Reverse burden of proof and trade secrets in patent litigation – Part two

 

In my previous post (here), I discussed the reverse burden of proof on an international level and the potential tension which could emerge between the patent and trade secrets regimes in this context. In this post, I will turn the focus to Europe and discuss the regional provisions as well as the relevant provisions of the UPC Agreement.

The Enforcement Directive and the Trade Secrets Directive

There are a few provisions in the Enforcement Directive on confidentiality in court proceedings. The need to preserve confidentiality in intellectual property litigation is recognized in the recital of the directive (Recital 20). In addition, a few provisions (Arts. 6 (2), 7 (1) and 8 (2) (e)) of the directive deal with the protection of confidential information in IP litigation.

The drafters of the directive have recognized the need to protect the confidential information of the adverse party. But what is to be noted is that the Enforcement Directive does not contain any provision on the reverse burden of proof in patent litigation, or the protection of trade secrets in these situations.

The Trade Secrets Directive includes a specific provision (Art. 9) on the protection of trade secrets in litigation concerning the unlawful use or disclosure of a secret (See my post on trade secret litigation here). Ergo, said provision is not applicable in patent litigation. However, Art. 9 of the Trade Secrets Directive could provide for certain general examples of how trade secrets could be protected in patent litigation. These include restricting access to documents, restricting access to hearings, and providing non-confidential versions of judgments. There should for example be no immediate obstacle for a national legislator to include similar provisions in national laws.

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Punitive damages slipping into IP enforcement in Europe?

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The U.S. is known to have a regime of punitive damages in many different areas of law. This concept has however not won any significant ground in Europe, where one usually is allowed to be awarded only the actual damages suffered.

Last week, the CJEU handed down a quite remarkable judgment on damages in IP infringement cases (case C-367/15). The Polish Supreme Court had sought guidance from the CJEU on how to interpret the Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC).

Poland had a national provision, which provided an alternative for an IP holder to seek damages corresponding to two or three times of a hypothetical license fee. The question was whether the Polish national provision could be seen to be compatible with EU law. The Advocate General (AG), in essence, answered in the negative (AG opinion). But the CJEU took a different approach. The CJEU concluded that the Enforcement Directive does not as such preclude a provision allowing for an IP holder to claim twice the amount of a hypothetical license fee. In its reasoning, the CJEU inter alia referred to international instruments (TRIPS, Berne, Rome) and also emphasized the fact that the Enforcement Directive is a minimum standard directive.

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Patent litigation – Double track system vs. bifurcation system

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Double track system 

If you are sued by a patentee for patent infringement, one of the options you often have would be to attempt to invalidate the patent on the ground that the patent lacks patentability. The issue here is whether you can assert invalidity of the patent at issue to an infringement court, or you need to initiate a separate proceeding at a national patent office or a specialized patent court in order to argue patent invalidity. As for Japan, in addition to an invalidation proceeding at the Japanese Patent Office (Track 1), Japanese patent law allows a defendant in an infringement court to assert patent invalidity within the same proceeding (invalidity defense), and the court can judge the validity on its own (Track 2). This legal system can be referred to as a “double track system”.  Examples of jurisdictions with this system besides Japan are the U.S., the U.K., France and Korea.

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