Civil litigationi Forums
See Section II.ii.ii Pre-action conduct
Under Greek law, there are no pretrial formalities and there is no pretrial obligatory disclosure as there is in other jurisdictions.iii Causes of action
Infringement of both registered trademarks and non-registered distinctive signs, including company names, can be established on the basis of either likelihood of confusion (which includes likelihood of association) or dilution (in the case of marks with reputation only), or both. The concepts of likelihood of confusion, likelihood of association and dilution are those provided under EU law (i.e., Directive 2008/95/EC as amended by Directive (EU) 2015/2436) and EU court jurisprudence.
Registered trademarks are also infringed in cases of illegitimate parallel imports (see Section VI.iii).
Domain names are infringed if a domain name has been obtained in bad faith, causing likelihood of confusion with an earlier domain name, an earlier registered trademark or an earlier non-registered distinctive sign (see Section V.ii).iv Conduct of proceedings
Legal actions (writs) under Greek law tend to be long and detailed, as they need to provide a fully substantiated and detailed statement of facts. If reputation is invoked, the legal action should provide specific and detailed information as to the volume of sales and advertising expenditure, market share and other factors from which reputation can be derived. The plaintiff must serve the legal action to the defendant within 30 days of filing with the court. If the defendant resides abroad, the legal action must be translated into the language of the defendant. The parties are granted a 100-day period from the filing of the legal action with the court (130 days for those residing abroad) to submit to the court written arguments and evidence. An oral hearing usually does not take place.
Witnesses do not give oral evidence during a court hearing. Instead, they make a written testimony under oath before a notary public, a county court or a Greek consular officer (if the witness resides abroad). The written testimonies take place before the trial and are disclosed to the other party.
A first instance court judgment is usually issued within about 18 months of the filing of the legal action, whereas a judgment by the appeal court is usually issued two years after the filing of the appeal. Courts will award legal costs only if the legal action contains a claim for damages; the costs may be about 3 or 4 per cent of the volume of the claim that has been judicially upheld and awarded. If the legal action is for a cease-and-desist order only, courts are not likely to award legal costs.v Remedies
With respect to remedies in cases of infringement, Greece has fully implemented Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. In cases of infringement of registered trademarks, or non-registered distinctive signs, the following remedies are available under national law.
- A cease-and-desist court order: establishing fault on the part of the defendant is not required for such an order. Such an order can also be granted under summary proceedings.
- Seizing or destroying infringing goods: the courts allow the claimant to seize and destroy infringing goods in the possession of either the infringer or third parties (who have not been parties to the legal proceedings), such as distributors or retailers. A court order allowing the claimant to seize infringing goods can also be obtained under summary proceedings.
- Damages: fault in the form of either negligence or intent must be established on the evidence. Pursuant to Article 13(1)(a) and (b) of Directive 2004/48/EC, courts may quantify damages on the basis of (1) the amount of royalties that would have been due if the infringer had requested a licence; (2) loss of profits suffered by the plaintiff; or (3) the profits made by the infringer. Plaintiffs usually prefer to request the amount of royalties that would have been due because it is easier to produce persuasive evidence on this ground, such as similar licensing agreements.
- Psychological (moral) damages: these are determined at the discretion of the court. Usually the court does not award psychological damages at all, and in cases of counterfeit goods, which are considered to be the most serious type of infringement, the amount of the award may be as low as €10,000, or even less.
- Legal interest: the rate is currently 7.25 per cent per annum and is estimated on the amount of the court award. Interest accrues from the date the legal action is served to the defendant.
- A court order obliging the defendant to disclose information regarding the names and details of distributors, manufacturers and suppliers of infringing goods, as well as information about the quantities of infringing goods that were manufactured, supplied or obtained and the relevant prices (see Article 8 of Directive 2004/48/EC).
- A public announcement about the judgment in the press at the expense of the defendant.
- A pecuniary penalty, which can amount to up to €10,000 if the defendant does not fully comply with the court judgment or a summary judgment.
- Imprisonment of the legal representatives of the defendant’s legal entity if the latter does not fully comply with the court judgment or a summary judgment.
- Legal costs, ranging from 3 to 4 per cent, roughly, on the volume of the damages and psychological damages award.
Other enforcement proceedingsi Customs enforcement of intellectual property rights
Regulation (EU) No. 608/2013 regarding customs enforcement of intellectual property rights is directly applicable to Greek law and has proved to be particularly efficient in practice. The procedure established by the Regulation makes it possible to activate the customs service to watch for counterfeit goods passing through customs. A single application to the Central Customs Office at Piraeus simultaneously activates all local customs authorities in Greece. The application has to be accompanied by a notarised power of attorney appointing an attorney-at-law, or any other representative in Greece, as well as an agent to receive service of process. An application may also be filed with a customs office of any other EU Member State, and also designating Greece; in this case, the application is notified to Greek customs authorities, which are thus alerted to look out for counterfeit goods.
If the customs authorities trace goods that are believed to be counterfeit, they notify the local representative of the trademark owner, who is required to make a statement within 10 working days claiming whether the goods are indeed counterfeit; the statement must be made within three days in the case of foodstuffs and some other categories of goods. The representative is provided with a sample of the goods, and if a statement that they are counterfeit is filed, then the customs authorities seize the goods. The trademark owner who caused the arrest is required to file a legal action under ordinary proceedings within a period of 10 additional days. Usually, under these circumstances, the owner of the counterfeit goods settles the case out of court by agreeing to the destruction of the goods at their own expense. Otherwise, destruction of the goods is ordered by a court judgment.
The trademark owner has to bear all the customs authorities’ costs in relation to seizing and preserving the goods; these costs may vary from €500 to €1,000 for a period of about six months in ordinary cases, but costs really depend on the volume of the merchandise seized and on the period involved. There have been exceptional cases of very large quantities of counterfeit goods, where costs were as high as €20,000. The same procedure applies to goods infringing either trademark rights or any other intellectual property rights, such as patents, designs or even copyright. Greek customs authorities are likely to apply the same procedure in connection to goods in transit, which they have done occasionally in the past.
The procedure established by the Regulation does not apply to illegitimate parallel imports. This means that customs authorities will not agree to seize goods that have been stated by the trademark owner to be genuine goods, even if intellectual property rights have not been exhausted. However, should the trademark owner trace the infringing goods through the customs procedure, they can apply for a provisional court order to seize the goods. Therefore, the customs procedure can be of assistance even against parallel imports of genuine goods.ii Domain names infringing earlier trademarks
Domain names infringing earlier trademarks or distinctive signs can be deactivated and deleted from the domain names registry through an administrative procedure initiated by an application to EETT. The applicant has to establish that the domain name was obtained in bad faith. Likelihood of confusion alone does not suffice. However, bad faith is likely to be established in cases where a domain name is very similar to an earlier trademark or distinctive sign with reputation. The process for deactivating and deleting a domain name obtained in bad faith is likely to last about 12 months. A decision by EETT can be appealed to the second instance administrative court, which will review the case on matters of law only; however, a decision made by EETT is enforceable, and filing an appeal against it does not affect its enforceability, unless the decision is reversed by the judgment of the court.iii Criminal proceedings
Infringement of both registered trademarks and non-registered distinctive signs is a criminal offence. However, criminal proceedings are very slow, and the penalties are small and manageable. Moreover, criminal prosecution authorities usually do not have the means to seize large quantities of infringing goods. Hence, criminal proceedings are usually inefficient.