By a judgment of October 16 2012, Section 2 of the Cordoba Court of Appeal confirmed the judgment issued by Cordoba Trial Court No 1 on June 29 2012 in proceedings regarding an IP crime, as set out in Article 274.2 of the Criminal Code.
Specifically, the criminal court judgment condemned the defendant for possession of manufacturing materials (including bags and tags bearing different trademarks) and thousands of garments bearing counterfeit well-known trademarks.
The defendant argued that the manufacturing materials were not his and that the garments were not counterfeit, but rather faulty goods. However, the first instance judge rejected such defensive arguments for being illogical and lacking supporting evidence. Instead, the judge reasoned that the evidence produced during the proceedings and trial could lead only to a condemnatory judgment.
In particular, the first instance judgment reasoned that the fact that manufacturing material was found in the defendant's premises (a textile factory) could lead only to the conclusion that the defendant was manufacturing counterfeit goods. In addition, the judgment stated that the witness testimonies could lead only to the conclusion that the defendant owned the thousands of counterfeit garments seized in proceedings.
To establish the counterfeit nature of the seized goods, the first instance judge relied on reports prepared by court-appointed experts confirming that the garments were counterfeit and not faulty goods.
Regarding intent, the judgment reasoned that the fact that the trademarks involved were widely known, together with the fact that the defendant was proven to have extensive experience in the textile goods sector, made it impossible to believe that he was unaware of such well-known trademark registrations.
Finally, the judgment considered the aggravating circumstance of repetition, because the defendant had a previous IP crime conviction for manufacturing and commercialising counterfeit goods in identical circumstances.
The defendant appealed the decision, arguing that the assessment of evidence carried out at first instance was incorrect.
However, the appeal court confirmed the first instance judgment in its entirety, rejecting the defendant's arguments based on Supreme Court and Constitutional Court case law, according to which first instance judges have the authority and are in a better position to assess the evidence produced at trial (particularly evidence that requires personal interaction, such as the cross-examination of defendants or testimonies).
In practice, this means that an appeal court can review the court ruling in regard to the first instance judge's assessment of evidence only if there are exceptional circumstances – that is:
- inaccuracy or a manifest error in the assessment of the evidence;
- an "obscure, vague, doubtful, intelligible, incomplete, inconsistent or self-contradictory" factual narrative; or
- new evidence presented on appeal that distorts the evidence produced at first instance.
However, the appeal court found that the assessment of evidence in the first instance proceeding was correct, and that none of the above requirements applied in this case.
On the contrary, it affirmed that the assessment made by the first instance court was based on objective and well-reasoned evidence; this was in contrast to the version of facts reiterated by the defendant throughout his appeal, which the appeal court defined as unacceptable.
Therefore, the appeal court rejected entirely the appeal, confirming the judgment and reinforcing the first instance judge's authority to assess evidence in criminal proceedings.
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