European Commission takes France and Germany to task
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In Commission v France (Case C-507/07, June 3 2008) and Commission v Germany (Case C-395/07, June 5 2008), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that Germany and France had failed to meet deadlines in order to comply with their obligations under EU law.
In the first case, the European Commission asked the ECJ to confirm that France's failure to notify the commission of a list of French courts able to deal with Community designs meant that it had not complied with its obligations under the Community Design Regulation (6/2002). According to Article 80, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the regulation, member states were obliged to "designate as limited a number as possible of Community design courts" by March 6 2005 (namely, national courts and tribunals of first and second instance).
As the commission did not receive the list by the deadline, it wrote to the French government on October 19 2006, asking it to rectify its position. On December 22 2006 France responded, stating that on November 9 2006 it had submitted to the French Council of State a proposal for a law containing various measures to adapt the national law to that of the European Union. The commission judged this inadequate and appealed to the ECJ.
In its notice of defence, France listed numerous provisions which it had adopted in order to meet its obligations under Article 80 of the regulation, but conceded that it had not yet wholly adopted the decree which would determine its Community design courts. The ECJ inevitably concluded that France had failed to meet the deadline under Article 80 and awarded costs against it.
In the second case, on October 12 2006 the commission wrote to Germany, asking it to take the necessary steps to comply with the IP Rights Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC) within two months. Germany replied on December 4 2006, stating that it was in the course of transposing the directive into its national law and that this should be achieved by the end of 2007. As the commission received no further information that would allow it to conclude that the necessary measures had been adopted, it brought an action against Germany before the ECJ.
The commission asked the ECJ to hold that by omitting to transpose the directive into its national law by the deadline of April 29 2006 (as set by the directive), Germany had failed to comply with its obligations under the directive. While Germany did not deny that it had not taken the necessary steps, it advised the ECJ that the delay was essentially attributable to difficulties encountered in the legislative procedure relating to transposition.
This was insufficient for the ECJ, which referred to earlier judgments (involving the commission against France, Spain, Greece and Luxembourg) in which it had been established that member states cannot refer to internal legal matters to justify a failure to comply with obligations arising from directives within the relevant deadlines. Therefore, it concluded that Germany had failed to comply with its obligations and awarded costs against it.
In Germany's case, the relevant legislation has been passed by the German Parliament and is expected to come into force shortly. In addition, according to the website of GroupeRF, France published a decree the day after the ECJ judgment designating the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris as the Community Designs Court for France. Both developments show how effective ECJ judgments can be.
Chris McLeod, Hammonds, London
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