Thursday, 19 September 2019

Online EU trade mark infringement actionable where advertising directed

Infringement proceedings involving an EU trade mark must generally be brought before the courts of the member state in which a defendant is domiciled (Regulation 207/2009/EC, Article 97(1)). They can also be brought before the courts of the Member State “in which the act of infringement has been committed or threatened” (Article 97(5)). What happens when the defendants are a Spanish company and a Spanish individual, and the trade mark owners are British (and the exclusive licensee is an English company)? Obviously an action could be brought in Spain, but could the claimant sue in the UK on the basis of Article 97(5)??

The claimants issued proceedings for infringement in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, on the basis that the defendants' online activities amounted to advertising or offering counterfeit goods for sale in the UK. IPEC refused to accept jurisdiction under Article 97(5), taking the view that only the courts in Spain, where steps had been taken to put the offending sign on a website, or decision to that effect had taken place, had jurisdiction under that provision. The claimants appealed, and the Court of Appeal sent the matter on an expedition to Luxembourg.

The Court of Justice ruled that Article 97(5) allowed the trade mark owner to bring infringement proceedings before an EUTM court of the Member State where the consumers or traders to whom online advertising and offers for sale were directed were located. It made no difference that took decisions and steps necessary to bring about the electronic display in another Member State.

The Court reasoned that, if Article 97(5) were interpreted otherwise, a defendant could deprive Article 97(5) of any effect by making sure that the territory where they set up their website and activated the display of their advertising and offers for sale was the same as that in which it was established.

The Court of Appeal has to decide whether the advertising and offers for sale on the website and platforms in issue were in fact targeted at UK consumers or traders. It must do so on the basis of factors such as the details about the geographical areas where the products were to be delivered.
AMS Neve Ltd and others v Heritage Audio SL and others (Case C-172/18) EU:C:2019:674

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