It is no secret that the IPKat has campaigned for the availability of the European Court of Justice's cases in all official European languages, as well as for the greater accessibility of ECJ and Court of First Instance decisions in general. Today the IPKat decided to take a trip through the European Union's website, in search of legal decisions.

The site opens up promisingly enough, with gateways to EU information in all 20 languages. Click through to a list of things that the EU does and you find no reference to the ECJ, but if you slide your cursor across a row of small and easy-to-miss tabs, the tab marked Institutions will take you through to the ECJ. Click on European Court of Justice and you gain access to generalised information concerning that institution as well as the case law data (third heading down on the left, under Information.

At this point, there is little to guide the visitor to the site, except trial and error. Click Annotations of Case Law and you hit a feature which is announced as being only in French. If you want to find the cases themselves, it is necessary to click through to Search Forms, and then again to the search form for ECJ and CFI cases.

At this point, you can search for cases under Case Number, Date, Name of parties or Subject-Field, as well as by words used in the text of individual judgments. Subject-field is a nightmare, since intellectual property cases may be found under any one of several different fields: agriculture (as in cases involving geographical appellations for regionally-grown products), approximation of laws (anything to do with harmonisation of IP rights), Community trade mark (that speaks for itself), Competition (where an IP right is abusively exercised), free movement of goods (where an IP owner seeks to prevent parallel trade), intellectual property (that also speaks for itself) and plant varieties).

When a search throws up one or more cases as being relevant, you can click on it and be taken straight through to its full text (if that text is available in the language of your search) or to a list of languages other than your own in which the text is available. That list still comprises just 11 languages. Judgments are not yet available in the nine languages of the Accession States and, in the case of Maltese, the IPKat suspects they never will be. The non-availability of key decisions in English and other languages has been the subject of the IPKat's Translation Watch.

Other features of the ECJ site that should be noted are the diary, which lists the date and time of Hearings, Opinions and Judgments for the coming weeks, as well as short-form notes on recent proceedings (this service appears to end at 2003). It is also possible to access ECJ cases by case number.

All in all, the ECJ website provides a wealth of legal material. But you have to be prepared to make the effort to find your way around it.
IN SEARCH OF JUSTICE IN SEARCH OF JUSTICE Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 Rating: 5


  1. I absolutely agree! The European Union must be one of the most difficult places to navigate. They should take a leaf out of UK government sites which are excellent! Mind you, perhaps we Brits should learn some European languages instead of expecting everything to be available in English.

  2. Good approach. Do you communicate your findings to the institution concerned, I wonder. If not, I will.

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