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Competition: ECJ Decision on Fines in the Amino Acids Cartel Case
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has delivered its judgment in Archer Daniels Midland’s appeal of the Court of First Instance decision concerning the amino acids cartel. The judgment is noteworthy in two respects. First, the ECJ establishes that the European Commission is entitled independently to make changes to the level of, and the methodology for, calculating fines, and to apply these changes to cases concerning conduct that took place before the changes were made. Second, the ECJ rejects that sanctions imposed on members of a cartel in a non-EU country, which relate only to the effects of the cartel on the market of that country, should be taken into account in the Commission’s calculation of fines.
Intellectual Property: EU Design Registration System to be linked with WIPO International System
The European Parliament has approved the Commission’s proposals to link the 'Community Design' system, which protects designs within the EU, with the international design registration system of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). These proposals would allow designers, with one single application, to obtain protection of a design not only throughout the EU, but also in the countries which are members of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the international registration of industrial designs. The creation of a link between the Community Design system and the WIPO system would encourage EU companies active in sectors such as textiles, furniture, cars, jewellery and mobile phones to trade with third countries in the knowledge that their designs are protected. So far, 19 countries have become party to the Geneva Act, including Singapore, Korea, Turkey and Switzerland.
Mergers: Commission Clears Takeover of Gemplus by Axalto, Subject to Conditions
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the planned acquisition by the Dutch company Axalto of Gemplus, established in Luxembourg. Both companies are active worldwide in the production and sale of SIM cards, payment cards and government and identification cards. Further, they provide services related to the administration of already-issued SIM cards and carried out through over-the-air platforms, which enable mobile phone operators to control a SIM card without a physical connection. The Commission found that the merged entity would have both the ability and the incentive to harm its competitors, as the transaction would combine two important intellectual property portfolios. In order to address the Commission’s concerns, Axalto agreed to grant a ten-year licence of the combined entity’s patent portfolio and to disclose interoperability information to ensure the compatibility of its competitors’ SIM cards with its platforms.
Information Society: Modernisation of the Television Without Frontiers Directive
The European Commission has proposed a Directive amending the Television Without Frontiers Directive. The proposal, which followed a European Parliament resolution to take account of the technological developments and changes in the structure of the audiovisual market, is currently under discussion in the Parliament and Council. The scope of the Directive will be extended to on-demand audiovisual services, for example films or news. This will allow audiovisual media service providers to offer on-demand services in the EU by only complying with the laws of their own Member State. The proposed Directive will relax the rules on insertion of advertising in TV programmes and will leave the way open to new forms of advertising such as virtual or interactive advertising. It will also provide a clear legal framework for product placement. The proposed Directive is thus expected to enhance the competitiveness of the EU audiovisual industry.
Internal Market: EU Action Plan to Halt Loss of Biodiversity by 2010
The European Commission has adopted a communication outlining an EU action plan designed to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Biodiversity, which comprises ecosystems, species and genes, is essential to economic prosperity, security and health. The new communication outlines several concrete measures to be undertaken by EU Institutions and Member States with regard to biodiversity preservation at an EU and global level. Overall, the action plan is intended to help meet prior commitments made by EU Member States. In particular, EU Heads of State or Government committed in 2001 to halt biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010. In 2002, Member States joined with more than 130 countries, agreeing to reduce global biodiversity loss. While the new communication outlines an ambitious programme, it has nevertheless been criticised by certain environmental groups who find the measures insufficient to actually halt EU biodiversity loss by 2010.
Energy: ECJ Rules Against Luxembourg for Failure to Transpose Gas Directive
The European Court of Justice has ruled against Luxembourg for failing to transpose into national law the 2003 Directive on the Liberalisation of Gas Markets, which should have been implemented by July 2004. In its report on the internal market for electricity and gas, adopted in November 2005, the Commission identified the delay in applying the 2003 gas and electricity directives as one of the main causes for the shortcomings in the European internal energy market. On that occasion the Commission urged the Member States that had not yet transposed the directives to do so as quickly as possible. In March this year, the Commission started infringement procedures against 17 Member States for failing to open their energy markets consistently with the Directive. A new report will be issued by the Commission at the end of 2006 following its review of the effectiveness of measures adopted by Member States.
Competition: Commission Investigates 20 Energy Companies over Abusive Charges
The European Commission has investigated as many as 20 major European energy companies for allegedly abusing their dominant position in the energy market. Companies such as Gaz de France, E.ON and OMV are among the companies that were the object of the Commission’s dawn raids. The alleged abusive conduct of the companies involved concerns access to pipelines and storage facilities. The Commission has repeatedly emphasised that the European energy market is not sufficiently competitive and that end-users do not benefit from low prices.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 29 May – Friday 2 June 2006
Competitiveness Council (29 – 30 May 2006)
Justice and Home Affairs Council (1 – 2 June 2006)
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (1 – 2 June 2006)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-475/04 Commission v Greece
Freedom of establishment
Law governing the institutions
C-459/03 Commission v Ireland
C-207/05 Commission v Italy
Joined Cases C-442/03 P, C-471/03 P P&O European Ferries (Vizcaya) v Commission
C-98/05 De Danske Bilimportører
C-317/04 Parliament v Council
C-318/04 Parliament v Commission
Joined Cases C-129/05, C-130/05 Raverco
C-120/05 Heinrich Schulze
C-413/04 Parliament v Council
C-414/04 Parliament v Council
Environment and consumers
C-486/04 Commission v Italy
Freedom of movement for persons
C-150/04 Commission v Denmark
C-371/04 Commission v Italy
C-347/04 Rewe Zentralfinanz
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-87/94 Blom v Council and Commission
T-198/03 Bank Austria Creditanstalt v Commission
T-15/05 De Waele v OHMI
T-354/99 Kuwait Petroleum (Nederland) v Commission