For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Silence, secrecy and mystery: information on trade mark litigation in Slovakia

On Monday the IPKat posted a request for information from a reader who wrote:
"We would like to get a little more of a feel for trade mark enforcement and protection in Slovakia. In particular, how common is trade mark infringement litigation (as opposed to oppositions) and who the firms are that have acted in recent leading cases (if indeed there have been any)? Does anyone know how we might collect this information?"
Apart from a comment posted under the original request by the helpful Petr [before you write in to correct the spelling, this is the correct spelling], the Kats have also received the following information from their friend, Slovak patent and trade mark attorney Jana Chmelikova.  Below, Jana summarises what she describes as "the quite dismal situation regarding the availability of decisions of Slovak courts":
"As far as I know, trade mark litigation (as opposed to trade mark opposition proceedings) is less frequent, but there have already been some cases and further litigation is pending.

In general, it is advisable (if possible) to avoid litigation before the courts since proceedings are quite lengthy (e.g. a trade mark case initiated in September 2008 is still pending; now, in November 2010, the first hearing before the appeal court has been designated; in another case initiated at the same time before another court, no hearing at all has been set, as of today). On the positive side, it appears that Slovak judges are now more experienced in trade mark matters than has been the case in the past.

It is however quite difficult, if not impossible, to obtain any decisions of district courts (first instance decisions) or appeal courts, since these decisions are not published by the state authorities on a regular basis and, if they are published at all, any data enabling identification of parties involved or even the trade marks involved is anonymised. To obtain any information concerning firms involved in litigation from attorneys or lawyers themselves is not a realistic prospect, since such pieces of information regarding clients (at least in our firm) is considered confidential.

While there are some sources that might be used for obtaining decisions, they are neither comprehensive nor focused exclusively on trade mark litigation.

* There is a portal, JASPI, operated by Ministry of Justice (in Slovak only), where judicial decisions can be searched.  However there is a delay in publishing the decisions (the portal's case law is current to 2007) and I assume that not all decisions issued by the courts are systematically published in it;
* A periodical, Zo sudnej praxe (in English, "From court practice") publishes selected decisions of the High Court and the Constitutional Court. However, trade mark litigation rarely ends up in those courts. A subscription to this periodical can be ordered here;
* Decisions of the High Court can be found here;
* In the past there was an attempt to operate a special IP portal here.  However, it seems that no progress has been made in this project and the data published in it is out of date;
* I assume that the decisions of the Administrative Court which examine the legality of decisions of the Slovak Industrial Property Office might be requested from Slovak Industrial Property Office. However, these decisions are not decisions relating to regular inter partes trade mark disputes -- they merely cover oppositions and cancellations.

* Our new Minister of Justice has promised to start publication of all decisions of Slovak Courts. We wait to see if and when this will become a reality . Meanwhile, the present situation is regrettably unsatisfactory".
Thanks, Jana, says the IPKat. This is so helpful.  We all look forward to the day when information concerning Slovak trade mark litigation -- so widely available in many other countries within Europe -- is open to all.  Merpel wonders, do the Slovak authorities find it slightly, well, shocking to consider that, if a Slovak trade mark dispute is referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling, the whole world will be able to learn the names of the parties, their lawyers and even the identity of the trade mark itself?

Now for some confusion:
Slovakia or Slovenia? Click here
Slovakia, Slovenia or Slavonia? Click here

2 comments:

Huťko said...

Dear IPKat,

I am glad to see that other skilled readers from Slovakia provided you with the relevant information. I would have responded but was offline during the last few days.

Anyway, concerning decisions - I would only add that in Slovakia every decision of any court is available on individual request (though anonymised ones). The Act on Free Access to Information sets broad rules on disclosure of information held by all "Obligees," which means state agencies (including parliament, government, courts, etc.) municipalities, legal entities established by law and by state agencies, as well as legal entities and natural persons that have been given the power by law to make decisions in the area of public administration.

Hence it is possible to obtain any ruling of the court. For instance I usually "hunt" for decisions in this way for my blog and research.

Secondly, in regard to Petr's comment on the previous post. In Slovakia there are more than three IP courts. However I understand what Petr meant. These 3 courts (Kosice, Bratislava, Banska Bystrica) are the CTM courts and also exclusive courts for industrial property and unfair competition claims. But on the other hand e.g. copyright disputes can be litigated before any court.

Huťko said...

Furthermore, in my opinion the trademark litigation is quite common. As Petr already said, it is usually accompanied by unfair competition claims. But many cases settle out of the court (at least this is my perception). It might be due to the fact that e.g. Kosice or Bratislava courts (don't know about the last one) are not that heavily specialized, thus erring too often (but it seems to me that they are getting better).

Concerning leading IP cases, there have been several famous disputes since 1993. Most of them spring from the background of Czecho-Slovakia separation. Disputes concerning TMs such as
- Kofola,
- Horalka v. Tatranka,
- Májka v. Májka-RISO
- Becherovka (including also 3D TM)
were probably the most scrutinized ones. From other IP disputes, probably pending TIPOS case (know-how) would appear in the TOP. However there are many important cases that are not known to general public.

Is the question concerning leading IP law firms still relevant IPKat?

I am trying to report some relevant IP cases on my blog, hence interested readers could grab some information there.

Hope this helps, even thought I realize it's kind of late :)

Huťko (Martin Husovec)
http://husovec.blogspot.com/

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