Language of document : ECLI:EU:T:2014:265

Case T‑61/13

Research and Production Company ‘Melt Water’ UAB


Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM)

(Community trade mark — Application for a Community figurative mark NUEVA — Article 60 of Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 — Failure to comply with the obligation to pay the appeal fee within the period prescribed — Ambiguity in a language version — Uniform interpretation — Unforeseeable circumstances or force majeure — Excusable error — Obligations of care and diligence)

Summary — Judgment of the General Court (Eighth Chamber), 21 May 2014

1.      Community trade mark — Appeals procedure — Action before the EU judicature — Jurisdiction of the General Court — Direction issued to the Office — Not included

(Council Regulation No 207/2009, Art. 65(6))

2.      EU law — Interpretation — Texts in several languages — Uniform interpretation — Differences between the various language versions — General scheme and purpose of the rules in question as a reference point

3.      Community trade mark — Appeals procedure — Form of appeal and period within which it must be brought — To be brought in writing and within a period of two months — Payment of the appeal fee

(Council Regulation No 207/2009, Art. 60)

4.      Community trade mark — Procedural provisions — Time-limits — Claim barred by lapse of time — Exceptions — Obligation of care and diligence

(Council Regulation No 207/2009, Art. 60; Commission Regulation No 2868/95, Art. 1, Rule 49(3))

1.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 15)

2.      All the language versions of a provision of EU law must be regarded as being equally authentic and, in principle, recognised as having the same weight, and this cannot vary according to, inter alia, the size of the population of the Member States using the language in question. The wording used in one language version of a provision of EU law cannot serve as the sole basis for the interpretation of that provision or be made to override the other language versions in that regard. Such an approach would be incompatible with the requirement that EU law be applied uniformly.

First, the need for a uniform interpretation of EU law makes it impossible for the text of a provision to be considered in isolation but requires, in case of doubt, that it be interpreted and applied in the light of the versions existing in the other official languages. Second, the need for a uniform interpretation of EU law requires, in the case of divergence between the various language versions of a provision, that the provision in question be interpreted by reference to the general scheme and purpose of the rules of which it forms part.

(see paras 20, 26-28)

3.      Article 60 of Regulation No 207/2009 must be interpreted uniformly as meaning that payment of the appeal fee is required in order for the appeal to be regarded as having been filed, with the result that that payment is linked to the filing of the notice of appeal and must be made, in the same way as that filing, within a period of two months following the date of notification of the decision under appeal. The period of four months following the date of notification of the decision applies solely to the lodging of the written statement setting out the grounds of appeal, and not to the payment of the appeal fee.

That uniform interpretation, being based on the versions of that article existing in the other official languages of the European Union and on its general scheme and purpose, is the only one which is consistent with the principle of legal certainty. Compliance with procedural time-limits, particularly in relation to appeals, is a matter of public policy, and any interpretation other than that uniform interpretation is liable to undermine legal certainty.

(see paras 31, 34)

4.      No derogation from the EU rules on procedural time-limits may be made save where the circumstances are quite exceptional, since the strict application of those rules serves the requirements of legal certainty and the need to avoid any discrimination or arbitrary treatment in the administration of justice. Regardless of whether such circumstances are considered unforeseeable or to amount to force majeure or excusable error, they include, in any event, a subjective element involving the obligation, on the part of the party acting in good faith, to exercise all the care and diligence required of a normally well-informed trader to monitor the course of the procedure set in motion and to comply with the prescribed time‑limits.

Where the applicant fails to show care and diligence, it cannot properly rely on any unforeseeable circumstance or force majeure, or on any excusable error, in order to justify its failure to pay the appeal fee within the prescribed period.

(see paras 38, 42)