Exclusive jurisdiction of civil courts in IP cases confirmed

The Paris Court of Appeal has confirmed that the civil courts have exclusive jurisdiction over IP cases (February 11 2009).
The decision was issued in a copyright case. The issue was whether following the enactment of the law of November 29 2007 and the interpretative law of August 4 2008, commercial courts still had jurisdiction over copyright cases.
In a short decision, the Court of Appeal held that the law of August 4 2008 clearly states that, as of October 31 2007, only the tribunaux de grande instance (civil courts) have jurisdiction over copyright cases.
Interestingly, the court added that this principle was also applicable in trademark and design rights cases. However, somewhat surprisingly, the court did not state that this principle also applied in cases involving geographical indications. The court pointed out that this was true even though the decree which specifies which courts of first instance have jurisdiction in IP cases has not yet been published.
The decision implies that except in actions involving only unfair competition issues, all cases involving patents, trademarks, designs and copyright will now be decided by the civil courts.
With regard to patents, only eight courts have jurisdiction. With regard to trademarks, the Paris civil court is the only court with jurisdiction over Community trademark cases and will certainly be among the few courts with jurisdiction over national trademark issues. The number of courts dealing with cases involving copyright and national design rights will also decrease. It is expected that the Paris civil court will be designated as the competent court to hear cases involving Community design rights.
In a nutshell, the Paris civil court, which already handles the majority of IP cases in France, will see an increase in workload in the near future.

Importantly, eight courts of first instance have exclusive jurisdiction over competition cases. In cases involving both IP and competition law, the plaintiff will thus have to decide in which court to file the case.
Richard Milchior, Granrut Avocats, Paris

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