Registered Community Designs – are Community Design Court decisions binding?
Community design courts in various EU countries have recently seen a spate of cases brought before them in relation to the Samsung v Apple dispute over the Samsung Galaxy Tabs 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 (the “Galaxy Tabs”).
Key court decisions
On 9 July 2012, the High Court in England and Wales (sitting as a community design court) held that the Galaxy Tabs did not fall within the scope of Apple’s Registered Community Design (“Apple’s RCD”). On 24 July 2012, a German Court affirmed its own jurisdiction to hear a similar matter concerning Apple’s RCD and granted an interim injunction preventing the sale of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 in the EU. On 18 October 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court and went on to criticise the German Court pointing out that at the date of the German Court’s the High Court (sitting as a community design court) had granted a final declaration of non-infringement and that this declaration was binding throughout the Community. The Court of Appeal also took the view that a subsidiary should not be considered to be a different party from its parent company and therefore the German Court should have declined jurisdiction as jurisdiction had been established in proceedings involving the same cause of action and the same parties.
Recent decision of the Hague District Court
At least some of the above criticism appears to have been taken on board by the Hague District Court when similar matters came before it. The Hague District Court affirmed its jurisdiction holding that the parties before it were not the same parties as those before the High Court even though they were part of the same group. The Hague District Court, however, observed that the matters before it were substantially the same as those previously before the High Court and therefore provided Samsung with the declaration of non-infringement it requested in relation to the Galaxy Tabs.
Provided that there are no substantive reasons to reconsider a decision of a community design court such decisions may now be enforced on a Community-wide basis. Parties may also be prevented from bringing claims if a subsidiary or parent has previously made claims in relation to the same cause of action.
The above Apple and Samsung cases are likely to make it much more difficult for parties to re-litigate community design right matters in perceived friendlier jurisdictions following an unfavourable outcome. It will therefore become key for parties to ensure they litigate in the correct jurisdiction from the outset and that jurisdiction is contested fully where necessary.
If you would like to speak to us regarding the registration and/or enforcement of community design rights please contact Simon Miles on 020 7691 4054 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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