APPLE VS QUALCOMM: THE GIANT OF CUPERTINO FORCED TO PULL DOWN SOME MODELS OF IPHONE FROM THE GERMAN MARKET.

08/01/2019

The lodging of the security of 1.34 billion Euro by Qualcomm enforced the judgment of first instance issued by the Court of Munich

 

This is the new development in the judicial affair between the two tech giants Qualcomm and Apple. After having obtained a ban on sales of some iPhone models in China, surpassed by Apple with iOS 12 software update, Qualcomm takes another important step in Germany.

According to the judgment issued on December 20, 2018 by the Court of Munich, the Cupertino group has infringed some patents relating to power amplification and battery power for its iPhone 7, 7 plus and 8. The German Court ordered Apple to stop selling, distributing and offering the three models of smartphones in all the famous Apple Stores located in Germany, as well as the recall of the devices from all third-party retailers.

In order for this first instance judgment to become enforceable, Qualcomm had to deposit a large sum as security, in case that in the Appeal Apple manages to prove its rights, reversing the result of first instance.


TANKRED THIEM IS ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF COMMENTARIES TO THE REGULATIONS ON THE EUROPEAN UNION TRADEMARK (no. 1001/2017) AND ON THE COMMUNITY DESIGN (6/2002)18/12/2018

19/12/2018

After the much appreciated first edition of the commentaries on the European Trade Mark Regulation and on the Community Design now both work’s second editions are available.

 

Drafted by a carefully selected team of specialized practitioners, both commentaries address each single article and apply the German style approach of analyzing element-per-element. The books include specific sections dedicated to all European Union Member States and include the contributions – inter alia the Italy country sections – of LGV’s Tankred Thiem.

During the official presentation ceremony hold in Berlin, the books have been praised as being a contribution to a genuine European Union legal culture. Written in straight – forward English language and directed to professionals all throughout Europe, a particular focus is put on the ECJ’s case law. Thanks to the efforts of a joint publisher team – a team of different editors including the German C.H. Beck oHG, Nomos Verlag and the UK-based Hart Publishing – both commentaries are available not only on the European market but also in the US and in Canada.


THREE-DIMENSIONAL MARK OF A PARTICULAR BOTTLE SHAPE: THE EU COURT RULES ON DISTINCTIVENESS

05/12/2018

In 2015, a German company applied for the registration of a three-dimensional trademark for the particular shape of a bottle. The application was rejected, as was the subsequent appeal before the EUIPO Board of Appeal. The EU General Court, subsequently hearing the case, overturned the decision, asserting the distinctive character of the trademark in question.

 

In 2015 the German company Wajos GmbH applied for registration of a trademark for a particular shape of bottle, characterized by different sizes between the top and bottom of the same. The EUIPO Board of Appeal found that the shape was similar to that of a common amphora, which was already widespread on the food market, and stated that it was impossible for an average consumer to distinguish the products of Wajos from those of other companies. Furthermore, the Board considered that such a shape would meet functional requirements, since the enlargement of the upper part would allow the bottle to be placed on a support which would otherwise be difficult. According to EUIPO, for goods for which the trademark has been applied for, the relevant public would be the general consumer of food products, with a medium level of attention; such a circumstance would prevent consumers from identifying the shape of the bottle as particularly distinctive and indicative of the origin of the product. Therefore, as the trademark does not have distinctive character, it would not be eligible for registration under Article 7(1)(b) of EU Regulation 2017/1001.

In the motion against the decision of the EUIPO Commission, the company Wajos first contested a similar identification of the target audience, arguing instead that this was made up of a small circle of consumers, lovers of fine, quality food products and available from selected retailers. Such a clientele must therefore be considered more than wise and certainly able to appreciate the particularity of that specific bottle compared to other bottles on the market.

Regarding the distinctive character of the brand, Wajos supported its presence by emphasizing the non-purely functional character of the bottle configuration, clearly distinguishing it from the other forms of packaging on the market, to which the relevant public is accustomed.The European General Court firstly held that distinctive character must be assessed, on the one hand, in relation to the goods and services for which registration is sought and, on the other, in relation to the perception of the relevant public. With respect to the relevant public, the Court also identified the relevant consumer as an average consumer, on average attentive, since the list of products for which registration has been requested includes, to a large extent, consumer products in the food sector.

However, the EGC held that the average consumer was perfectly capable of perceiving and appreciating the shape of the packaging of the goods as an indication of their commercial origin, provided that the characteristics of that shape were such as to attract his attention. To that end, it is necessary to analyze the overall impression created by the shape. Where a trade mark is made up of a combination of elements – the Court maintains – the combination may have distinctive character even if the individual elements, taken individually, do not.

The Court therefore held that the combination of the elements of the Wajos bottle creates a shape that can be memorized by the relevant public, being significantly different from the other bottles on the food market. Moreover, contrary to what the EUIPO Board of Appeal has stated, the shape of the bottle in question differs from classic amphoras in that the latter are not made of glass. Finally, the enlargement of the upper part of the bottle, regardless of technical and functional reasons, can bring an aesthetic value to the trademark applied for. The European Judges therefore annulled the decision of the Board of Appeal of EUIPO, considering that while it is true that the average consumer generally does not pay attention to the shape of food products and does not associate their shape with the indication of commercial origin, in the present case the exceptional nature of the product’s packaging is, on the contrary, capable of indicating the commercial origin of the products.


ECJ: NO COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FOR THE TASTE OF FOOD PRODUCT

23/11/2018

On November 13, 2018, the ECJ issued its judgement in the case which involves two Dutch manufacturers of spreadable cream cheese dip stating that the copyright cannot vest in the taste of a spreadable cheese.

 

In 2007 a spreadable dip with cream cheese and fresh herbs “Heksenkaas” has been created and the intellectual property right of such product belong to the Dutch company “Levola”. Since January 2014 another Dutch company “Smilde” has been manufacturing a product called “Witte Wievenkaas”, a spreadable dip with cream cheese, for a supermarket chain in the Netherlands. Levola brought an action against Smilde where it maintained that the sale of “Witte Wievenkaas” infringed its copyright in the taste of “Heksenkaas”. It, therefore, claimed that Smilde should cease production and sale of the product, since the taste of “Henksenkaas” is a work protected before copyright and that the taste of “Witte Wievenkaas” is a reproduction of that work.

Hearing the case on the appeal, the Gerechtshof ArnhemLeeuwarden (the Dutch Regional Court of Appeal) asked the ECJ whether the taste of a food product can be protected under the Copyright Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC).

The Court firstly noted that the notion of “work” is an autonomous concept of EU law, that is to be given an autonomous and uniform interpretation throughout the EU. Then the Court clarified that, in order to be protected by copyright under the Directive, the taste of a food product must be capable of being classified as a ‘work’ within the meaning of the Directive. Classification as a ‘work’ requires, first of all, that the subject matter concerned is an original intellectual creation. Secondly, there must be an ‘expression’ of that original intellectual creation.

In accordance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which was adopted in the framework of the World Trade Organization and to which the EU has acceded, and with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, to which the EU is a party, copyright protection may be granted to expressions, but not to ideas, procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such.  It, therefore, follows that for there to be a “work” as referred to in the Directive, the subject matter protected by copyright must be expressed in a manner which makes it identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity.

In that regard, the Court found that the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision and objectivity. Unlike, for example, a literary, pictorial, cinematographic or musical work, which is a precise and objective expression, the taste of a food product will be identified essentially on the basis of taste sensations and experiences, which are subjective and variable. They depend on, amongst other things, factors particular to the person tasting the product concerned, such as age, food preferences and consumption habits, as well as on the environment or context in which the product is consumed. Moreover, it is not possible in the current state of scientific development to achieve by technical means a precise and objective identification of the taste of a food product which enables it to be distinguished from the taste of other products of the same kind.


A NEW RULING OF THE EU COURT ON COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT AND ONLINE FILE SHARING

31/10/2018

In its judgment of October 18, 2018 (case C-149/17), the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the owner of an internet connection through which a copyright infringement has been committed cannot be exempted from liability simply by indicating a family member who had the opportunity to access the internet network in question.

 

The issue underlying the ruling involves a publishing house – owner of the copyright on an audiobook – acting against a German citizen requesting compensation for the damages resulting from the infringement of its copyright. In particular, the publishing house complained against the sharing of its audiobook, on a peer-to-peer platform, through the Internet connection of which the citizen was the owner, so that the audiobook could be freely downloaded by an unlimited number of users. The citizen owner of the internet network claimed that also his relatives could access the network and that for this reason he could not be considered as responsible of the infringement. The network owner also pointed out that according to the German legislation a similar line of defense would be sufficient to exclude his liability. The Court of Munich therefore addressed the Court of Justice of European Union in order to know if the applicable German law is in compliance with EU legislation on copyright.

The EUCJ held that even if a balance were to be struck between the right to respect family life, on the one hand, and the right of intellectual property, on the other hand, the latter would be unjustifiably infringed if it were considered sufficient to exclude the liability of the internet line owner the indication that the internet line is available also to his family members, without further evidence being provided as to when the connection was used by such family member and the nature of that use. In doing so, the Court maintains, the fundamental right to an effective remedy and the fundamental right of intellectual property protected by EU law and in particular by EU Directives 2001/29 and 2004/48 would be seriously infringed.