New step towards creation of specialised IP court

In the last decade, Portugal has taken steady steps towards judicial specialisation in IP matters. The recently enacted Law 46/2011, which creates a court specialising in intellectual property, constitutes a major breakthrough which was welcomed by IP rights owners and practitioners alike.
IP disputes were transferred to two commercial courts in 1999. These courts were also competent to hear company-related matters, such as insolvency proceedings, but not copyright disputes, which were heard by courts of general jurisdiction. This resulted in a considerable backlog of IP cases. Moreover, there was a lack of uniformity in IP decisions, which clearly called for a change in the country’s judicial organisation.
The model chosen for the new IP court has already been successfully implemented in other European countries, such as in neighbouring Spain, where the Community Trademark Court of Alicante has nationwide jurisdiction over matters involving Community trademarks.
The Portuguese IP Court, which in principle will be located in the small town of Santarem (70 kilometres north of Lisbon), will have jurisdiction over all IP-related disputes, including patent, trademark, trade name, copyright and related rights, unfair competition and domain name cases. The court will also be competent to hear appeals against decisions of the Portuguese Intellectual Property Office.
Among the expected benefits are:
  • a swifter decision-making process;
  • greater predictability for IP litigants, as cases will be heard by judges with enhanced expertise in this field; and
  • a much smaller number of appeals (which, in turn, will reduce costs for the parties).
Despite past controversies surrounding, for instance, the choice of the court’s location (which has still to be confirmed by the government), the new, long-awaited system is expected to make IP litigation more efficient and cost-effective.
While the Portuguese IP Court was expected to become operative in September 2011, it seems unlikely that this will happen before 2012 due to, among other things, the current economic climate and the country’s recent change of government.
João Miranda de Sousa, Garrigues, Madrid

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