This year has brought an important change in the Polish legal system. The Act of 13 February 2020 established specialised intellectual property courts (IP Courts) in Poland. The law will enter into force on July 1, 2020.

The IP Courts will be separate specialized units of the Polish common courts.

The new courts have been established in response to the growing needs and expectations of the market and legal practitioners. The Polish authorities noticed an increasing number of intellectual property cases, their specific character and that they require a specialized approach. It was decided that this issue would be best dealt with by IP Courts which would be handling the intellectual property matters on a day-to-day basis.

The IP Courts will be competent to examine intellectual property matters, which according to the new law cover inter alia matters concerning the protection of copyrights and related rights, industrial property rights - patents, utility models, designs, trademarks, geographical indications, topographies of integrates circuits, as well as combating unfair competition and protection of personal rights related to scientific or inventive activity.

The intellectual property matters fall within the jurisdiction of District Courts. In order to ensure proper length of the proceedings and evenly located access to courts throughout the country, four courts have been appointed to examine intellectual property matters, namely the District Courts in Gdańsk, Lublin, Poznań and Warsaw, and two Appeal Courts, namely the Courts of Appeal in Warsaw and Poznań.

Apart from the above, the District Court of Warsaw will have exclusive jurisdiction in intellectual property matters concerning computer programs, inventions, utility models, topographies of integrated circuits, plant varieties and technical secrets of the enterprise.

Taking into account the specific nature of intellectual property matters, the legislator has introduced mandatory representation of the parties by a professional representative in all cases where the value of the dispute exceeds 20 000 PLN (approximately 4 800 Euro). However, in non-complex matters, the court, acting on party's request, may also exempt a party from compulsory legal representation. The purpose of the compulsory legal representation, which is as a general rule applicable in these proceedings, is to ensure that all claims and evidence materials are properly indicated. It should also reduce the length of the proceedings.

It is also worth noting that the new law has introduced a new action in trademark or design infringement proceedings, namely a counterclaim connected with a request for cancellation or revocation of a trademark registration or cancellation of a design registration. Previously, the Polish Patent Office was the only authority competent to cancel or revoke a trademark and cancel a design. The new rules stipulate that a counterclaim against a trademark or design infringement is allowed only if it covers a request for cancellation or revocation of a trademark registration or cancellation of a design registration. However, the court will examine cases aimed at protecting the plaintiff's trademark or design only if cancellation or revocation proceedings have not been earlier initiated before the Polish Patent Office.

Another specific action introduced by the new law is a lawsuit to establish that the actions the plaintiff has taken or intends to take do not constitute an infringement of a patent, supplementary protection right, design or trademark. Such action is possible when (i) the actions to which the claim relates have been found by defendant to infringe a patent, supplementary protection right, design or trademark; (ii) the defendant has not confirmed, within the time limit duly specified by the plaintiff, that the activities covered by the claim do not constitute an infringement of a patent, supplementary protection right, design or trademark.

The new law has also regulated certain measures which should be effective in infringement proceedings; namely a request for preserving evidence, a request for disclosing or issuing evidence and a request for ordering information. These legal measures should be helpful in obtaining information and evidence materials relating to an infringement from the infringer or even other party, of course under the conditions prescribed by the law.

The Polish intellectual property practitioners and right owners have welcomed the IP Courts in the domestic legal system and believe that the new courts will provide effective ways to protect intellectual property rights in the country.

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