Modelregistratie waterballonvuller terecht nietig verklaard
Gerecht EU 18 november 2020, IEF 19589, IEFbe 3150; ECLI:EU:T:2020:543 (Tinnus Enterprises tegen EUIPO) Modellenrecht. Het Gerecht van de Europese Unie heeft bevestigd dat zowel de Invalidity Division als de Boards of Appeal van het EUIPO terecht de ongeldigheid hebben uitgesproken van de modelregistratie van Tinnus voor een waterballonvuller (fluid distribution equipment), omdat alle kenmerken van het model uitsluitend door de technische functie zijn bepaald. Het Gerecht verwijst naar de DOCERAM-uitspraak van het HvJ EU [IEF 17542] en zie ook [IEF 17701] en [IEF 18001], waarin de ‘multiplicity of forms’ theorie is afgewezen en bevestigd dat het bestaan van technische alternatieven niet betekent dat het model niet technisch is bepaald. Alle objectieve factoren moeten daarbij worden meegenomen, waaronder het bestaan van een octrooi voor hetzelfde product. Een getuigenverklaring van de ontwerper kan niet als objectieve factor worden aangemerkt.
96. In the present case, it must be found that the Board of Appeal, in endorsing the Invalidity Division’s decision, took into account objective circumstances, supported by reliable evidence, relied on by the two applicants for a declaration of invalidity, in order to assess the contested design in the light of Article 8(1) of Regulation No 6/2002. The Board of Appeal took into account, inter alia, the applicant’s patent application and found that that application concerned exactly the same product as the contested design (paragraph 32 of the contested decision). Indeed, that patent application helped the Board of Appeal to analyse the product to which the contested design applied and to find that the four single elements making up the product and contributing to its technical function corresponded to the features of its appearance (paragraphs 33 and 34 of the contested decision). Thus, the Board of Appeal was right to conclude that the contested design did not deviate from the previously submitted patent (paragraph 34 of the contested decision) and that all the single elements that are part of the visual appearance of the product concerned performed a technical function (paragraph35 of the contested decision).
100. Thirdly, as regards the witness statement by the designer of the contested design, cited by the applicant, it must be noted, as a preliminary point, that that witness statement has limited evidential value in so far as it presents the personal and subjective opinion of that designer and in so far as that designer, as President and proprietor of the applicant, has a personal interest in the validity of the contested design. It follows that that witness statement, in so far as it describes the ‘simple, clean and elegant’ appearance of the contested design and is not borne out by any other evidence from reliable and impartial sources, is unconvincing to the General Court as regards the contention that aesthetic considerations were taken into account during the design of the contested design.
101. Next, it should be noted that the designer attests, in essence, that it is possible to devise alternative designs by size, shape and the proportions of their features, which perform the same technical function as that of the product concerned. In that regard, as the Board of Appeal noted (see paragraphs 35 and 36 of the contested decision), it must be borne in mind that, for the Court of Justice, the existence of alternative designs is not decisive as regards the question of whether the technical function of the product concerned is the only factor which determined the features of its appearance (judgment of 8March 2018, DOCERAM, C-395/16, EU:C:2018:172, paragraph 32). In the present case, in view of the objective elements taken into account by the Board of Appeal in order to conclude that Article 8(1) of Regulation No 6/2002 applied, the General Court considers that the assertions made by the designer of the contested design are not sufficient to call into question the Board of Appeal’s conclusion.