On 20 June 2017, a ruling between Sprinter megacentros del deporte SL and Diesel SpA was made regarding similar trademarks indicating there would be a risk of consumers being misled in relation to two similar figurative marks in the form of the letter “D” in respect of identical goods. A consumer would have to examine the marks very closely, which is unlikely since the average consumer seldom has the opportunity to compare trademarks side by side.
On 29 November 2017, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) released its judgment in response to a reference from an Italian court relating to cloud recording and computing services provided by VCAST Limited (VCAST). The services enabled VCAST’s customers to select live broadcasts of television programmes that VCAST then remotely, through its own systems, recorded and made available in a cloud data storage space. The Italian court asked whether VCAST could provide this service without the permission from the owner of the copyright over the programme, with a specific query as to the application of the private copying exception provided in Article 5(2)(b) of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) (InfoSoc Directive).
In just a few weeks, Piaggio – the Italian company manufacturing iconic Vespa scooters – obtained a double victory before Italian courts both under the intellectual property and the copyright perspectives.
2017 provides companies based and operating in Italy with a new opportunity for promoting their IP assets.
The Italian Government has launched a tender for granting allowances intended to support historical trademarks, for a total amount of 4,5 million Euro. The purpose of this new initiative is to promote and boost the historical and cultural entrepreneurial heritage of Italy by supporting specific national trademarks.
Allowances are granted for expenses related to manufacturing and commercial promotion of the historical trademark. This includes the purchase of goods and services for manufacturing purposes based on a plan for the promotion of the trademark involving goods and services falling under the scope of protection of the trademark – i.e. Nice classes for which the trademark is registered.
Further allowances could be also granted for activities related to the strengthening of the historical trademark, its extension at European and international level and to Nice classes other than those for which the trademark was previously registered, provided that their application comes along with another one for allowances related to the promotion of the trademark as described above.
In order to obtain the benefit of such allowances, companies of micro, small and medium dimensions complying with specific requirements must prove that their historical trademark is valid, registered before the Italian Patent and Trademark Office (UIBM) or the EUIPO with seniority claim for registration before the UIBM, not revoked, and that its application for registration was filed before the UIBM before January 1, 1967.
Companies can file their application from April 4, 2017 and until allowances stock lasts.
In December 2016 the Italian government ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA). By this ratification, Italian patent law now has a new rule on the prevention of indirect use of an invention (“indirect counterfeiting”), which is unprecedented in Italy.
The text of the new law amends the Italian Industrial Property Code by reference to Article 26 of the UPCA, by stating:
“A patent confers on its proprietor the right to prevent any third party not having the proprietor’s consent, from supplying or offering to supply, within the territory of the state in which that patent has effect, any person other than a party entitled to exploit the patented invention, with means, relating to an essential element of that invention, for putting it into effect therein, when the third party knows, or should have known by ordinary diligence, that those means are suitable and intended for putting that invention into effect.
The above paragraph does not apply when the means are common commercial products, except where the third party induces the person supplied to perform any of the acts prohibited under the qualification of direct use of the invention.”
This law – which was added to the pre-existing Article 66 of the Italian Industrial Property Code – makes reference to a list of persons and acts excluded from being able to exploit an invention. Such a list is contained in Article 68 of the Italian Industrial Property Code, which currently remains unmodified.
The implementation of this rule on “indirect counterfeiting” represents a step forward in legal protection for patents in Italy.
On December 9 2015 the European Commission presented a proposal for European Copyright reform. The proposed framework, inspired by the European digital single market project, aims to provide European users with wider content and strengthen copyright protection, as well as ensure authors a fair remuneration.
Through judgment no. 23292 of November 13 2015, the Italian Supreme Court introduced a distinction between objective and subjective standards, which should guide the judges’ assessment in order to decide if an industrial design can seek protection under Italian copyright law (the “IC Law”).
The Supreme Court recalled the principles established under the IC Law providing that:
- industrial designs are worthy of protection if they have a “quid pluris” that consists of creative and artistic features; and
- simple creative works are worthy of protection even if they only have an intrinsic artistic value.
A recent judgment on 16 June 2015 (no. 7432/2015), saw the Court of Milan ascertain the difference between a shape trademark and an artistic shape classified as industrial design protected under copyright law.
The dispute concerned the use and the reproduction of the design of the renowned ‘Nathalie’ bed (the Design), which was created in the ‘70s by Italian designer and architect Vico Magistretti. Mr. Magistretti (and later his heirs) granted an exclusive licence of the Design to the plaintiff.
On 31 August 2015 the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Court of Genova (Italian Prosecutor) issued a sequestration order for copyright infringement against popular streaming software: Popcorn Time.
Popcorn Time (the Software) is open source software which links users through a peer-to-peer network by allowing them to stream and watch movies or TV series. In other words, the Software does not allow users to download data from a server, but users can download files directly from different sources (i.e. other users).
On February 2, 2015, (judgment no. 1861) the Italian Supreme Court ruled on a case involving two Italian companies active in the sector of furniture: Natuzzi S.p.A., owner of the Italian and European trademark ‘Divani & Divani’ (Trademark 1), and Divini & Divani S.r.l. (Divini & Divani), which started to use the trademark ‘Divini & Divani’ (Trademark 2).
Natuzzi claimed that the use of Trademark 2 was illegitimate, constituted an act of unfair competition as well as trademark infringement claiming the use generated confusion amongst customers. In particular, Natuzzi stated that, even if Trademark 1 was composed by two common words (literally in English ‘Sofas & Sofas’), it acquired specific distinctiveness. Consequently, Natuzzi sought to prevent Divini & Divani from using Trademark 2 as a company name and a trademark for its products. Divini & Divani counterclaimed that Natuzzi’s requests were groundless because there could not be any confusion between the trademarks and, in any case, Trademark 1 was weak and consequently, not worthy of protection.