standard Essential Patent (SEP) against a company in breach of the patent (but one willing to become a licensee) can amount to an abuse of a dominant position in breach of EU competition law (Article 102 TFEU). It concluded that an injunction or an action to recall products can amount to an abuse of dominance in certain circumstances.

 In this post, I first provide a primer on Standards and Standard Essential Patents (‘SEPs’) before summarizing the Court’s reasoning and setting out some initial observations on the judgment’s significance.

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Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: July 2015

Conference “The Democratic Principle and the Economic and Monetary Union

University of Rome – Tor Vergata, 22 January 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 September 2015.

Conference “General Principles of Law: European and Comparative Perspectives”

University of Oxford, 25-26 September 2015. No deadline for registration.

Call for Papers Intellectual Property in International and European Law

Utrecht Journal of International and European Law. Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2015.

 

No laughing matter: the right to parody in EU copyright law (Case Deckmyn v. Vandersteen, C-201/13)

Suske and WiskeBy Magdalena Jozwiak

Parody is one of the limitations on copyright, contained in Article 5(3)(k) of the InfoSoc Directive (‘the Directive’). The list of limitations in Article 5 of the Directive is optional, meaning that the Member States are free to decide which of the limitations from the list they will implement into their national laws. The judgment in Deckmyn v. Vandersteen, issued on September 3rd, is about the concept of parody in the EU copyright law and it is meant to clarify two issues: the scope of harmonization of the parody limitation in the Directive and the criteria to be looked at when applying this limitation. The potential impact of the judgment, however, goes well beyond the pure sphere of copyright: at stake here was also the issue of balancing of the fundamental rights, in particular the balance between copyright and freedom of speech. The Advocate General went further than the Court and also looked at the conflict between the right of ‘human dignity’ (para. 82 of the Opinion) or ‘deepest convictions of European society’ (para. 85 of the Opinion) and the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the brevity with which the CJEU addressed the most controversial aspects of this case, leaves many questions unanswered. Continue reading

Case C-466/12 Svensson: free movement of goods, capital, services, people, and … hyperlinks

What this case states (linking to freely available content on the internet is permissible) is so obvious that at first one might think: how could this ever have been a problem? There would have been a problem, however, if the Court had decided otherwise and had followed what in particular some copyright holders deem sensible: that permission from the copyright holder is needed for redirecting internet users via hyperlinks to freely available information. So, whereas the Svensson-case for EU scholars and practitioners is not of particular relevance, it is an important verdict for all EU citizens.

 Case C-466/12, Svensson v. Retriever Sverige AB, published on 13 Feb. 2014, deals with the question whether a copyright holder may forbid people to link to public information. At first sight this seems absurd: how could merely directing internet users to information that can be found freely elsewhere ever be relevant from a copyright perspective? We have to keep in mind, however, that while European copyright used to be the intellectually oriented “droit d’auteur”, in recent years we followed in the footsteps of the American tradition of the economically oriented “right to copy”.

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The EFIM-case: no dominant position of printer manufacturers on ink cartridge aftermarket

Ink in cartridges for printers is often called ‘black gold’, or qualified as the ‘most expensive liquid in the world’. Manufacturers of printers sell their ink cartridges at (relatively) high prices, whereas they offer their printers for (relatively) low prices. The ‘cheap-appliance-expensive-consumable’-business model is used widely: coffee machines and pods, consoles and games, cars and spare-parts, etc. As a consequence of the relatively high prices on the aftermarket, independent suppliers try to enter such a lucrative aftermarket by offering generic products which are compatible with the machinery offered on the up-stream market. Not surprisingly, this leads to conflicts between those independents and manufacturers of appliances,  because of  the intellectual property rights over the machinery and consumables (e.g. generic producers offering coffee pads compatible with Nespresso[1]– and Senseo[2]-coffee machines and contesting the IP-rights in question, or – in the alternative – claiming that the refusal to license the IP-right is an abuse of a dominant position[3]) and associated litigation (e.g. the Toshiba/Katun-case over advertisement of generic consumables which referred to the brand of the machinery).

In the EFIM-case, producers of generic ink cartridges (independent suppliers) – associated in the European Federation of Ink and Ink Cartridge Manufacturers (EFIM) – complained to the Commission, mainly because they were denied access to the intellectual property rights by the four, so-called ‘original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) of printers: Hewlett‑Packard, Lexmark, Canon and Epson. Without access to those intellectual property rights, producers of generic ink cartridges argued that they could not effectively compete with the OEMs on the (after)market for ink cartridges. EFIM considered that behaviour to foreclose the market for ink cartridges and therefore an abuse of a dominant position, which is prohibited under Art. 102 TFEU.

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Multi-Speed Europe: Enhanced Cooperation or Increased Litigation?

Background

The idea of a ‘multi-speed Europe’ finds its concrete expression in a range of European Union (EU) policy fields from the single currency to EU criminal law. As the product of specific treaty authorizations, these examples of ‘enhanced cooperation’ have become a familiar means by which European integration has deepened while allowing individual states to avoid being bound by measures adopted in a new field of cooperation. With the Amsterdam Treaty, a new capacity was created to deploy enhanced cooperation on a more ad hoc policy issue basis, particularly where legislative negotiations had failed to resolve disagreements between Member States.

Yet the new capacity remained unused until after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which amended the provisions on enhanced cooperation (now Article 20 TEU and Articles 326-334 TFEU). The new provisions were deployed for the first time to permit a group of states to adopt a regulation on the law applicable to divorce and legal separation. However, it was the second authorization of enhanced cooperation in the area of the EU unitary patent which was more controversial and which gave rise to legal actions by Spain and Italy seeking an annulment of the authorizing decision. Both states had objected to the proposal to restrict the languages used for submission of patent applications to English, French and German. In the absence of the unanimity required for the establishment of the language regime (Article 118 TFEU), legislative negotiations had reached a stalemate and so the decision was taken by the Member States – with the exception of Spain and Italy – to authorize enhanced cooperation. The two countries then brought legal proceedings seeking the annulment of the authorizing decision.

This post considers the implications of this litigation for the use of enhanced cooperation with a particular eye towards the legal action which has been launched by the United Kingdom challenging the use of enhanced cooperation for the adoption of the controversial Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). Continue reading

Commission withdraws request for an Opinion on ACTA

The European Commission has decided to withdraw its request for an Opinion of the CJEU on the compatibility of ACTA with EU law, and more specifically the EU Charter of fundamental rights (the decision was allegedly taken on Wednesday’s meeting of the Commission, although we are still waiting for an official press release). As I reported earlier, the admissibility of the request was doubtful in any case. Nonetheless, this is a nice Christmas present from the Commission to the CJEU, which will not have to deal with this political hot potato anymore. Too bad for the academic world I guess; I was quite curious what the CJEU would make of the request.

Solvay / Honeywell: cross border provisional relief under Brussels I

In its Solvay/Honeywell judgment (C-616/10) of 12 July, the CJEU decided on several important issues regarding the Brussels I Regulation. Those active in international commercial litigation, particularly patent infringement proceedings, will be interested in this case. The questions in Solvay concern the application of several ‘Brussels I’ rules of jurisdiction to cross-border patent infringement proceedings. The CJEU gets the chance to clarify some questions-left-open related to the 2006 cases GAT v. LuK (C-4/03 ) and Roche v. Primus (C-539/03). Unfortunately, the ruling in Solvay itself also leaves several questions unanswered. I wonder especially whether it was necessary for the CJEU to ‘reformulate’ the questions put before it. I’m afraid it looks like the ‘reformulation’ has obscured the view of what is really going on here.

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What happens to the request for the Court’s Opinion now that ACTA has been rejected by the European Parliament?

Well, that came as no surprise. Today, the European Parliament officially rejected ACTA. In a vote today 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained. As we mentioned earlier on the blog, the Commission already requested the Opinion of the Court on the compatibility of ACTA with the Treaties and the Charter in accordance with article 218 (11) TFEU.

Now that the European Parliament has rejected ACTA, what happens to this request? The Commission could retract its request, saving the Court from a lot of headaches and drawing it into this political mud-fight. That would be kind of the Commission of course. However, since the Commission has been so determined in arguing the benefits of ACTA, as well as defusing concerns over fundamental rights issues, the Commission might be tempted to hear the Court’s Opinion anyway. The advantage for the Commission would be that it obtains legal certainty on whether ACTA is compatible with the Treaties and the Charter, possibly opening the door to ratification or renegotiation. And if the Court were to rule that ACTA is compatible, the Commission would have proven its case and save some face.

The question is: does the Court still need to give an Opinion now that the European Parliament has rejected ACTA?

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C-406/10 SAS Institute v. World Programming Ltd (WPL)

The ECJ issued an important ruling last week regarding how far copyright protection for software should extend.

The case involves two software development companies: SAS and WPL. SAS Institute developed a set of computer programs used for data analysis (the ‘SAS System’) that allows users to write and run their own Scripts in an SAS-specific programming language (para. 24).

WPL developed a competing program called the World Programming System that sought to emulate the SAS System as close as possible. In the process, it obtained a license to the “Learning Edition” of the SAS program and manuals, which it studied, but did not access or copy the SAS source code. The World Programming System is written in the SAS Language, and is designed to allow the use of Scripts originally written for the SAS System (para. 25)…

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Jurisdiction in cases of Google AdWord Trademark infringement

Another episode in the line of cases before the Court concerning Google AdWords. The Intellectual Property battle over the use of trademarks as keywords for the purpose of triggering advertisements on Google’s search result pages can be seen in the cases (most notably) C-236-238/08 Google/Louis Vuitton, C-558/08 Portakabin, C-324/09 L’Oréal/eBay and C-323/09 Interflora. The recently handed down judgment in the case Wintersteiger (C-523/10) however, concerns the interpretation of the notion ‘place where the harmful event occurred or may occur’ in Article 5(3) Brussels I Regulation in cases of alleged Trademark infringement through registration of a Google AdWord.

An Austrian company, Wintersteiger, initiated proceedings in Austria for infringement of its Austrian Trademark ‘Wintersteiger’ by a German company, Products 4U. Products 4U had reserved the Trademark  ‘Wintersteiger’ as Google Adword for Google’s German top-level domain (www.google.de). Wintersteiger argued that the Austrian judge could assume jurisdiction under Article 5(3) since the website google.de is also accessible in Austria. On appeal, the Austrian Oberster Gerichtshof (OGH) asked the Court which criteria are to be used to determine jurisdiction under Article 5(3) to hear an action relating to an alleged infringement of a trademark through the use of a Google AdWord on the website operating under a top-level domain different from that of the Member State where the trademark is registered…

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Opinion of Advocate General Jääskinen in Case C-5/11 Donner

The case I wish to highlight in this post is the Opinion of Advocate General Jääskinen in Case C-5/11 Donner, concerning a rather crafty and ingenious attempt by Mr. Donner to circumvent the application of certain German copyright laws. Mr. Donner sold various types of ‘Bauhaus’ furniture which was protected by German copyright, but not protected by Italian copyright. Although Mr Donner targeted German customers through advertisements in Germany and a website in German, he sold these products not in Germany but from a warehouse in Italy through cooperation with an Italian company called Dimensione. Those products could nonetheless be delivered optionally to German customers by the Italian company Imspem (owned by Mr. Donner).

One of the questions the Advocate General answers in this case is whether the conduct of Mr. Donner leads to ‘distribution to the public’, that is the German public, within the meaning of the Copyright Directive. Mr. Donner, of course, considers that these products were distributed to the public in Italy, not in Germany. The Copyright Directive provides in Article 4(1) that ‘Member States shall provide for authors, in respect of the original of their works or of copies thereof, the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any form of distribution to the public by sale or otherwise’. The Advocate General considers that the products were distributed to the public in Germany:

55.      In the situation of cross border distance selling arrangements, the assessment of whether copies are made available to the public in the Member State where enforcement of copyright is sought must be based on the criteria elaborated by the Court in L’Oréal and Others. (38) If a seller targets consumers in a given Member State and creates or makes available to them a specific delivery arrangement and method of payment that enables consumers to purchase copies of copyright protected works in that Member State, then there is distribution by sale in that Member State. (39) The existence of a German language website, the content of Dimensione’s marketing material, and their sustained cooperation with Inspem, as an undertaking engaged in sales and delivery to Germany, all point toward a targeted exercise. What is important is whether the seller has created a targeted sales and delivery channel for buyers to acquire works that are copyright protected in the buyer’s Member State.

56.      In this respect the way the delivery of the copies is organised is of secondary importance. There is distribution by sale from Member State A to the targeted public in Member State B even if under the distribution scheme the copies of the works are delivered by mail or a distribution service. But the extent of the involvement of the carrier in the selling arrangement affects the question whether the carrier is to be considered as a participant in the distribution scheme or merely an intermediary referred to in Article 8(3) of the Copyright Directive, (40) whose services are used by a third party. Such an intermediary may be made subject to injunctions, but not to sanctions under Article 8(1) of the Copyright Directive and the corresponding provision in Article 11 of the Enforcement Directive.