An extract from The Intellectual Property Review, 9th Edition
Enforcement of rights
Turkish law provides an effective enforcement procedure for the protection of IP rights. Usually, the first step for enforcement is determining an IP infringement. Once an infringement is determined, it is advisable to send a cease-and-desist letter from a notary public as this may lead to an easier and faster relief for the IP owner.
If infringement continues or if an IP owner wants to move forward with enforcement as the first step, it is possible to request the determination of evidence from civil courts or request to obtain search warrants from criminal courts to conduct raids and secure evidence.i Possible venues for enforcement
Under Turkish law, it is possible to enforce IP rights before the criminal law courts and civil law courts.
In terms of civil law protection, IP infringement actions are filed before the specialised civil courts of industrial and IP rights in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. In other cities, one of the regular civil courts (if there are more than two courts the third civil court, otherwise the first civil court) is assigned as a specialised IP court.
It is also possible to enforce IP rights before specific criminal courts of industrial and IP rights in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir for cases where the legislation stipulates imprisonment or judicial monetary penalty for infringement of a certain IP right. In other cities, one of the regular criminal courts (if there are more than two courts the third criminal court, otherwise the first criminal court) is assigned as a specialised IP court.
It is possible that any goods or products that infringe IP rights may be confiscated by the customs authorities during their import, export or transit. The customs authority, without the necessity of a court or public prosecutor order, may confiscate any goods that breach IP rights and notify the IP right owner afterwards to follow the next procedures such as the initiation of a civil case or the obtaining of an injunction.ii Requirements for jurisdiction and venue
Turkish courts have jurisdiction in IP infringement cases if either the IP right is registered in Turkey or the defendant resides in Turkey or the tortuous act is committed in Turkey. According to Turkish law, if the place the tortuous act is committed is not the place where the damage has occurred, the law of the state where the damage has occurred shall govern.
The applicable jurisdiction in Turkey may be one of the following:
- the regular domicile of the IP right holder;
- the place where the infringement was committed; and
- the place where the act of infringement produced consequences.
Under the Turkish Civil Procedural Law, the burden of proof lies on the claimant. Therefore, it is very important to collect relevant evidence before initiating a lawsuit.
One of the methods that is widely used is the determination of evidence where, by order of a court, an examination can be made with experts or a judge and evidence can be collected. This examination usually entails visiting a premises to document the situation to be used as evidence.
Another method, which can be used in cases where IP infringement may result in criminal sanctions, is obtaining a search warrant and asking for an expert examination. For this method, the right holder applies to the public prosecutor, requesting that the prosecutor ask for a search warrant from the magistrates' court. If the magistrates' court accepts the public prosecutor's request, the public prosecutor appoints an expert and orders the search warrant to be executed with the police.
Other than those methods, any legally obtained evidence may be used in courts and these may be purchases made from the seller of counterfeit goods, relevant payment slips, opinions obtained from laboratories, etc.iv Trial decision-maker
As mentioned above, there are special IP courts in Turkey, and accordingly judges for IP cases are specialists. Further, technical expertise is also very important and in almost all cases, the judge asks for an expert examination from a court-appointed expert or court-appointed expert panel. As a result, the expert report is a significant element of the judicial process. There is no jury trial in Turkey.v Structure of the trial
Civil procedure in Turkey is mainly based on writing. The briefs of the parties and the written expert report are the most significant documents.
Before the trial, the claimant provides his or her claim petition to the court and the defendant responds to it with a response petition. Afterwards, secondary petitions are provided to the court by the claimant and defendant in that order. All evidence, claims and defences of parties must be submitted to the court at this stage with their respective petitions. In principle, the admission of additional evidence or the bringing of new claims and defences is not allowed under procedural law after the completion of this stage.
During the hearings, the judge will listen to the parties but, as mentioned above, the trial is based on the written documents submitted to the court. The hearing may be used as a tool to point out some of the critical issues for the judge to concentrate on.
IP litigation relies on documentary evidence that would be provided by the parties or the expert report obtained by the court. While it is possible to take witness statements, it is not the usual practice in IP litigation and witness statements rarely preclude documentary evidence.
It is also important to note that there are certain minimum requirements for a document to be accepted as proof before the court. For example, all agreements that are related to the transfer of copyrights must be made in writing.vi Infringement
Patent and trademark protection prevents third parties from offering or making available goods or products that are the subject matter of the patent or that are branded with that trademark.vii DefencesTrademarks
The most common defence in Turkey is that the challenged trademark has no distinctive character, or is deceptive or descriptive.
In Turkey, the defendant can also claim as a defence that he or she is the prior rights holder or that the trademark owner has not been using the trademark for a period of at least five years. The defendant can file a separate invalidation or revocation action on the grounds of non-use or being the prior user.
The principle that a right can be lost by remaining silent can also be used as a defence. The defendant can claim that the trademark owner is acting in bad faith by filing the infringement claim after a long period of tolerance.Designs
In a design infringement case, the defendant may argue that the registered design should be cancelled, and that the use of the design was a technical necessity or a personal use, or for an experimental, educational or repairing purpose.Patents
In Turkey, the most common defence against infringement claims is filing an invalidity action against the patent.
A defence relating to prior user rights can be also raised as the patent owners do not have the right to prevent persons from using the invention if they began to use it in good faith before the application date.
The defendants can also raise an exhaustion defence, which is essentially an exemption to patent infringement. The release of a product bearing an IP right anywhere in the world is sufficient for the exhaustion of the IP right in Turkey.Copyright
The Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works stipulates specific situations when using copyrighted work without the right holder's permission shall not constitute copyright infringement. Those exceptions that are commonly used as a defence are as follows:
- personal use;
- use for educational purposes in schools or other educational institutions;
- use within 'freedom of quotations';
- influential use to create an original and independent work;
- use due to public order or in the interests of the community; and
- expiration of copyright.
In most cases, it is possible to obtain a first-level decision in an IP infringement case or other dispute within 18 to 24 months. This term includes an expert examination as well.ix Remedies
The remedies available in Turkey include:
- the cessation of the infringing acts;
- the confiscation or destruction of the infringing products, and the equipment and machinery used to produce the products;
- compensation for material and moral damages; and
- the publication of the court's decision.
Preliminary injunctions are also available in Turkey before or during the substantive proceedings. The claimant must prove that:
- it is the rights holder;
- its rights are being infringed or there is a high likelihood of infringement; and
- it may suffer irreparable harm or damages.
The rights owners may apply for a preliminary injunction for the cessation or prevention of the infringing activities, as well as for seizure of the infringing goods.
There are no criminal remedies for design and patent infringements. However, for trademark and copyright infringements, criminal remedies, including imprisonment and fines, are available.x Appellate review
In Turkey, final decisions of the courts of first instance can be appealed before the district courts and the decisions of the district courts can be appealed before the courts of appeal. An appeal does not automatically stop the execution of the decision and the suspension of the execution should be requested together with the appeal. Appeal proceedings last between 18 months and two years. With respect to preliminary injunctions, district court decisions are final and cannot be appealed before the court of appeal.xi Alternatives to litigation
As of 1 January 2019, mediation is mandatory for IP-related disputes regarding receivables and compensation claims. However, there is no restriction on applying mediation to other disputes as well.
IP-related disputes can be also can be resolved by arbitration. Under the Turkish Civil Procedure Law, arbitral decisions are executable without needing any judicial approval or decision.
Alternative dispute resolution methods have significant advantages such as the arbitrators' expertise, the confidentiality of the proceedings and the flexibility to adapt the proceedings to different situations.