All IP disputes to be centralized in one court

A committee set up by the Finnish Ministry of Justice has been charged with the task of preparing a proposal for transferring all IP disputes to the Market Court.

The proposal is part of a wider strategy of the Finnish government to strengthen the national innovation policy. A key aspect of this strategy is the centralization of all IP-related disputes in one court - with the exception of criminal actions, which will continue to be heard by the district courts.
The proposal will affect all disputes that are currently being handled by the district courts. In addition, cases pending before the Board of Appeal of the National Board of Patents and Registration (NBPR) will be transferred to the Market Court. Therefore, in the future, decisions of the NBPR in both examination and opposition proceedings will be appealed to the Market Court, instead of the Board of Appeal. The Board of Appeal will cease to exist.
The main goal of the proposal is to ensure that the judges making decisions in IP cases have sufficient expertise in that field. Furthermore, the proposal aims to reduce the length of the proceedings. Currently, the Board of Appeal takes around two-and-a-half to three years to issue a decision on appeal, which may prove very problematic for the parties.
The committee has recently approached trademark attorneys and other practitioners with experience of Board of Appeal proceedings, asking for their insight on these issues. In addition, the committee is seeking suggestions on how IP matters should be handled by the Market Court so as to improve efficiency and quality in appeal proceedings. Responses were due by October 2 2009 and the committee is currently studying them.

It remains to be seen whether and how proceedings before the Market Court will differ from those before the Board of Appeal. However, it is hoped that the proposal will speed up appeal proceedings significantly. It is expected that the Market Court will start hearing cases from 2012.

Marjut Alhonnoro, Benjon Oy, Helsinki

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