IP Enforcement in Iceland

Gunnar Örn Hardarson and Asdis Magnusdottir (of inovia agent Arnason Faktor) recently shared important information regarding IP enforcement in Iceland for Intellectual Asset Management.  Below are some highlights from the article:

What are the most effective ways for a European patent holder whose rights cover Iceland to enforce its rights in Iceland?

An important remedy for a patent holder in Iceland is the possibility of obtaining a preliminary injunction against the allegedly infringing act. Such an injunction is not granted by courts, but by a government authority, the district magistrate. This action is relatively swift and a ruling can be issued within a few weeks. However, a preliminary injunction must be verified by the court; an application to the court must be filed within one week of issuance of the injunction.

General court proceedings are also possible without any prior injunction measures. The court system is made up of two stages: eight district courts and the Supreme Court. All patent cases, including verification cases following injunctions, are dealt with in the Reykjavik District Court.

What level of expertise can a patent owner expect from the courts in your jurisdiction?

There are no specialist patent courts in Iceland. Patent cases, like all other cases, are tried before general courts, although cases involving patents are all tried by the Reykjavik District Court.

To date, the number of patent cases tried before the Icelandic courts has been very low, although it is increasing.  Therefore, judicial expertise is very limited.  However, the courts can call on experts to assist them in specific cases, such as patent cases. Such experts need not be lawyers, but are usually professionals in the relevant technical field. Another option is to appoint outside assessors to give an expert assessment regarding certain questions or uncertainties in the case at hand.

Are certain patent rights (eg, those relating to business methods, software and biotechnology) more difficult to enforce than others?

Since 1st November 2004, the patent legislation has been fully harmonised with the EPC. Icelandic law has also been amended to comply with the EU Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnology Inventions.

Therefore, there are no provisions in Icelandic law that would act as an obstacle to the enforcement of European patents in this respect. Again, however, there is little case law in the field and it is therefore difficult to predict the possible outcome in such cases.

Regarding computer software-related inventions, to date the practice of the Icelandic Patent Office has been to follow European Patent Office practice. Consequently, one would expect that this would also apply to the courts.

How much should a litigant plan to pay to take a case through to a decision at first instance?

This is difficult to estimate. The number of cases has been very limited in the past and those that have arisen have not been very complex. To give some guidelines, the cost is likely to be from €20,000 to €30,000 to take a non-complex patent case through the first instance court.

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