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BE – Syral Belgium v. Roquette Frères – Access to expert's report denied until ruling on patent validity

27 May 2014

Syral Belgium NV v. Roquette Frères SA, Ghent Court of Appeal, Belgium, 31 March 2014, Case nr. 2014/7349, with thanks to Philippe de Jong and Xanne Holvoet, Altius, for sending in the case as well as a summary in English

Based on Article 19.2 of the Judicial Code, the Court of Appeal issued a preliminary injunction preventing Roquette Frères from taking note of, or using the findings of an expert’s report produced in the framework of a seizure of alleged counterfeit goods performed at Syral’s premises, until the Commercial Court has ruled on the validity of Roquette Frères’s patent.

Firstly, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Commercial Court had wrongfully invoked lack of jurisdiction to dismiss Syral’s claim in this respect. Syral had relied on Article 19.2 of the Judicial Code to request the Commercial Court to issue a preliminary measure in light of the main dispute between the parties on the validity of Roquette Frères’ patent pending before this court. The requested measure is preliminary in light of the nature of the descriptive seizure order, which is not intended to examine the validity of the patent. This also follows from the natural order of proceedings to examine patent validity first, and the infringement question only if the validity is established.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal ruled that Syral’s request for the preliminary injunction was well-founded. Given that the patent had already been annulled or disputed in foreign proceedings, it was not unreasonable to doubt its validity in Belgium. Also, the scope of the expert’s task was extremely broad. Allowing Roquette Frères to take note of the detailed information in the report before making a final ruling on the validity of the patent would therefore disproportionately damage Syral’s interests.

Finally, the Court of Appeal dismissed Syral’s request that the disclosure of the expert’s report be delayed until after the Commercial Court has made a decision on whether or not Syral has infringed Roquette Frères’ patent, as the information in the expert’s report is necessary to make a decision on whether or not a patent infringement has occurred.

Read the decision (in Dutch) here.