In Slovenia, in the field of IP law, two changes are expected in the near future. The first relates to collective management of copyright and related rights and the second to the European unitary patent.
The Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights Act (ZKUASP), which is currently in parliamentary procedure, will replace the relevant provisions of the Copyright and Related Rights Act (ZASP). It applies to copyrights for non-theatrical musical and written works, reproduction of works for private and other internal use, and copying and cable retransmission of works, the collective management of which is mandatory in Slovenia, as it is in most other countries.
The main objective of ZKUASP is to increase the accountability of copyright collecting societies and the transparency of their operations. Indeed, ZKUASP will eliminate the monopoly of copyright collecting societies, as, going forward, rights-holders will be able to freely choose which copyright collecting society they want to join and will have a say on the distribution of collected royalties as distribution rules will be adopted by general meetings. In addition, a mandatory managing structure for copyright collecting societies, modeled after the corporate structure of joint-stock companies, with a general meeting, a supervisory board, and a management board, is foreseen. ZKUASP also includes provisions on liability and disclosure of conflicts of interest for members of the supervisory and management boards.
Furthermore, annual reports of copyright collecting societies will be subject to approval by general meetings and to publication on the website of The Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Public Legal Records and Related Services (AJPES).
Another positive development relating to collective management of copyrights is that a new Copyright Board has been appointed. The Copyright Board is a scientific, independent, and impartial authority that decides on appropriate tariffs for the use of an author’s works and other issues relating to the conclusion and lawfulness of agreements between a copyright collecting society and representative organizations of users of an author’s works.
The Copyright Board has carried out its tasks in a very limited way since March 2015, when all members of the former board resigned. For instance, in 2015, only two regular meetings were held, compared to the 12 regular meetings that took place in 2014. The new President of the Copyright Board, Tilen Tacol, Senior Associate at ODI Law, has announced that the work of the Board will become effective again, with the Board meeting every two weeks.
Moving from the national to the international level, the European unitary patent system is built on the European Patent Convention that has been providing a centralized procedure for patent grants for over 40 years. However, as it currently stands, once a European patent is obtained, it effectively exists as a national patent in each of the designated states. All post-grant proceedings, including renewal, validity, and infringement are determined under national law. This gives rise to a number of difficulties, in particular high costs, diverging decisions, and a lack of legal certainty that should be overcome with the new unitary patent system.
At the patentee’s request, unitary effect will be given to European patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) for the territory of 26 participating states (i.e., all EU members except Spain and Croatia). The costs of patent registration and maintenance will be reduced, as the renewal fees will only be paid to the EPO (amounting to the sum of renewal fees payable in United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the Netherlands) instead of to every designated state. The companies registering or holding individual patents in several or even all participating states will, in particular, benefit from the new regulation.
Moreover, the Unified Patent Court (UPC) -- a specialized patent court with exclusive jurisdiction for litigation related to European unitary patents -- will be established. The court will be composed of a Court of First Instance (with a central division and several local and regional divisions, making litigation easier and more accessible), and a Court of Appeal located in Luxembourg. A decision issued by the UPC will be enforceable in all participating states.
Alternatively, the parties will be able to settle disputes before the Patent Mediation and Arbitration Center, with seats in Ljubljana and Lisbon.
The European unitary patent is expected to come into effect in the beginning of 2017.
By Branko Ilic, Partner, and Neza Grasselli, Associate, ODI Law Firm
This Article was originally published in Issue 3.3 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.