Sunday, 14 October 2012

Portugal's new IP court: no sign yet of hoped-for improvements

"New Intellectual Property Court: first few months prove disappointing" is the sadly informative title of a brief piece by Manuel Lopes Rocha and Joana Trigueiros Reis (PLMJ - AM Pereira Sáragga Leal Oliveira Martins Júdice E Associados - Sociedade De Advogados - RL, Lisbon), recently posted on World Trademark Review but is presumably as relevant to patent litigation as it is to trade marks since the court's jurisdiction is said to cover 'industrial property'.

This piece notes the effect of the Portuguese Decree-Law 67/2012, which established a specialist intellectual property court in order to concentrate litigation within a single, focused tribunal and thus both expedite cases and improve their quality. The new Intellectual Property Court opened its doors to business at the end of March, and ran into trouble immediately: while the law provided for the appointment of two IP judges, only one was appointed -- and he has already been replaced.  In the first four months of its operation, some 244 judicial proceedings were commenced before it, but decisions have been slow to emerge and critics have been pining for the old system. In particular:
" ... the existence of only one court located in Lisbon implies pointless, long and costly journeys to the capital whenever a party is involved in a dispute regarding trade marks or copyright. This makes little sense since - as noted by the former president judge of the Lisbon Commercial Court, Mrs Maria José Costeira - the majority of companies that appeal to the Intellectual Property Court are generally located in the North of Portugal (ie, far away from Lisbon)".
The article concludes:
"Once again, the example of the Intellectual Property Court demonstrates that any reform of the court system should be prepared with care, and tested by lawyers and judges before entering into force".
This blogger notes both the criticism of the inconvenience of travel -- even within just one of the smaller countries within the European Union -- and the need for a proper preparation. Comment regarding the applicability of these points to the ongoing debate over the unified patent court would be superfluous.

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