Monday 22 February 2016

Lawsuits under the new Patent Act, a rara avis on the Spanish judicial scene (IV)

Since the reform of patent law in Spain under the Act of 1986, lawsuits in this field have always been different, given the host of specialties they entail, and it is no exaggeration to say that when the new Law 24/2015 enters into force they could come to be considered a veritable rara avis within our judicial system. The singularities which that new Act ushers in are so many and so far-reaching that any resemblance to other legal actions will from then on be attributable solely to coincidence.

On the one hand, a curious aspect of the changes we may expect to witness is that from 1 April 2017 lawsuits in the field of intellectual property, with the exception of those based on Community trademarks or designs, may tend to migrate towards Barcelona. Under the new Act, jurisdiction lies with the mercantile courts of the cities which are seats of the High Court of Justice, but only within those autonomous communities where the National Judicial Council has designated specific mercantile courts to specialize in patent matters. Although the Madrid mercantile courts have realized the implications of this and are consequently on the way to obtaining that designation, only Barcelona has courts that so far qualify. It is not unlikely that the decision to introduce this requirement was to some extent influenced by the positive image associated with the hyper-specialization trend in Catalonia. Be that as it may, the change is significant.

Second, intellectual property lawsuits are going to spark off no little envy within the legal profession due to a factor which might appear incidental but in practice has considerable importance: the time limit for responding to the complaint in any civil action regulated by Law 24/2015 will be two months, whereas in any other field it is only twenty days. This significant, and admittedly rather preferential, extension of the standard term may be justified in view of the technical issues underlying disputes in this area and the need to resolve strategic questions bearing on the challenge to the property right.

Then there is a third factor which sets patent law proceedings apart from any others: the creation of nothing less than an instrument for relief against interlocutory relief. Under the new Act it will be possible for those who envisage that the court may be asked to grant interim relief against them, without their first being heard, to put forward, through a “preventive submission”, arguments against the adoption thereof. It is not yet known whether this arrangement, so foreign to traditional procedure in Spain, will have the effect of a brake or of a piston, as in the way it is designed it could generate conflicts where they did not previously exist or instead put out the fire before the flame has time to take hold. Once again, we are faced with innovative provisions which have no equivalent in any other area of law.

This special configuration of the patent lawsuit takes on yet more importance when we consider that the procedural provisions of Law 24/2015 also apply to trademarks and designs. In this regard one may ask up to what point some actions in the area of trademark law, such as revocation for non-use, really deserve to be included in so exceptional a system.

As we shall be seeing in future chapters, the changes we have outlined above are not the only ones which allow lawsuits in this field to be termed a rara avis.

III. The importance of professional advice (Francisco J. Sáez)
IV. Lawsuits under the new Patent Act (Antonio Castán)
V. Utility models under the new Patent Act (Pedro Saturio)

Author: Antonio Castán

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