In a welcome development of Austrian copyright law, the Supreme Court recently ruled that a combination of works by two artists does not constitute a joint work if it can be separated, even if the works involved were created for the sole purpose of being combined as a jointly planned contribution. Strong indicators of whether parts of a work are separable are the individual marketability and possible depreciation of the separated parts.
Parliament recently transposed parts of EU Directive 2015/2436 into national law. Most important is the introduction of certification marks, which did not previously exist under Austrian law. Other provisions of the bill concern the division of trademark applications, the shortening of the validity period of a registration and the reduction of the registration fee.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the producer of a photograph who marks his or her name in the photograph's metadata must be credited as the producer on copies of the photograph made by other persons and intended for distribution. This judgment is good news for producers of digital photographs who wish to safeguard their copyright. Persons reproducing and distributing digital photographs should routinely check the metadata to ensure that the producer's name is listed on any reproduction.
The Supreme Court recently confirmed its view that the issuance of contradicting decisions in, on the one hand, infringement proceedings and, on the other hand, opposition proceedings by different panels of the same appellate court is no reason to admit an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court. The decision stresses that, in principle, the appellate courts must consider the issue of likelihood of confusion, and that it will step in only if the appealing party can demonstrate gross misjudgment.
In light of a European Court of Justice ruling, the Supreme Court recently overturned its earlier interpretation of an author's exclusive distribution right in relation to his or her work of art. The court found that any kind of distribution – regardless of whether it is a transfer of ownership – falls under the author's exclusive distribution right. Further, it held that this distribution right is violated only if ownership in the work is actually transferred.
In a recent case a trademark comprising a famous family name was infringed through use in the course of trade by someone with the same family name. The Court of Appeal defined the limits of trademark protection when competing with naming rights and the requirements that trademark owners must meet to shield their trademarks from exploitation under the cover of exercising legitimate naming rights.
Following the European Court of Justice decision in Céline, the Austrian Supreme Court has changed its jurisprudence on whether the owner of an earlier trademark can demand the modification or cancellation of a company name that is identical or similar to its trademark. However, some have argued that the decision is too abstract, and it remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will stick to this position in future.
In a recent decision the Supreme Court has reiterated its view that plaintiffs must prove that their products, product appearances and unregistered marks have acquired secondary meaning with the relevant public in order for them to be protected under the Act on Unfair Competition. Producers of products with distinctive product appearances should therefore consider registering them as trademarks.
The introduction of new provincial administrative courts in Austria will fundamentally change administrative provisions in several IP statutes. The main amendments concern the reorganisation of appeal procedures. Among other things, from the beginning of 2014 the Patent Office will handle only first instance proceedings and the Supreme Patent and Trademark Board will be dissolved.
While the new Condominium Act restructures and in many places rephrases the provisions of the prior Condominium Act of 1975, some new provisions are introduced which introduce a range of interesting opportunities, as well as some potential pitfalls.