Patent attorneys, case C-76/90

February 13th, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU (Sixth Chamber) in its judgment of 25 July 1991 Case C-76/90, Manfred S├Ąger v Dennemeyer & Co. Ltd., ruled that the provisions Article 59 of the Treaty requires not only the elimination of all discrimination against a person providing services on the grounds of his nationality, but also the abolition of any restriction, even if it applies without distinction to national providers of services and to those of other Member States, when it is liable to prohibit or otherwise impede the activities of a provider of services established in another Member State where he lawfully provides similar services. In particular, a Member State may not make the provision of services in its territory subject to compliance with all the conditions required for establishment and thereby deprive of all practical effectiveness the provisions of the Treaty whose object is, precisely, to guarantee the freedom to provide services. Such a restriction is all the less permissible where, unlike the situation governed by the third paragraph of Article 60 of the Treaty, the service is supplied without its being necessary for the person providing it to visit the territory of the Member State where it is provided.

Having regard to the particular characteristics of the provisions of services in certain sectors of activity, specific requirements imposed on the provider, which result from the application of rules governing those types of activities, cannot be regarded as incompatible with the Treaty. However, as a fundamental principle of the Treaty, the freedom to provide services may be limited only by provisions which are justified by imperative reasons relating to the public interest and which apply to all persons or undertakings pursuing an activity in the State of destination, in so far as that interest is not protected by the rules to which the person providing the services is subject in the Member State in which he is established. In particular, those requirements must be objectively necessary in order to ensure compliance with professional rules and to guarantee the protection of the recipient of services and they must not exceed what is necessary to attain those objectives.

Article 59 of the EEC Treaty precludes provisions of a Member State which prohibit a company established in another Member State from providing patent-owners in the territory of the first State with a service for monitoring those patents and renewing them by payment of the requisite fees, on the ground that, by virtue of those provisions, such activities are reserved to persons holding a special professional qualification, such as a qualification as patent agent.