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Competition & Antitrust
The Patent and Market Court of Appeal recently overturned a Patent and Market Court judgment relating to Swedish Match's marketing conduct for snus products. While the Tobacco Act restricts the way snus may be marketed (eg, marketing may not invite the use of tobacco or be intrusive), the court found that Swedish Match had objective reasons that were also proportionate when introducing its labelling system.
Under the Competition Act, claims that a document is covered by legal privilege may be assessed by the courts. However, no equivalent possibility of judicial review exists for documents that allegedly fall outside the scope of dawn raid warrants. The question remains as to whether the lack of judicial review of such decisions is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law.
In December 2017 the Svea Court of Appeal dismissed an abuse of dominance damages claim against Telia Company AB. In 2013 Telia was fined for abusing its dominant position in the asymmetric digital subscriber line market by applying a margin squeeze on its competitors. Earlier in 2017 a follow-on claim by telecoms operator Yarps, based on the same infringement, was rejected by the Svea Court of Appeal.
After years of intense debate, a new government bill will give the Competition Authority greater decision-making powers in relation to notified mergers in Sweden. An official government report states that the authority's decision-making powers should lead to an increased incentive for fast, high-quality decision making and eliminate time losses that might arise as a result of the authority preparing a lawsuit instead of a decision.
Energy & Natural Resources
The government recently presented a bill to Parliament suggesting changes to the electricity certificate system – Sweden's primary support system for renewable energy. Producers of renewable energy receive one certificate per megawatt hour of renewable energy produced. The government is now proposing to extend the certificate system to 2045 and to increase total quota obligations with an additional 18 terrawatt hours until 2030.
Environment & Climate Change
A Swedish district court recently ruled on a matter where approximately 800 Chileans had sued a Swedish mining company for damages, based on the grounds that the mining company had exported toxic waste which subsequently caused damage to the plaintiffs' health. The court held that the mining company was not liable for damages and the plaintiffs were obliged to pay the mining company's full litigation costs.
In the mid-1980s a Swedish mining company exported toxic waste to Chile to be processed. In the 1990s the waste was allegedly used in building foundations and the high arsenic levels allegedly caused serious health issues to the local residents. Subsequently, close to 800 Chileans sued the Swedish mining company. The trial started in October 2017 after more than three years of preparatory proceedings. A decision is expected in early 2018.
The Land and Environment Court of Appeal recently determined a case regarding exemption from national provisions to protect the fungus species Sarcosoma globosum. While the ruling provides some nuance and clarification, the case has since been subject to interesting and varying interpretations by land owners, authorities and law practitioners.
The Cross-party Committee on Environmental Objectives recently presented its final report, "A climate policy framework for Sweden". The Climate Policy Framework is a result of a cross-party political agreement that will supposedly make the climate a top issue in all policy work. The report resulted in a draft bill which was circulated for consideration. The Council on Legislation presented its views on the new Climate Act in February 2017.
The Environmental Court recently rejected a farmers' organisation's appeal and refused to grant a new emergency authorisation for the use of Stomp SC in Sweden regarding the commercial production of onions. According to the appellant, the decision could jeopardise the competitiveness of certain Swedish crops on the European market, since Stomp SC is allowed in other EU member states and no equally effective alternatives are available in Sweden.
The Drinking Water Inquiry recently submitted its final report to the government. The aim of the report was to identify challenges to a secure drinking water supply from raw water sources to delivery, and to suggest relevant actions. The inquiry contains good proposals to improve planning and management of drinking water from source to tap. However, its future success relies heavily on the work of authorities within their appointed areas of responsibility.
Sweden has obligations and climate goals in line with its duties as an EU member state. National policies on climate issues relate to these and other objectives set out by Parliament. A major question for the Swedish energy system remains over the future of its extensive nuclear power programme and how a gradual phase-out of nuclear power would affect the ambitious national goals on carbon dioxide emissions.
The new Ordinance on Traffic Noise Levels in Housing Construction contains provisions on noise from rail, road and airport traffic. The main purposes of the ordinance are to harmonise the legal framework for construction and promote the construction of residential buildings in urban areas. The ordinance sends a clear signal that the legislature intends to fulfil the goals set out to promote housing construction in urban areas.
The Land and Environment Court of Appeal recently tried two cases concerning the interpretation of the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Both cases concerned the construction of wind turbines in areas where birds protected under the directive live and breed. The central question was whether the construction of the wind turbines should be considered to be the deliberate killing of these birds, and therefore prohibited.
The Chemicals Agency has published new guidelines for suppliers of articles concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals duties to inform about candidate list substances. The new guidelines underline the importance for Swedish suppliers to comply with the Swedish interpretation of how to calculate the level of substances in an article.
One of the largest science infrastructure projects in Europe, the European Spallation Source (ESS), has been given the formal go-ahead to start construction on the outskirts of Lund, Sweden. The groundbreaking took place after permission from the Swedish Land and Environmental Court and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. The environmental licensing of the ESS has given rise to a wide array of complex assessments.
A recent Environmental Court of Appeal ruling has clarified a property owner's liability for contaminated land. Such liability is subsidiary to the polluter's liability and comes into play when it is impossible to find the liable operator, or when the operator is unable to pay for or carry out the necessary remedial measures. The court has now established the scope of the subsidiary liability in relation to the specific time limit rule.
Target values for noise emissions from traffic and industrial activities follow authority guidelines and are not set by statutory law. Existing rules on noise pollution are believed to impede the building of new dwellings in Sweden, especially in urban areas where the demand is greater. In order to increase building, the government has decided to investigate the possibility of improving coordination of the existing regulations.
In a recent decision the Environmental Court of Appeal discussed the concept of operator liability and stated that in each individual case the person or entity which is the operator of the polluting activities must be considered. The decision established that, under certain circumstances, a parent company could be held liable for activities by its subsidiary which have caused contamination.
Healthcare & Life Sciences
The Stockholm Administrative Court recently ruled that the obligation on tenderers of public procurements of medicinal products to have routines which ensure that the use and handling of active ingredients would have as little effect on the environment as possible, as well as the obligation that they routinely survey and have dialogue with their subcontractors, were permissible. The decision has been appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal in Stockholm, which has yet to make a decision.
In eight landmark decisions, the Patent and Market Court of Appeal decided that the terms for already granted supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) should be recalculated in order to reflect a 2015 European Court of Justice decision regarding the method for calculating SPC terms under EU Regulation 469/2009. Several pharmaceutical companies that had been granted SPCs noted that the Patent and Registration Office's method of calculating SPC terms was not in line with EU law.
The Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency recently reassessed the reimbursement status of Cerezyme and VPRIV – two products indicated against Gaucher's disease – and decided to decrease the products' prices. This caused the marketing authorisation holders behind the products to withdraw them from the reimbursement system. Consequently, there is no longer a product against Gaucher's disease that is nationally reimbursed in Sweden.
The government recently issued new directives to review the pricing and reimbursement system and the national financing system for medicinal products. The government declared that the existing system is complex and complicated and must be improved in order to operate a modern healthcare system. The review seeks to find a clear division of responsibilities between the national government and local county councils and regions and to establish foreseeable processes for stakeholders.
The Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency (TLV) recently denied reimbursement for an orphan drug for the treatment of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension based on a health technology assessment which took into account off-label use of treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). The Stockholm Administrative Court has since upheld the TLV decision, agreeing with the TLV's reasoning that the orphan drug should be compared with available PAH treatments.
The Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that e-cigarettes not marketed for smoking cessation purposes should not be classified as medicinal products. The court stated that in order to be classified as a medicinal product, the product, if used as intended, must be capable of appreciably restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions in human beings. It is not sufficient that the product has a pharmacological effect on the body's functions.
The Supreme Administrative Court recently handed down a long-awaited judgment in the case between the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency and the Skane Region. The court departed from earlier judgments and stated that county councils and regions are permitted to enter into discount agreements with pharmaceutical companies for medicinal products which are included in the reimbursement scheme.
The Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal recently clarified the possibility to consider financial aspects when determining whether there are special requirements for granting a named patient permission. The court dismissed arguments that high prices and limited availability of an authorised medicinal product could constitute special requirements for a named patient permission for an unauthorised medicinal product.
A pharmaceutical company's recent application to the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency (TLV) for a pricing and reimbursement decision regarding a medicinal product with orphan drug status was rejected. The decision appears to be the first in which a product under off-label use has been used as a comparator in the TLV's health technology assessment.
The Uppsala Administrative Court has upheld a Medical Products Agency decision that a generic inhaler was not considered substitutable within the substitutability groups for which the generic company had applied. The court denied substitutability based on the generic inhaler's incompatibility with a spacer mentioned in the original inhaler's summary of product characteristics.
The Administrative Court of Appeal recently issued a judgment on the pricing of orphan drugs in the reimbursement system. The court considered whether a maximum price cap exists with regard to the cost-effectiveness calculation within the health technology assessment. The outcome is unsatisfactory for pharmaceutical companies, particularly those with orphan drugs or innovative new drugs in their product portfolio.
The government and the Left Party recently reached agreement on initiatives aimed at restricting private companies from engaging in certain publicly funded healthcare, care and educational services and, as part of that limit, their right to distribute profits. Much of the criticisms leading up to the suggested initiatives may be addressed by stricter tender procedures.
The Administrative Court of Appeal recently held that it is not possible for county councils and regions to acquire a discount on the price of medicinal products in the reimbursement system. The decision has been appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. It remains to be seen what will happen to existing discount agreements within the reimbursement system should leave to appeal not be granted.
The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL) represents the county councils which operate the majority of Swedish hospitals. The SKL has put in place a new cooperation framework for the introduction of new innovative medicinal products. The framework seeks to enable county councils to act as strong buyers of medicinal products, which would lead to, among other things, faster access to new treatments.
On the ever-growing market for streaming services and online access to TV broadcasts, illegal services are common and sometimes difficult to shut down due to their technical complexity and the multi-jurisdictional scope of the infringing activities. The Patent and Market Court recently held three persons liable for global retransmissions of TV broadcasts, sentencing them to prison and awarding rights holders significant compensation for damages.
A new Trade Secrets Act, which implements the EU Trade Secrets Directive, recently entered into force. Even if the strengthened position for trade secret owners is welcome, discrepancies remain between trade secrets and other IP rights. Further, any dispute on trade secrets will not be subject to the jurisdiction of Sweden's specialised IP courts – jurisdiction will remain vested in the courts of general jurisdiction and often subject to labour dispute rules.
The Supreme Court has rendered its judgment in a long-running dispute concerning private copying levies on mobile phones with an external memory device. The court found that the right to collect private copying levies extends to devices which consist of two technically independent devices, even if the independent devices are not "especially suited for the production of copies of works for private use" and would thus not be subject to private copying levies if sold individually.
The Supreme Court has confirmed that domain names are property which can be forfeited to the state, providing rights holders with another measure in their fight against online infringement. The court noted that the concept of 'property' is central for the rules on forfeiture. It concluded that a person who registers a domain name is granted an exclusive right to that domain name and the right to a domain name may be subject to dispute resolution and entitlement claims.
The Supreme Court recently clarified that copyright infringement is not a crime where the presumed penalty is imprisonment. This decision marks a change in relation to previous case law regarding the penalty for copyright infringement through illegal file sharing. The Supreme Court has now aligned the view on the severity of IP infringements. This is a welcome development, although rights holders may have benefited from a stricter view and a development in the opposite direction.
The holder of an IP right which considers that right to be infringed will often seek a preliminary injunction. If the injunction is wrongfully granted and then overturned, the plaintiff is liable to pay damages to the defendant. A recent Supreme Court case discussed several issues relevant to proceedings concerning such damages and damages in general and is likely to be a leading case for years to come.
In a recent case, the claimants brought forward other circumstances to demonstrate that a preparatory patent infringement had occurred. The Stockholm District Court was clear that it must be demonstrated that preparatory acts are undertaken with the intent to commit or promote patent infringement. The decision appears to indicate that stating in general terms that valid patent rights will be respected is sufficient to oppose claims of preparatory infringement.
The Svea Court of Appeal recently shed much-needed light on whether a right to digital use can be established through the interpretation of recording contracts from a time when such use did not even exist. The case shows how a party to a contract can be found to have consented to new terms regarding digital use through passivity and confirms that a recording artist has standing to seek an injunction on his or her own without the co-creators.
The Stockholm Patent and Market Court recently sentenced four company executives to up to 18 months in prison and ordered them to pay fines and damages amounting to several million Swedish kronor for copyright and trademark infringement through the online sale of counterfeit furniture. In light of the considerable damages, forfeiture of illegal gains and criminal liability, the story is likely to continue with an appeal.
The Supreme Court recently ruled on whether linking to live broadcasts of hockey games was communication to the public, and whether the live broadcasts met the requirements for copyright protection. The court made clear that the EU standard of copyright fully applies in Swedish law. Following this judgment, it would appear that these types of broadcast can rely only on the protection of related rights.
In the first decision of its kind from a Swedish appellate court, a Svea Court of Appeal panel recently found that car rims do not constitute spare parts and thus enjoy the protections offered by the EU Community Designs Regulation. The court's findings give the spare parts exemption a fittingly narrow and functional interpretation in line with the regulation.
The Supreme Court recently clarified the scope of jurisdiction of the Swedish courts in infringement actions involving Swedish trademarks where the infringer is domiciled outside the European Union or European Economic Area. Due to the territorial character of nationally registered trademarks, there is a legal interest for the country of registration to hear cases where a national trademark right has been invoked.
The Supreme Court has strengthened the position of copyright holders in enforcing their rights against companies trying to circumvent court-ordered injunctions. Companies are generally not responsible for the actions of third parties. However, the company can be held responsible if it fails to prove that it has taken reasonable measures to prevent the third party from violating the injunction.
The Supreme Court recently confirmed that the Swedish implementation of the EU IP Rights Enforcement Directive goes further than the directive in relation to the information on infringing goods that a party can be ordered to provide. Under Swedish law, an information order can relate not only to goods which have been established to be infringing, but also to other specimens of the goods sold before and after the infringing goods.
The Svea Court of Appeal recently clarified the method used by the courts to determine whether a trademark should be cancelled due to lack of distinctive character or degeneration. The court also provided guidelines on the importance of rights holders enforcing their rights and the value of well-conducted market surveys at the time of registering a trademark.
In certain situations the use of a third party's trademark is allowed – for example, to show that services for another business's products are offered. The Stockholm District Court recently clarified the distinction between the use of logos and word marks for such purposes, confirming that while the former create the impression of a commercial connection between two undertakings, the latter do not.
Whether a crime should be considered as punishable by imprisonment is based on the general penal value of the crime. In a recent case the Supreme Court considered whether a prison sentence is the presumed penalty in counterfeiting cases based on trademark rights. If the penal value is less than one year, it held, prison should be the last resort.
The Supreme Court recently considered Mon.Zon's use of Layher's trademark in its product catalogue. The court held that the product catalogues were directed only to prospective buyers and that the use of a photograph displaying Layher's trademark implied no connection between Layher and Mon.Zon. The court concluded that Mon.Zon had caused no damage to the trademark's indication of origin function.
Sweden has recently signed an agreement on the establishment of a Nordic-Baltic regional division of the Unified Patent Court. According to the agreement, English will be the only language of proceedings and the seat of the regional divisional will be in Stockholm. The Swedish national court structure for IP disputes is under revision.
HTC held a patent protecting the cleaning product Twister. HÅTE introduced a competing product and HTC instigated proceedings on the basis of patent infringement. The Gota Court of Appeal found that HÅTE's sales of the patented product should not be deducted from the compensation for lost profits, as HÅTE had already sold small quantities of Twister before the injunction.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has held that the design of the Mini Maglite torch is sufficiently original and individual to enjoy copyright protection. In its reasoning the court thoroughly set forth the legal position and the threshold of originality required for copyright protection for applied art.
Sweden has now implemented the EU IP Rights Enforcement Directive. Some of the key changes relate to the right to information, publicity measures and corrective measures. Although the amendments have reinforced the penalties available within the IP field, there remain many unresolved issues to be determined by the courts.
The Stockholm District Court has rendered its judgment in the case against the operators of the Pirate Bay, considered to be the world's most visited file-sharing website. In a major victory for the entertainment industry, the defendants were each sentenced to one year's imprisonment and ordered to pay Skr30 million in damages to the rights holders concerned.
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court established that drinking water is a product within the meaning of the Product Liability Act. Therefore, the determination of damages for municipalities and municipal companies which supply contaminated drinking water can be tried in accordance with this act. If a clear causal connection is established, it will be much easier for injured parties to obtain compensation.
Tech, Data, Telecoms & Media
The debate regarding hidden marketing by influencers has been ongoing for some time, as social media's influencer scene grows from strength to strength. A recent judicial court judgment that the indication that a post constitutes marketing must be made at the very beginning of the post is perhaps unsurprising, as it is based on an established principle that the consumer must be able to identify marketing before he or she has read the entire advertisement.
The Supreme Court recently outlined the assessment of the terms 'trader' and 'marketing' with regard to a municipality's use of a private individual's picture in newspaper advertisements and other informative material. After a city in a municipality had been named the European capital of culture, the municipality used a picture showing a person. The person sued the municipality for damages on the grounds that it had used the picture in marketing the municipality and its business without his consent.