A Centralized IP Court – on Time, Definitely! Editorial.
The idea of a centralized and specific IP Court in Finland was first expressed over ten years ago. The formal initiative was a letter drafted in 1999 by the Finnish Industrial Property Association together with the Finnish AIPPI Group addressed to the Finnish Minister of Justice. In the letter, the Associations drew attention to the increasing amount of IP lawsuits, the importance of IP issues to companies and also to the development in the EU aiming at the creation of a centralized patent court.
Currently, IP issues are handled in a “dual system”, partly in the administrative system and partly in the civil court system. Decisions on the registration of rights made by the National Board of Patents and Registration (NBPR) can be appealed to the Board of Appeal of the NBPR, and after that to the Supreme Administrative Court. Civil as well as criminal cases on industrial property rights have been centralized to the District Court of Helsinki. Cases involving copyright and neighboring rights are currently heard in all of the 27 district courts. The second instance is the Appeal Court of Helsinki and the final instance is the Supreme Court – provided that the Court grants a leave to appeal.
The question of a centralized IP Court was also taken into discussion in January 2009 when the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Education produced a report on which the Government could base its strategy. The National IPR Strategy was published on 26 March 2009 by the Finnish Government in the form of a resolution. One important fact concerning the efficiency and clarity of IPRs was seen to be the consolidating of handling of intellectual property rights disputes. It was also said in the resolution that the necessary resources for the IP court would be ensured for the Ministry of Justice.
The first working group on the IP court started its work already in 2003 and a widely accepted proposal was delivered by the third working group on 30th March, 2010. The centralized IP court would have exclusive jurisdiction in the first instance in all matters concerning intellectual property rights – including copyright – except for criminal lawsuits. The centralization would be carried out by giving exclusive jurisdiction in the first instance to the Market Court. Only financing lacked at this stage.
In March 2012, the Finnish government decided to grant funding for the creation of the centralized IP court. This decision will need to be confirmed by the Finnish Parliament. As the parties forming the government have majority in the Parliament, the decision is not expected to face much opposition.
The centralization requires legislative changes concerning the procedure in the Market Court. A proposal for the new legislation is due to be presented to the Parliament in October 2012 in order to get the new IP Court functioning on 1st of September 2013 as planned.
The competences of the Market Court will cover all civil and petitionary matters relating to patent and utility model rights, trademark and trade name rights, design rights, rights for layout-designs of integrated circuits, plant breeders’ rights as well as copyright and neighboring rights. The Court will have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of appeals over the administrative decisions of the NBPR concerning registrations of industrial property rights. It will also handle appeals over the administrative decisions of the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (Ficora) regarding the granting of domain names for the .fi root. Moreover, in the new system the Market Court will handle applications for precautionary measures which are based on IP rights.
The second and the supreme instances will probably be left unaffected. Concerning appeals over the decisions of the Market Court in respect of civil and petitionary matters, the appeal procedure might change, but the end of the route will still be the Supreme Court. Appeals in administrative matters would take the administrative route to the Supreme Administrative Court, basically in the same way as today. The Supreme Administrative Court will continue to be the highest instance in domain name matters also.
The decision about the EU Patent Court is probably made during spring 2012. It takes a while before the EU Patent Court functions, and in that mean time we have time to show that there is a specified IP Court and specified judges also in Finland.