The Greek crisis. Arguably the Greek crisis has monpolised the news in the last six-seven years. Anything connected to Greece detailed in the news seemed to be analysed through the lens of the Greek crisis.
Many people blame politics for the Greek crisis. The Greek crisis certainly changed a lot of everyday life in Greece, and people learnt to live with a different reality, perhaps a more limited one in some cases. But was it all bad?
The situation before the crisis
In order to answer this question we have to examine the situation before the crisis. At that time, many aspects of the Greek legal system seemed flawed. A range of issues came to my attention. It seemed that the all-powerful public servant, who was also part of the Greek Trademark Office, was in complete control about the amount of diligence applied (or lack of diligence) on any matter under their care. Court decisions took an excruciatingly long time to be issued with no foreseeable timeline ahead. There was also the lack of specialisation of some judges who at the time were hearing IP cases. Luckily this all seems to be in the past now.
The current situation
Today the reality is very different. Trade mark officers apply a much more user-friendly approach, use electronic means and are courteous and reliable. The IP court has become well-established, all of its judges are highly skilled and have issued some progressive decisions both in relation to patent and trade mark infringements. Indeed, judges in the IP court have been prompt, knowledgeable and shown true specialisation in IP law thus protecting the rights of IP holders. They have diligently applied the provisions of the Enforcement Directive.
Decisions indicating progress
Some decisions that indicate how much progress was made in Greek jurisprudence amidst the Greek crisis (with no identifiable details due to data protection restrictions in Greek law) are the following:
In a parallel imports matter, initiated by a multinational alcoholic drinks and beverages company in Greece, the aim was to stop the parallel imports of a Greek company from a non-EEA (non-European Economic Area) source, without the consent of the trade mark owner. Greek courts (akin to other jurisdictions in Europe) have been historically cautious in parallel imports cases, as the goods involved are genuine, creating doubt for some about the finding of infringement. In this particular matter, the court accepted that the trade mark is an exclusive right of the trade mark holder, who invests in its controlled appearance and supply, as well as its uniform appearance on specific markets.
The case involved large scale sales of parallel-imported products, via mainstream retail suppliers, all coming from the same source. The trade mark owner was able to overcome the parallel importers objections and diversions and was successfully able to prove that the specifications of the parallel imported products did not match its own requirements and the applicable public policy requirements in Greek jurisdiction for such products. This sufficed to prove beyond any doubt that the products were not destined for the Greek market at all. This resulted in the court finding for the plaintiff (the trade mark owner) who was also awarded considerable damages for the infringement. The parallel importer who was acting as the supply source for the entire Greek jurisdiction was stopped. The issue of whether there was benefit to the consumer due to a reduced price was struck down since the goods covered did not, in any case, fall within the parameters required by the policy of the trade mark owner and the legal environment. This decision sets an important precedent in the area of grey goods and shows the Greek system supporting the rightful trade mark owner, who may dispose of their branded goods as they wish, through their official channels, and prevent their products becoming the subject matter of a third-party's commercial activities against their will.
On a matter involving large scale patent infringement, an interesting discussion arose on the issue of justification of damages. In particular, the patent holder of a product used in public, won on all counts its infringement action against the infringers who imported and sold the counterfeited goods that copied the patent. Aside from enjoining the defendant, the patent holder was also able to successfully use the provisions of the Enforcement Directive and thus sought to obtain information on actual sales from the infringer. When met with resistance from the infringers, the patent holder was able to rely on a combination of various legal provisions, thus affording the patent holder the opportunity to obtain considerable damages. This matter has very important implications for patent infringement issues and makes it possible for patent holders to successfully obtain large scale damages in future cases as well.
Another sign of progress was evident in domain name disputes. Greek jurisdiction has its own ADR procedure in place for .gr domain names which has always functioned well and, since its formation around two decades ago, has always been a reliable, expedited and efficient procedure for resolving .gr disputes in Greece. Recently, the committee responsible for deciding .gr ADRP matters decided within a matter of months, in favour of a trade mark holder for a domain name that was registered 14 years ago and was not even directly competing with the trade mark holder. This shows the respect afforded by the Greek authorities to IP right holders, as well as the fast and efficient manner in which a domain name dispute for a .gr can be resolved in Greece.
One more example of the progress made in Greek jurisprudence due to the formation and function of the specialised IP court is a case which was decided in favour of the trade mark holder on the infringement of purely and solely a trade dress which was copied by an infringer. The trade mark holder was successful despite the fact that no verbal elements of the trade marks involved or even the house mark device were actually used by the infringer. Only the trade dress was utilised. This was deemed sufficient to activate provisions concerning trade mark law infringement and unfair competition as the court accepted that the passing off was clear and present and was created even by a passing, brief impression on the consumer. Interestingly, the court dismissed as frivolous and irrelevant the infringer's assertions that the lack of verbal marks or even the house mark, served to avoid confusion. The IP court therefore treated this matter as a clear cut case of infringement that justified the awarding of special, significant damages. This is another positive example of the Greek system supporting intellectual property rights.
All of the above are very encouraging signs of progress when it comes to infringement in Greece of any IP right. Thus IP rights holders have a reliable, fast and affordable means of securing and enforcing their rights in Greek jurisdiction whenever they need to do so.
||Eleni Lappa graduated with honours from Kingston University where she obtained her LLB and was chosen from hundreds of applicants to become an intern in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, at the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office the following year. She worked briefly in the intellectual property department of Linklaters in London and thereafter she left to work in New York City. Here she worked with the American Arbitration Association (International Centre for Dispute Resolution) where she started as a case manager and was quickly promoted to supervisor. |
After gaining years of valuable experience, she returned to Greece where she worked in a Greek intellectual property firm and briefly with a corporate firm that was not previously involved in IP law and wanted Lappa’s expertise in order to join the sector.
In 2011 Eleni founded her own intellectual property office, IPWORK (IPWORK.GR).