Saturday, May 09, 2009

This Week in Luxembourg

- In a Dutch 234 case, someone tried to get the city to tell him to whom his GBA data had been disclosed over the previous two years. (GBA = Gemeentelijke Basis Administratie = the City's record of its inhabitants with some information about each of them, which they use for example to make a voters' list.) Apparently the GBA Act only required the city to give him this information for the previous one year, hence the dispute. The Raad van State asked the ECJ, because there was an EC data retention directive in play, and the ECJ's answer is that he should be able to access this information, but that the MS are free to set a time limit. It is up to the national court to decide whether in this case "fair balance" has been struck, although the ECJ gives some indication that this is not the case. Rijkeboer.

- In a Portugese 234 case, there is a bit of a mess in the Portuguese bus market (?). Apparently, the bus companies of Lisbon and Oporto, who receive a government subsidy because they have a public service obligation, also run buses to the rest of Portugal, in direct competition with the plaintiffs and without any PSO. Since it is impossible to calculate the amount of compensation to which the defendants are entitled, the ECJ rules that it would be unlawful to give them any. This result is reached under a transport law regulation, without recourse to state aids law. Antrop and Others.

- AG Sharpston delivered an opinion in an Italian 234 case that crosses over between Fèta-type appellation of origin law and trademark law. Two producers' associations in Emilia-Romagna are trying to get "Salame Felino" (=a type of salami) protected the same way Fèta is. In the mean time, they registered it as a collective trademark. Plaintiff has been using this description for many years in good faith, but now he got in trouble. Much hilarity ensues. Severi.

- The CFI handed down four rulings in competition cases. (Three regarding a cartel in the industrial tubes sector, and a merger control case in the Dutch pig market.) In all four, the court left the Commission's decision intact. In a clear case of "everything but the kitchen sink", Wieland-Werke started by arguing that art. 15(2) of Regulation 17, which governs the fines the Commission can set, was in violation of the lex certa principle. (NB, Reg. 17 is so called because it is so old that it predates the current numbering system.) That case and the KME ruling do have an interesting discussion of the application of the leniency notice, though. Both applicants felt they deserved a higher discount than the one they got. (Not to mention higher than the one the other got.) In the Dutch pig case, some farmers' unions objected to a Commission decision allowing Hendrix Meat Group to be taken over. (NVV et al. v Commission)

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