RCD Adoption of Guidelines of the Examination of Design Invalidity Applications
OHIM Knowledge Circle ‘Designs’, RCD Adoption of the Guidelines on the Examination of Design Invalidity Applications, Alicante News december 2013.
Een bijdrage vanuit Knowledge Circle 'Designs', OHIM.
As part of the Office’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the best possible quality in the services provided to its users, the Guidelines on the examination of invalidity applications in respect of registered Community designs (‘RCD’) have been revised and updated. These Guidelines became effective as of 1 February 2014.
The purpose of the Guidelines is to make available to RCD applicants and legal practitioners a point of reference which reflects the practice of the Office. The revision focused on both procedural and substantive issues with the aim of aligning, where possible, the RCD invalidity proceedings with the CTM cancellation practice. The case-law of the Boards of Appeal and of the Luxembourg courts has also been integrated into the Guidelines in order to foster coherence and predictability with respect to RCD invalidity decisions.
The main innovations can be summarised as follows.
1. The Guidelines emphasise that the application for a declaration of invalidity of an RCD shall contain a clear and precise statement of the grounds relied on by the invalidity applicant. New grounds subsequently put forward before the Invalidity Division will be automatically declared inadmissible.
2. The exchange of the parties’ submissions is in principle limited to one round except in limited circumstances. The applicant for invalidity will be allowed to reply to the holder’s observations in the following circumstances:
- where the holder’s observations contain new facts, evidence and arguments which are prima facie relevant for a decision on the merits; or
- where the holder requests to maintain the Community design in an amended form; or
- where the holder requested proof of use of the earlier trade mark relied on under Article 25(1)(e) CDR.
3. In compliance with judgment of 12/05/2010, T-148/08, ‘Instrument for writing’, where the invalidity applicant claims that the RCD shall be declared invalid on the basis of a conflict with an earlier trade mark within the meaning of Article 25(1)(e) CDR, the RCD holder is entitled to request proof of use of the earlier trade mark in his/her first observations in reply to the application. In this respect the same rules as those applying to CTM opposition proceedings will apply.
4. Regarding substantive issues, the Guidelines mirror the position adopted by the Boards of Appeal with respect to the interpretation of the notion of functionality, within the context of Article 8(1) CDR. The approach adopted is one which does not look at alternative shapes, but rather considers only the design at issue. Article 8(1) CDR does not require that a given feature is the only means by which the product’s technical function can be achieved, but rather requires an evaluation of whether the technical function in question was the only relevant factor in the selection of that given feature (the key word in Article 8(1) CDR being ‘solely’). The fact that a particular feature of a product’s appearance is denied protection by Article 8(1) CDR does not mean that the whole design must be declared invalid, pursuant to Article 25(1)(b) CDR. The design as a whole will be invalid only if all the essential features of the appearance of the product in question were solely dictated by its technical function.
5. Finally, it is recalled that when examining an application for an RCD, the Office does not verify whether the application concerns the ‘same design or utility model’ whose priority is claimed. However, the examination of a priority claim will be carried out by the Office if the invalidity applicant challenges the validity of this priority claim, or if the holder challenges the effects of the disclosure of a design for purposes of Articles 5, 6 and 7 CDR, where the disclosure occurred within the priority period.
In such a case, the Office will examine whether the priority claim is valid. A priority claim relating to the ‘same design or utility model’ requires identity with the corresponding RCD without addition or suppression of features.
Knowledge Circle 'Designs'