Four regional courts in Warsaw, Lublin, Gdańsk and Poznań and two courts of appeal in Poznań and Warsaw are to be designated as specialized courts to handle intellectual and industrial property cases. The long-awaited changes will come into effect as of 1 July 2020. The act required for their implementation has already been signed into law by the President.
The Act amending the Civil Procedure Code and some other acts was voted through in Sejm in February 2020. Owing to the amendments, we will have new courts to deal exclusively with matters related to industrial property rights, copyright and unfair competition as well as cases concerning the protection of personal rights as long as they involve the marketing-related use of a name or image, e.g. for advertising or promotional purposes.
New intellectual property courts will adjudicate in cases concerning industrial property rights, copyright and related rights, as well as intellectual property rights, including cases filed to prevent and combat unfair competition, to protect personal rights insofar as a personal right is used for personalizing advertisements or promoting an entrepreneur, goods and services, to protect personal rights related to scientific or inventive activities, and to protect other intangible property rights.
These newly established courts will be unique not only due to the fact they will consider cases concerning exclusively a specific range of topics. As laid down by the legislator, these cases will be adjudicated on by judges specifically trained in the area of intellectual and industrial property rights and combat against unfair competition.
The judges’ competence is extremely important here, as cases concerning the aforementioned matters are frequently very complex. Consequently, issues regarding inventions, computer programs, utility models, integrated circuit topography, plant varieties, as well as business secrets of a technical nature will be considered as part of the specialized courts system, but only by the court in Warsaw.
Following the amendment, the only specialized court to date, the Court for Community Trade Marks and Industrial Designs, will cease to exist. When the new regulations enter into force, cases regarding Community trade marks and designs pending there will be dealt with by the new specialized regional courts.
Another important change arising from the amended provisions is the obligation for parties to appoint an attorney – a lawyer, attorney at law or a patent attorney (for the disputes the value of which exceeds PLN 20,000). Apart from representing their clients in court, attorneys will assist the parties to accomplish formalities and help prepare evidence or substantive arguments.
So far, in most cases, patent attorneys have not been able to represent their clients in court in copyright cases. With the amended regulations, they are vested with extended powers which are integral to their profession. As many industrial property cases involve copyright issues, by acquiring the right to represent their clients in this field patent attorneys will be able to provide their services in a comprehensive manner.
Further, new instruments will be used in intellectual and industrial property proceedings. It will be easier to secure evidence and obtain information in infringement cases. When requesting the disclosure and provision of evidence, it will be possible, for example, to obtain bank, financial or commercial documents required to disclose the circumstances of the infringement.
What is also new is the introduction of special types of action, i.e. counterclaim and action for establishing that specified activities do not infringe a given patent, supplementary protection right, protection right or right in registration.
To date, a counterclaim in cases concerning the infringement of a trade mark or industrial design right, including a request for cancellation or revocation of these rights, could only be made before the Patent Office.
In turn, an action for establishing that specified activities do not infringe a given patent, supplementary protection right, protection right or right in registration enables undertakings planning to invest in or develop their business to avoid the costs to be paid in the event of infringement of someone else’s rights. In order to initiate such proceedings, parties must prove the existence of legal interest.
Is such a specialization required and, if so, why? The community of patent attorneys has been campaigning for such specialized courts in which intellectual property rights could be pursued for a long time. The number of intellectual property cases is growing every year. As these are complex and often lengthy cases, assigning them to specialized courts, including courts of appeal, with professional attorneys involved, should improve the quality and accelerate the adjudication process. Provided that judges will specialize in this narrow field.
The amendment will enter into force as of 1 July 2020. Cases pending up to that date will continue to be handled as before.