Legal Alert – Market Court to Handle Civil IPR Matters as of 1 September 2013
The Market Court will become the exclusive court for most intellectual property related legal proceedings in Finland as of 1 September 2013. Finland will become the first Nordic country to have a specialized IP Court. The aim of the reform is to improve judicial court expertise in IPR matters, to increase quality and efficiency as well as to speed up the proceedings.
Market Court becomes a centralized IP Court
The Market Court in its current form is already a specialist court with specific jurisdiction on cases related to unfair business practices, competition, marketing regulation and public procurement. As of 1 September 2013, the Market Courts mandate will increase significantly as it obtains the first instance jurisdiction on all civil IPR matters. Criminal proceedings with an IPR linkage will however continue to be handled by the District Courts.
The Market Court will also simultaneously become the appeal instance for the administrative decisions of the National Board of Patents and Registrations (the NBPR) concerning patents, trademarks, trade names among others. In addition, appeals concerning domain name decisions by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority FICORA will be heard by the Market Court.
The Market Court will be the exclusive first instance for IPR civil suits which are filed on or after 1 September 2013. The reform will not affect the actions already pending before the general courts. However, administrative IPR registration appeals from the NBPR decisions are gradually transferred during a transition period as follows. Trademark related matters pending on or after 1 January 2013 and other matters pending on or after 1 May 2013 at the Board of Appeal of the NBPR are transferred to the Market Court to the extent they have not already been decided.
The reform also involves a fundamental change to the IPR appeal procedures. Depending on the nature of the case, the decisions of the Market Court can be appealed to either the Supreme Court or the Administrative Supreme Court. In both cases however, the appellant is required to obtain a leave to appeal. In many IPR cases, the Market Court will then become a de facto sole instance as no automatic appeal route will be available.
Implications of the reform
The key aim of the reform is to improve the court expertise and efficiency in IPR cases. In order to increase the quality of the proceedings as well as to decrease the duration of the trials, the Market Court plans to streamline its case management from the start. For example, the Market Court will shortly publish a detailed practice guide to attorneys.
The reform and centralization itself bring immediate benefits as it removes structural barriers enabling a variety of disputes to be handled under the auspices of one trial. For example, the Market Court can hear a case combining questions of a trade mark infringement, breach of unfair business practices and a claim for damages. In the current system, such disputes would have to be divided into several trials handled by different courts.
Due to the removal of the normal appeal route, many of the IPR related cases are likely to be finally decided by the Market Court. Because the Market Court will be often the only chance to argue the case and present evidence, meticulous planning and preparation will be necessary. The parties are however, due to the removal of the normal appeal phase likely to obtain a final decision faster than before.
At this point, it remains to be seen to what extent the IPR trial proceedings are accelerated and what implications the removal of the general appeal route may cause. For the system to function reliably without automatic appeal possibility, general quality in judgments along with careful reasoning will be necessary. After meticulous planning and extensive recruiting phase it is believed that the Market Court will be up to the challenge.