Poland’s Minister Of Culture Calls For Intellectu​al Property Courts

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Poland’s Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski has called on the country’s Ministry of Justice to create and integrate intellectual property courts into the country’s legal system. Under the plan, the new entities would become departments of regular courts, and they would be solely responsible for handling cases involving intellectual property, including disputes related to authors’ rights, trademarks and patents.

“Such a solution would provide authors and inventors with legal security for their inventions or works, and it would also facilitate harmonising the jurisdiction on intellectual property at the national level,” Zdrojewski said in a letter [in Polish] addressed to Polish Minister of Justice Marek Biernacki.

Should the proposal be implemented, the departments would be staffed with judges specialised in issues related to intellectual property. This, in turn, would allow to merge jurisdiction on these cases which is currently fragmented between various Polish institutions.

Presently, as pointed out in an analysis by local legal news site portalprocesowy.pl [in Polish], different institutions are involved in legal procedures involving various kinds of legal procedures related to intellectual property in Poland. For instance, Polish civil and criminal courts make rulings on violations of intellectual property and the principle of fair competition. As to trademarks, patents, industrial designs and protected geographical indications, they are registered by the Polish Patent Office (UPRP). The office also decides on annulling or extinguishing these rights, but appeals are reviewed by the Supreme Administrative Court (NSA) and the Regional Administrative Courts (WSA). This makes the Polish intellectual property regime a rather complex structure, some observers say.

Safeguarding Innovation

Emphasising the need for safeguarding intellectual property, the minister also said [in Polish] that the existence of such courts has “a substantial importance for innovation in modern economies.” To further justify the necessity of establishing the new court departments, he said that to date they have been set up by some 54 countries, including a number of European Union member states. Poland has been a member of the EU since 2004.

In early 2013, Zdrojewski put forward the same proposal to then-Minister of Justice Jarosław Gowin who was dismissed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk in late April. Since then, the Ministry of Justice has informed local media that the implementation of the reform would need to be preceded by a thorough analysis of statistical data on intellectual property-related cases handled by Polish courts, workforce capacity of said courts, costs of implementing the reform, as well as other factors. Within the structure of the Ministry of Justice, works on assessing the proposal have been performed by the Department of Civil Law, but they have not been finalised yet.

Government Support

In addition to Zdrojewski’s ministry, a number of other Polish ministries and government institutions have endorsed the proposal to streamline the system of handling intellectual property cases. These include the Ministry of Economy and the Polish Patent Office (UPRP), as reported by local news agency PAP [in Polish].

Similar initiatives have been formulated in the past in the course of inter-governmental discussions. In 2012, a proposal to set up intellectual property courts within the structures of a selected number of courts across the country was proposed following a meeting held at the Office of the Prime Minister which gathered Poland’s Minister of Administration and Digitisation Michał Boni, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Justice and the Polish Chamber of Patent Attorneys (PIRP).

Momentum for Reforms

The proposal to establish intellectual property courts within Poland’s legal system was also on the agenda of the second Authors’ Rights Forum (FPA) which took place on 6 June in Warsaw. Created by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the FPA was designed as a forum for artists, decision-makers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders. According to Zdrojewski, the forum has already produced momentum for further strengthening Poland’s IP regime. The first forum was held in March 2013.

“It is optimistic that we finally have joint proposals. One of them is the intellectual property court,” Zdrojewski told PAP [in Polish]. The minister’s statement means that the idea to create such courts is not only endorsed by the government, but is also driven by the country’s copyright industry.

“It is important to have courts which are specialised in these kinds of cases in Poland,” the minister said. “Cases concerning intellectual property, protection of authors’ rights are currently carried out through particularly arduous, lengthy and burdensome trials which very often produce conflicting judgments, issued in various parts of Poland.”

Intellectual Property Cases on the Rise

Meanwhile, the number of intellectual property cases in courts continues to increase. According to data obtained by daily newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna [in Polish], between 2008 and 2011, the number of cases related to intellectual property and handled by Polish courts rose from 154 to 206.

Under the current system, two major Polish legal acts are relevant for the protection of intellectual property in Poland. For artistic works, it is the law on authors’ rights [in Polish] from February 4, 1994, while industrial inventions, trademarks and their creators are protected by the industrial property law [in Polish] from 30 June 2000.

Addressing potential criticism of the idea, which could be based on the perspective that the courts could restrict access to knowledge by increasing its protection, the minister said that the proposal aims to benefit those who are interested in accessing knowledge as well.

“Legal uncertainty creates losses for consumers which are deprived of a legal offer and the security in using it,” Zdrojewski said.

As work on the proposal continues, a sufficient balance between copyright protection and ensuring adequate access to knowledge by citizens will need to be determined by the Polish government in its reform proposal, some observers say.

 

Jaroslaw Adamowski may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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