Beijing IP Court delivers the first judgment on GUI design infringement in China

China’s first lawsuit for infringement of graphical user interface (GUI) design has been recently concluded by the Beijing IP Court. This case has attracted much public attention, as GUI designs have become protectable in China by so-called design patents only as of 1 May 2014, and despite a large number of GUI design patents being granted since then, their enforceability remained untested until the present case. The judgment issued on 25 December 2017 now results in heated discussion and leaves, in particular, software developers counting on strong GUI design protection very disappointed. Continue reading “Beijing IP Court delivers the first judgment on GUI design infringement in China”

CJEU: manufacturers using selective distribution can prevent their retailers from selling on online platforms

On December 6, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its final ruling in the Coty case. This is a landmark judgment, since it will have a strong impact on the internet sales strategies of all those companies that, in order to preserve the quality of their products and ensure their proper use, want to use a selective distribution system. In this regard, it has to be recalled that from the perspective of EU competition law, selective distribution is a distribution system where the supplier undertakes to sell the contract goods or services only to retailers which meet specified qualitative criteria and where these retailers undertake to sell such goods only to final consumers or to other authorised retailers within the territory reserved by the supplier to operate that system.

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The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues

On November 29, the European Commission published its long-awaited “Communication setting out the EU approach to standard-essential patents” (SEPs). The stakeholders were expecting from the Commission in-depth guidance on the definition of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in the context of SEP licensing. However, the Commission did not address all the open issues, leaving room for continued legal uncertainty on the exact meaning of FRAND. Continue reading “The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues”

SEP licensing and competition law: DOJ and European Commission bless a new “patent-friendly” approach

Recently, the debate on the applicability of competition law to the licensing of standard-essential patents (SEPs) has come to a turning point. Indeed, both the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the European Commission are making an attempt to provide a final answer to the following questions:

1) should the conduct of SEP-holders be subject to the application of competition law?

2) should standard-setting organisations (SSO) provide guidance on the meaning of “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms (FRAND), or would that guidance amount to a price-fixing cartel?

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AG Saugmandsgaard Øe provides guidance on the application of EU competition law in the pharmaceutical sector

On 21 September Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe provided his Opinion to the CJEU on some key issues regarding competition law in the pharmaceutical sector. The request for a preliminary ruling was referred by the Italian Supreme Administrative Court (“Consiglio di Stato”) in relation to a cartel case where the Italian Competition Authority (“ICA”) fined Roche and Novartis for a total amount of 180 million euros.

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Excessive use of online information collected on third parties’ websites amounts to unfair competition – rules the Shanghai IP Court in the Hantao v. Baidu case in China

Never has information on the internet been as interconnected as it is today. Thanks to the so-called web scraping technology, in which computer programs are used to extract information from different websites, online platforms are able to incorporate related information from different sources into a single webpage so that users can find and utilize desired information in a convenient way. However, the legality to use information collected by others deserves cautious examination, and unfair competition law is one of the aspects to be considered.

In September, the Shanghai Intellectual Property Court issued a second-instance judgment in Hantao v. Baidu case, laying out useful guidelines for assessing whether unauthorized use of information collected by others constitutes an act of unfair competition. Continue reading “Excessive use of online information collected on third parties’ websites amounts to unfair competition – rules the Shanghai IP Court in the Hantao v. Baidu case in China”

International IP Exhaustion and the Judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States in Impression v. Lexmark

Setting the Stage – IP Exhaustion

IP rights are neither perpetual nor limitless. In fact, IP rights are inter alia limited in scope, duration and by express exceptions. A sometimes forgotten limitation of IP rights is exhaustion, or the “first sale doctrine”, which is the name it bears in the U.S.

In essence, the IP right related to a certain article is considered to be exhausted once it has been sold with the consent of the IP holder. From a geographical perspective, two alternative principles (leading to very different outcomes) can be distinguished. The first one is national exhaustion, which entails that only a sale of an article within the relevant national territory would exhaust the IP right. According to a second principle, such territorial distinction is not recognized, i.e., a sale anywhere in the world can exhaust the IP right (international exhaustion).

In the U.S., the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit) as well as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have considered the question of exhaustion from many different perspectives in their earlier judgments. In this article, I will discuss the judgment of the SCOTUS in a quite recent case regarding exhaustion, Impression v. Lexmark. The judgment was handed down on 30 May 2017.

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“Colour” your rights or not?

Guest post by Florica Rus*

Over the years, many companies have sought trade mark protection for colours or colour combinations. This strategy turned out to be not a plain sailing.

Since Libertel – C-104/01 and Heidelberger Bauchemie – C-49/02 judgments, colours are recognised as a factor that may lead consumers to a purchasing decision. However, colours are considered to have a limited capacity to communicate an indication of origin to the consumers and being distinctive is not their strength.

On 22 July 2017, the General Court held that three identical rectangular coloured stripes do not make the mark distinctive enough to fulfil the commercial origin function (T-612/15). The figurative mark applied for – EUTM 012880481 (three stripes colour) for goods in classes 18, 25 and 26, was found to be neither distinctive nor to have acquired distinctiveness through use. The Court illustrated that consumers in the fashion sector are not used to identify the origin of the product based on a colour and three coloured stripes will not be apprehended as an indicator of origin. Continue reading ““Colour” your rights or not?”

BREAKING: the CJEU sets new criteria to assess excessive pricing under competition law

Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on one of the hottest antitrust issues of 2017: excessive pricing.

It was Commissioner Vestager in late 2016 who set the antitrust radar of the European Commission on these conducts, which were considered a bit like unicorns until last year: traces of them were visible only on old handbooks. Following the Commissioner’s speech, the European Commission launched an investigation against Aspen Pharma for alleged excessive pricing in May 2017 (everywhere but in Italy, where Aspen had already been fined by the Italian Competition Authority, see here).

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China’s first Internet Court

On 18 August, China has officially launched its first “Internet Court” in Hangzhou, which city is known as the Chinese e-commerce capital, and is home to Internet giants such as Alibaba and NetEase. The name “Internet Court” has a two-fold meaning: First, this court specializes in resolving Internet-related cases including disputes regarding contacts of online shopping, services and microfinance loans, Internet copyright disputes and domain name disputes etc. Second, all court proceedings in this court can be conducted via an Internet platform. Located in a normal court building in Hangzhou shared with another local court, the Internet Court is nevertheless ready to accept cases filed electronically from all over the country, to hold online mediations, to examine electronically submitted evidence, to hold oral hearings with litigants via video conference, to deliver judgements and to accept applications for enforcement orders, all via Internet. Continue reading “China’s first Internet Court”