In a high-profile trademark infringement case involving Moët Hennessey Champagne Services and a Belgian painter, the courts were asked to strike a balance between the right to property, including intellectual property, and artistic freedom of expression. The decision is expected to set an important precedent on how to strike a fair balance between freedom of speech and the protection of trademarks when these two concepts conflict.
The Arlon Court of First Instance recently ruled that Belgian law did not grant organisers of sporting events the exclusive right to use photos taken at such events. It is settled case law in Belgium that IP rights, insofar as they are an exception to the principle of freedom to do business, must be strictly interpreted.
In a criminal case involving Nintendo, a Belgian court examined for the first time the legal status of devices known as 'linkers', which circumvent technological protection measures. The court held that the sole function of linkers is to circumvent such measures - dismissing the defendants' argument that they were intended for other purposes - and that these devices therefore breach IP laws.
A Belgian court recently annulled two DUFF BEER Community trademarks owned by Twentieth Century Fox. The court ruled that although the trademarks might have a reputation for (virtual) beer in the television series The Simpsons, they did not necessarily have a reputation for the real-world goods for which they were registered. However, owners of such trademarks may be able to rely on unfair competition law.
Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalón recently issued his opinion on questions referred by the Brussels Court of Appeal in an illegal downloading case. Contrary to some media interpretations, it is wrong to claim that he considers the protection of privacy and personal data to take clear precedence over copyright. Rather, the opinion criticises the general nature of the measures being sought and the legal basis of the request.
The new Market Practices and Consumer Protection Act simplifies the protection of appellations of origin and geographical indications in Belgium, bringing national legislation into line with EU law. As such, it reinforces the framework for appellations of origin and geographical indications and strengthens the positions of rights holders.
The transposition into Belgian law of the EU Enforcement Directive in 2007 gave Belgium an opportunity to review and harmonize the procedures for handling IP disputes. Two years after the legislation came into effect, the assessment of the reform is overwhelmingly positive.