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IT – Supreme Court ruling on Punitive Damages

21 Aug 2017

The first days of the Italian summer saw the issuance of a landmark decision for the Italian legal framework.
The Grand Chamber of the Italian Court of Cassation (Cass. Civ. SS. UU. 05.07.2017, no. 16601) ruled that it could be possible to obtain recognition – where necessary – and enforce in Italy foreign judgements which may have awarded to the winning party a restoration in the form of punitive damages, an institute whose entry into the Italian system was traditionally opposed by prior case law on the basis of the contrariety to ordre public of the awarding of damages without compensatory nature.

The decision was released in a case which did not involve patent rights or any other intellectual property rights: indeed, the Court rejected a petition filed by a manufacturer and its distributor of motorcycle helmets in the dispute with an injured rider in an accident occurred in US territory. And yet, the ruling has many implications also for patent and more in general IP disputes, as it can be easily guessed: openings to “punitive damages” emerged already in this year’s CJEU decision OTK v SFP (C-367/15), and are extensively detailed by the reasoning of the decision of the Court of Cassation, where specific references are made to Italian statutory provisions on the infringement of patent and other IP rights.

Indeed, according to the Court of Cassation, “the sanctioning function of the reimbursement of damages is no longer inconsistent with the general principles of our system, as previously settled, since in the last few decades here and there new regulations aimed at giving a sanctioning note to the reimbursement of damages have been implemented”.
In a nutshell, “together with the predominant and primary compensatory-reparative function of the institution, a polyfunctional nature of it has surfaced, which projects itself in several areas, among which the pre-emptive (deterring or dissuasive) and the sanctioning-punishing functions are the most notable ones”.

The entire contribution can be read here.

Reported by Luca Giove and Andrea Comelli, Studio Legale Giove