Previous: Spain is divided into 50 administrative provinces. In each county there is a capital. Counties are grouped by geography, history and culture in AUTONOMOUS REGIONS (the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are also considered Autonomous Regions to these effects).

Currently in Spain there is not a unified doctrine regarding which court has territorial venue to deal with a patent infringement action.

Under current 1986 patent law (that develops the procedural aspects of IP law and extends to trademark and designs litigation), the competent court will be that with jurisdiction on the province where the (civil division of) High Court of Justice of the autonomous region is located. To identify the autonomous region, the plaintiff must know the defendant’s address. 

However, the creation of the Commercial Courts (in 2003) with exclusive knowledge of judicial IP proceedings seemed to  produce a tacit repeal of the patent law as long as the new regulation considered – to the purpose of setting the venue – the province where the defendant is addressed and not the autonomous region.

Recently we found that the matter is still controversial, even within the same courts (which do not follow thus a homogeneous position).  

In the case which we refer to, solved by a Decree of July 15, 2013 of the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country and according to Patent Law, the complaint was filed before the Commercial Court of Bilbao (where the High Court is located) attending to the fact that the defendant was addressed in Vitoria (both provinces belonging to the same autonomous region).

Ex oficio the court of Bilbao understood that the venue belonged to Vitoria´s court. In Vitoria the defendant raised a plea to discuss the jurisdiction, although the court of Bilbao had set Vitoria’s based on previous similar cases decided by the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country. The court of Vitoria, rather than dismiss a limine, allowed the incident and sent the case back to Bilbao. Bilbao’s court rebounded the case to Vitoria. Vitoria, at the end, referred the file to the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country.

The discussion between the commercial courts, which resulted in the suspension of the procedure for one year, ended by declaring that Vitoria’s court has the jurisdiction.

This case shows the need to adopt a uniform approach on the subject in order to avoid delays in the proceedings, which clearly cause damages to the right of the parties to an effective judicial protection, especially of the plaintiff (damages that Administration of Justice does not compensate).