Court in the act: how many European Courts are there?

Confusingly similar -- but these folk shouldn't be confused. The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has emailed the information that a new intellectual property case has been referred to the Court of Justice, but it has got itself into something of a mess as to which Court of Justice it means. After the EU's judicial institutions were renamed, this weblog, in common with many other people and publications, has practised calling the EU's Court of Justice the Court of Justice of the European Union, abbreviating it as the CJEU. The UKIPO however prefers to refer to this Court as the European Court of Justice and to abbreviate it as the ECJ.

This Kat does not like this. In the first place there are people who think "European Court of Justice" refers to, or is a synonym for, the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights. Secondly, "European Court of Justice" isn't its name. A year or so ago, this Kat suggested to his friends at the UKIPO that they should use the terms "Court of Justice of the European Union" and "CJEU" instead of "European Court of Justice" and "ECJ". The response was "no": most people called the court by its old name so that was that.

Anyway, it now seems that the UKIPO is getting its terms in a tangle. A recent circular announces as follows:
EFTA case E-16/14 Pharmaq AS v Intervet International BV [nb EFTA Court case references are prefixed with an 'E']

We have received notification of a new case referred to the Court of Justice: E-16/14: A question of the validity of a supplementary patent protection certificate (SPC)

The questions referred to the European Court of Justice are:
1. Has a product been placed on the market as a medicinal product in the EEA before it has been granted marketing authorisation in accordance with the procedure for administrative authorisation laid down in Directive 81/851/EEC or Directive 2001/82/EEC when delivery of the product has taken place in accordance with the relevant domestic legislation?

2.If the answer to this question is yes, then is such a product outside the scope of the SPC Regulation, and is an SPC granted on the basis of that product invalid?

3.Should a marketing authorisation granted for a veterinary medicinal product pursuant to Article 26(3) of Directive 2001/82 be deemed to constitute an administrative authorisation pursuant to Directive 81/851 or Directive 2001/82 within the meaning of Article 2?
This case and the questions referred to the court can also be viewed on our website at: [this link leads to a page titled 'References to the European Court of Justice]

If you would like to comment on this case please email by 29th August 2014 ...
The EFTA Court is not the Court of Justice. It is the court of the European Free Trade Association, an intergovernmental organisation to boost trade and the economic integration of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, none of which are members of the European Union. All abut Switzerland are committed to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement and all but Switzerland participate in the EFTA Court. Unlike the CJEU, EFTA Court rulings have no binding effect and are purely advisory.  This reference also appears to have been made from a Norwegian court, the Oslo tingrett, which is not able to refer questions to the CJEU.

More puzzlingly, the three questions said to be referred to the CJEU are not the same as the six questions which, the EFTA Court says, have been referred to it and which you can read here.
Court in the act: how many European Courts are there? Court in the act: how many European Courts are there? Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, August 25, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. This article appears to confuse the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), an EU institution comprising a number of courts, with the Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest of those courts. This Wikipedia article explains the difference

  2. Thanks, Charles. I read the Wikipedia reference before I posted my own piece. "European Court of Justice" is an informal usage, and an increasingly unhelpful one given its propensity for causing confusion. The Curia website makes no reference to "European Court of Justice" or "ECJ".

  3. The correct name should then be the Court of Justice of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJCJEU anyone?).


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