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The Benelux Court of Justice

Updated: Jun 12

The Benelux Court of Justice is turning 50 in 2024 and Jurisconsul team participated to the conferences given for the occasion on 15 May 2024 in the premises of the Court of Justice of the EU.


A new half-century to begin, with a new website and various challenges for this unfairly little-known court that promote the uniform interpretation of the common legal rules (the “Common Rules”) established within the framework of the Benelux Union.


The Jurisconsul team would like to take this opportunity to draw up a portrait of the Benelux Court on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.


History of the Benelux Court of Justice

The Benelux Court of Justice was established by the Treaty of 21 March 1965, which entered into force on 1st January 1974.


The Protocol of 15 October 2012 harmonized the jurisdictional competences and relocated the Court's headquarters from Brussels to Luxembourg, where it holds hearings.


Although the Court is not a formal institution of the Benelux Union, whose constitutive Treaty was signed on 3 February 1958, there are numerous institutional links between the two. For instance, the members and registrars of the Court are appointed by the Committee of Ministers of the Benelux Union.




Benelux Court of Justice organisation infographic


Composition and competences

The Court is composed of three chambers, with members chosen from among the judges of the Belgian Court of Cassation, the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden, and the Superior Court of Justice of Luxembourg. These members are tasked with interpreting Benelux Common Rules.

The Court's competences extend to various areas, including

  • trademarks for products and services,

  • designs and models,

  • compulsory insurance in respect of motor vehicles,

  • astreinte (penalty payment),

  • visas,

  • recovery of tax debts,

  • protection of birds, and

  • equal tax treatment.


Find all Benelux Common Rules on the Benelux Court's website :


The First Chamber

The First Chamber’s competences are the following:

  • Preliminary ruling (renvoi préjudiciel) : to provide interpretations of Benelux law at the request of national courts;  

  • Interpretation ruling (Renvoi en interpretation): upon request for interpretation, which can be made by the governments of the Benelux countries ;

  • Appeals against decisions made by the Second Chamber of the Benelux Court.

 

The First Chamber counts nine members and nine alternate members, who are appointed from among the counselors of the Belgian Court of Cassation, the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Supreme Court of the Netherlands), and the Luxembourg Superior Court of Justice.


The Second Chamber

Six members and six alternate members are appointed from among the judges of the courts of appeal in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to sit on the Second Chamber.

Benelux trademark registration timeline infographic
Benelux registration timeline

The Second Chamber has the complete jurisdiction to hear the appeal against decisions made by the Benelux Intellectual Property Office (BOIP) regarding oppositions, extinctions, and cancellations. 

Examples of trademarks refusal for absolute grounds:

  • Lack of distinctive character: A reproduction of a worldwide well-known painting as a trademark will not be perceived by the consumer as such but as a decoration[1].

  • Descriptive character: The trademark application "neighbourhood care" for medical services, among others, includes the descriptive terms "neighbourhood" and "care." This pairing straightforwardly conveys that the care services are offered within a local community.

  • Contrary to public policy or morality: The "Red Cross" emblem is safeguarded under the First Geneva Convention of 1949. Due to its huge public significance, any unauthorized use of this symbol is deemed to be contrary to public order and morality.

  • Deceptive character: A trademark application for "vegaburger" would be misleading when applied to meat and fish products. The term "vega" explicitly conveys a vegan or plant-based nature, creating a specific and highly relevant expectation in the consumer's mind. Using this sign for meat and/or fish products would contradict this expectation, potentially deceiving consumers about the product's composition.


If the BOIP denies your trademark registration application, you have the option to appeal the decision of definitive refusal before the Benelux Court.

However, you must submit your appeal within a strict deadline of two months from the date you receive notification of the final refusal decision.

The Second Chamber of the Benelux Court has the authority to either cancel or re-examine the BOIP's ruling upon the request of the applicant.







Third Chamber

The Third Chamber focuses on disputes related to the staff of the Benelux Intellectual Property Office (BOIP) and members of the Benelux Union General Secretariat.

The members of the Third Chamber, consisting of three members and three alternate members, are selected from among the members of the First and Second Chambers.

 

Find all Benelux Common Rules on the newly redesigned website of the Benelux Court: https://www.courbeneluxhof.int/fr/regles-juridique-communes/ 



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Notes

[1] Cour d’appel La Haye, 29 août 2017, 200.205.771/01, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2017:2446, De Nachtwacht.

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