The Catalonia High Court of Justice recently revoked a Spanish Patent and Trademark Office decision which had granted the registration of an industrial design featuring an image of the Camp Nou stadium. The court considered that the alleged ground for refusal to be assessed was whether the design included the prior trademarks owned by Futbol Club (FC) Barcelona. It concluded that the design's registration would lead to a paradox, as the owner could contest FC Barcelona's use of its own image.
The Supreme Court recently acknowledged a US company's legal standing to file claims on the basis of Articles 13 (trade secret infringement) and 14 (misuse of an industrial or business secret) of the Unfair Competition Act. The Supreme Court's interpretation has favourably clarified that active foreign companies doing business in Spain have legal standing to sue for certain acts of unfair competition.
The Barcelona Court of Appeal recently upheld the appeal filed by Sistemas Técnicos de Encofrados, SA against a Barcelona Commercial Court Number 4 order, in which PERI GmbH had successfully opposed the exception of lis pendens (ie, a pending legal action) on the principle of preclusion provided for in the Civil Procedural Act. The court ruled that a rigid and inflexible interpretation of the act, as intended by PERI, is contrary to the right to effective judicial protection provided for by the Constitution.
Through two recent decisions, Barcelona Commercial Court Number 4 and Barcelona Commercial Court Number 1 lifted the preliminary injunctions that they had previously granted ex parte in relation to the imminent market launch of two oxycodone/naloxone generic medicinal products. This is the first time that a preliminary injunction has been revoked or refused in Spain based on indicia of invalidity of the asserted patent due to added matter.
The Barcelona Court of Appeal recently confirmed a first-instance decision which had dismissed the patent infringement action filed by Novartis against several generics for alleged infringement of its European patent relating to a therapeutic transdermal system for the administration of rivastigmine. In its decision, the court reiterated the importance of interpreting a claim in light of the description of the patent, which in this case clearly supported the defendants' understanding of its scope.
In 2013 Teva Pharma, SLU and ratiopharm España, SA filed a revocation action challenging the validity of an EU patent due to lack of novelty and an inventive step. In 2015 the Barcelona Commercial Court Number 5 found in the plaintiffs' favour and revoked the relevant patent claims due to lack of an inventive step. The Barcelona Court of Appeal recently confirmed the first-instance decision in its entirety.
In January 2016 Nestlé filed a patent infringement action with a preliminary injunction motion against Fast Eurocafé, which had imported, offered and sold capsules for a beverage compatible with Nestlé's well-known Nescafé Dolce Gusto system. Barcelona Commercial Court Number 5 dismissed Nestlé's preliminary injunction motion, holding that the urgency requirement had been undermined. The Barcelona Court of Appeal recently revoked the commercial court's order and granted a preliminary injunction.
In 2016 Novartis sued several companies for the alleged infringement of its EU patent and sought preliminary injunctions to prevent the imminent launch of their valsartan and amlodipine generics. Barcelona Commercial Court Number 4 granted ex parte preliminary injunctions against some of the defendants in December 2016 and January 2017. However, on the defendants' opposition, the court recently revoked the preliminary injunctions.
The Supreme Court recently considered whether the cancellation of a company with the Companies Registry removes its legal capacity or only limits it for the purposes of covering the debts that appear after such cancellation, in which case the company could be sued. Another issue that this ruling clarifies is who should represent such a company in court.
The new Patents Act, which recently came into force, aims to modernise the Spanish patent system and bring it further into line with EU and international legal frameworks. One of the most notable amendments regarding patent litigation is the introduction and regulation of protective letters in Spain for the first time. As of April 2017, protective letters will be accepted by all competent courts handling patent cases.
A protective letter is a form of anticipatory defence against ex parte interim measures. It aims to present the defendant's arguments to the court before an ex parte interim measure is adopted and, if possible, prompt the court to call for a hearing before adopting the interim measure. While Spanish law did not previously recognise protective letters, the recently enacted Patent Act recognises them in relation to IP matters.
Distinctive signs are principally governed by the Trademark Act (17/2001), which replaced the former Trademark Act (32/1988) and was complemented by Royal Decree 687/2002. In 2006 the Trademark Act was further amended by Act 19/2006, which implemented the EU IP Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC). Civil actions for trademark infringement are comprehensively covered in the Trademark Act, while criminal actions for infringement are defined in the Criminal Code.
The General Council of the Judiciary's agreement which exclusively assigned competence to hear IP matters that arise under the Patent Act 24/2014, the Trademark Act 17/2001 and the Industrial Design Act 20/2003 to certain commercial courts in Catalonia, Madrid and Valencia was recently published in the Official State Bulletin. The agreement has accomplished the long-awaited consolidation of the Spanish commercial courts' specialisations in IP matters.
Barcelona Commercial Court Number 7 recently dismissed in its entirety Niled SAE's and Ridelin's action against Sofamel SL which required Sofamel to cease the manufacture and commercialisation of its TTGA terminals, claiming that they constituted a slavish copy of Niled's TTP terminals and infringed the specific Ridelin patents for which Niled claimed to be the exclusive licensee. The court based this decision on Niled's TTP terminals' lack of competitive singularity.
Barcelona Commercial Court 4 recently dismissed a preliminary injunction motion filed by medac against Accord in a patent case regarding a particular formulation of the active ingredient methotrexate. The court analysed the patent's inventive step using the cited prior art and concluded that it would have been obvious to a person skilled in the art to optimise the volume of the injection in order to reduce pain by increasing the drug concentration.
In a pioneering ruling, Madrid Commercial Court 2 recently ruled in favour of a French company and its Spanish subsidiary with regard to an unfair competition claim. Notably, the judge ruled that the subsidiary's operation of a digital platform through which people arrange to share a road journey (and the associated costs) is legal and does not constitute a transport activity. The ruling is the first step towards establishing the long-awaited legal framework for this type of activity.
In a June 2016 decision the Supreme Court applied the previous International Merchant Shipping Act 1949 to establish which party was responsible for damages incurred during the unloading of goods. The case centred on whether the transport of goods from the ship to the unloading area constituted land or maritime transport, which in turn would determine whether the claim for damages was subject to an expiration or a prescription period.
Due to the differences between continental and common law, the Spanish courts have found it difficult to distinguish between the legal concepts of 'wilful misconduct' and 'gross negligence'. In recent years, the courts have issued rulings exploring these concepts in a number of cases involving the theft of goods during carriage. Specifically, two 2015 Supreme Court judgments have clarified and consolidated the concepts.
A 2014 Tarragona Court of Appeal decision marked a radical departure from the court's former jurisprudence regarding the consumer error theory. Section 16 of the Madrid Court of Appeal and Section 1 of the Lleida Court of Appeal recently followed this trend by maintaining a favourable stance towards the principle that in order to classify a wilful act of trademark counterfeiting as a criminal offence, the end consumer must have been deceived while purchasing the counterfeit product.
Barcelona Commercial Court Number 4 recently dismissed an action filed against several generic drug companies which alleged infringement of two patents claiming manufacturing processes for the active ingredient drospirenone. The court upheld the defendants' arguments and held that when determining the scope of protection conferred by a patent, claims must be interpreted in light of the patent's description.