Lexicon > TEU – CJEU

IP Lexicon

TEU – CJEU

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in the broadest sense, is the judicial institution of the European Union, with its seat in Luxembourg.

Its role is to ensure the uniform application and interpretation of European Union law throughout the European Union.

In practice, this means, for the Court of Justice of the European Union :

  • To carry out controls of legality of the standards;
  • To verify that the Member States respect their obligations;
  • To interpret points of law of the Union when it is seized by a national judge.

In order to carry out these various tasks, the Court of Justice of the European Union comprises two courts:

  • The General Court (european union), formerly the Court of First Instance of the European Union – CFI, is composed of two judges per Member State, whose term of office is six years, renewable;
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), stricto sensu, is composed of 27 judges and 11 advocates general, whose term of office is also 6 years and renewable.

The Court of Justice of the European Union, in the strict sense, has jurisdiction to rule on various appeals, such as :

  • The action for failure to fulfil obligations: when a Member State does not respect its obligations under European Union law;
  • The action for annulment: when a Member State requests the annulment of a decision, for example ;
  • The action for failure to act: when the legality of the inaction of a body or an institution of the European Union must be reviewed.

Therefore, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to rule on questions of law, not of fact, on appeals against decisions of the General Court. In this case, if the case is referred to the Tribunal, the Tribunal will be bound by the decision of the Court.

Last but not least, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to make a reference for a preliminary ruling. These are brought by the judges of a Member State which questions the Court on the interpretation, validity or applicability of a provision of European Union law in the context of a dispute before it.

When a national court refers a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling, the national proceedings are suspended and the national court stays the proceedings until the Court has answered the question.

The decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union on references for preliminary rulings have the force of res judicata, i.e. they are binding on the national court that referred the question and are binding on all other national courts of the Member States that are confronted with an identical question.

As with the General Court, the Court’s decisions will be rendered by various panels depending on the complexity and importance of the cases before the Court. For example, it will sit as a full court if the case is of exceptional importance, as a Grand Chamber if the case is of a certain complexity, and as a chamber of five or three judges, generally.

The judges of both courts, as well as the advocates general, are required to perform their duties impartially and independently.

The General Court mainly rules on actions brought by a Member State against an institution of the European Union or by a natural or legal person seeking the annulment of an act issued by such an institution ((e.g. in violation of a law or a principle, a constitutional norm or fundamental rights), and which concerns it directly and individually, or against a regulatory act.

However, the General Court has a very specific mission in the field of intellectual property, since it has jurisdiction to rule on appeals against decisions taken by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), among others.

The case law of the General Court is particularly marked by the questions related to the reputed trademark and the distinctiveness of the trademark (or rather its absence).

Cases brought before the General Court may be decided by a single judge, by a panel of three to five judges or by a Grand Chamber, depending on their degree of complexity or importance, and decisions rendered by the Tribunal may be appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union, on points of law only, within two months.

This Court of Justice of the European Union, in the strict sense, has jurisdiction to rule on various appeals such as :

  • The action for failure to fulfil obligations: when a Member State does not respect its obligations under European Union law;
  • The action for annulment: whena Member State requests the annulment of a decision, for example ;
  • The action for failure to act: when the legality of the inaction of a body or institution of the European Union must be checked.

Therefore, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to rule on questions of law, not of fact, on appeals against decisions of the General Court.to rule on questions of law, not of fact, on appeals against decisions of the General Court.

In this case, if the case is referred to the General Court, the General Court will be bound by the decision of the Court.

Finally, and most importantlythe Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to make a reference for a preliminary ruling.

These are brought by the judges of a Member State who ask the Court of Justice about the interpretation, validity or applicability of a provision of European Union law in a dispute before it.of a provision of European Union law in the context of a dispute before it.

When a national court refers a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling, the national proceedings are suspended and the national court stays the proceedings until the Court has answered the question.judge shall stay the proceedings until the Court has answered the question.

The decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union on references for preliminary rulings have the force of res judicata, i.e. they are binding on the national court that originated the question, and set the precedent for all other national courts of the Member States that are confronted with an identical question.The decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union have the force of res judicata, i.e. they are binding on the national court that originated the question and set the precedent for all other national courts of the Member States that are confronted with an identical question.

As with the Tribunal, the Court’s decisions will be rendered in various forms depending on the complexity and importance of the cases before it.depending on the degree of complexity and importance of the cases before the Court.

For example, it will sit as a full court if the case is of exceptional importance, as a Grand Chamber if the case is of a certain complexity, and as a chamber of five or three judges generally.and in chambers of five or three judges, in general.

In addition to these bodies, the European Commission, one of the main institutions of the European Union along with the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, has the role of promoting the general interest of the European Union by proposing legislation and ensuring that it is applied.

It is made up of several committees, including those responsible for implementing budgetary policies.

Case law focus

The reputation of the trademark

For example, the court ruled that the sign VIAGUARA could not be registered as a European Union trademark for beverages. While admitting that beverages and medicines are different products, the Court considered that the sign VIAGUARA could unduly take advantage of the reputation of the trademark VIAGRA registered for medicines. It found the sign confusing in that the consumer could be induced to buy the drinks believing that they have the same virtues as the medicine (EU TUE, Viaguara/OHMI, 25 January 2012, Case T-332/10).

On the other hand, Apple Corps, a company founded by the group “The Beatles”, opposed the registration of the trademark “BEATLE” for wheelchairs. The Court of First Instance upheld the likelihood of confusion by considering that the term “BEATLE” took unfair advantage of the reputation of the trademarks (THE) BEATLES owned by Apple Corps (EUAT, You-Q/OHMI, March 29, 2012, Case T-369/10,).

The distinctiveness of the trademark

In July 2021, the Court of First Instance overturned the decision of the EUIPO’s Board of Appeal refusing to register a three-dimensional trademark for lack of distinctiveness. It was a tube of Guerlain lipstick. The Court recalls that the assessment of the distinctive character of a trademark does not depend on the novelty or originality of the product, but only on its capacity to be identified by consumers. It adds that, due to the particular characteristics of its design, the tube can only be presented horizontally, thus making it distinctive in relation to other products on the market (EU TUE, Guerlain/EUIPO, July 14, 2021, Case T-488/20).

Point of law

Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that :

“The Court of Justice of the European Union shall have jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings :

  1. on treaty interpretation,
  2. on the validity and interpretation of acts taken by the institutions, bodies or agencies of the Union.

Where such a question is raised before a court of one of the Member States, that court may, if it considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, request the Court to give a ruling on the question.

Where such a question is raised in a case pending before a national court or tribunal against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law, that court or tribunal is required to refer the matter to the Court.

If such a question is raised in a case pending before a national court concerning a detained person, the Court shall decide it as soon as possible. ”

The Bouchara Law Firm assists you in particular in:

  • Protection and defense of your intellectual property rights;
  • Actions before the European Union Tribunal (EUT) in intellectual property matters;
  • Actions before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in intellectual property matters;
  • More broadly, in the steps and procedures with the European authorities and institutions .