ORDER OF THE GENERAL COURT (Ninth Chamber)

9 December 2013 (*)

(Community trade mark – Application signed by a ‘juris kandidat’ – Lack of representation by a lawyer – Manifest inadmissibility)

In Case T‑389/13,

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., established in New York, New York (United States),

applicant,

v

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

defendant,

ACTION brought against the decision of the First Board of Appeal of OHIM of 25 April 2013 (Case R 1740/2012-1) concerning the international registration, designating the European Union, of the word mark TRUST IN PARTNERSHIP,

THE GENERAL COURT (Ninth Chamber),

composed of G. Berardis (Rapporteur), President, A. Popescu and I. Ulloa Rubio, Judges,

Registrar: E. Coulon,

makes the following

Order

 Facts and procedure

1        By application lodged at the Registry of the Court on 22 July 2013, the applicant, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., brought an action against the decision of the First Board of Appeal of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) of 25 April 2013 (Case R 1740/2012-1).

2        The application states that the applicant is represented by T. Kronhöffer and A. Zamorodian, who practise at the same law firm established in Stockholm (Sweden).

3        The application is signed by only one of the two representatives, namely Mr Zamorodian.

4        On 8 August 2013, pursuant to Article 44(6) of its Rules of Procedure, the General Court called on the applicant to put the application in order by asking it, in particular, to produce its lawyers’ certificates of authorisation to practise, as provided for in Article 44(3) of those Rules of Procedure and section 62(a) of the Practice Directions to Parties.

5        On 15 August 2013, in response to that request, Mr Kronhöffer and Mr Zamorodian asserted that they were authorised to act as ‘lawyers’ and produced to that effect two certificates from the Sveriges Advokatsamfund (Swedish Bar Association) concerning them.

6        Finally, as a member of the Chamber was unable to sit, the President of the General Court designated another Judge to complete the Chamber pursuant to Article 32(3) of the Rules of Procedure.

 The law

7        Article 111 of the Rules of Procedure provides that, where an action brought before the Court is manifestly inadmissible or manifestly lacking any foundation in law, the Court may, by reasoned order, without taking further steps in the proceedings, give a decision on the action.

8        In the present case, the Court considers that the case-file provides sufficient information and decides, in accordance with that article, to give a decision on the action without taking further steps in the proceedings.

9        First, it must be held that, pursuant to the third paragraph of Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is applicable to proceedings before the General Court by virtue of Article 53 of that Statute, parties other than the Member States and institutions of the Union must be represented before the Courts of the Union by a lawyer, for which the term in Sweden is ‘advokat’. According to Swedish legislation, the title of ‘advokat’ is reserved to persons who have a Master’s qualification in law and have been admitted to the Bar.

10      Moreover, it is clear from the fourth paragraph of Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice that two cumulative conditions must be satisfied in order for a person to be able to validly represent parties other than Member States and institutions of the Union before the Courts of the Union; that person must be a lawyer (‘advokat’, according to the Swedish version) and he must be authorised to practise before a court of a Member State or of a State which is party to the EEA Agreement. Those requirements are essential procedural requirements and failure to comply with them will result in the action being inadmissible.

11      The requirement imposed by Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice is based on a view of the lawyer’s role as collaborating in the administration of justice and as being required to provide, in full independence and in the overriding interests of that cause, such legal assistance as the client needs. The counterpart of that protection lies in the rules of professional ethics and discipline which are laid down and enforced in the general interest by institutions endowed with the requisite powers for that purpose. Such a conception reflects the legal traditions common to the Member States and is also to be found in the Union legal order, as is precisely demonstrated by Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice (see, by analogy, Case 155/79 AM & S Europe v Commission [1982] ECR 1575, paragraph 24, and order in Case T-79/99 Euro-Lex v OHIM (EU-LEX) [1999] ECR II-3555, paragraph 28).

12      In that regard, one of the certificates from the Sveriges Advokatsamfund mentioned in paragraph 5 above shows that Mr Zamorodian is a ‘juris kandidat’ and that, although not a member of the Swedish Bar, he is authorised, according to Swedish law, to practise before the Swedish courts.

13      It also states that only the members of the Swedish Bar are able to use the title of ‘advokat’. The title of ‘juris kandidat’ is obtained following four and a half years of study. It is only after three years of practising law and following the successful completion of the Swedish bar exam that it is possible to apply to become a member of the Swedish Bar, in order to be granted the right to practise under the title of ‘advokat’.

14      It follows from this that Mr Zamorodian, not being a member of the Swedish Bar, is not a lawyer (advokat) within the meaning of Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice. Therefore, even if he can, under Swedish law, represent parties in the context of proceedings before Swedish courts, he does not satisfy the first of the two cumulative conditions of the fourth paragraph of Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice, and he is therefore not authorised to represent the applicant before the General Court (see, to that effect, orders in Case T‑445/04 ET v OHIM – Aparellaje eléctrico (UNEX) [2005] ECR II‑677, paragraph 9, and Case T‑453/05 Vonage Holdings v OHIM (REDEFINING COMMUNICATIONS) [2006] ECR II-1877, paragraph 13).

15      Secondly, it must be borne in mind that, according to the first subparagraph of Article 43(1) of the Rules of Procedure, the original of every pleading must be signed by the party’s agent or lawyer.

16      That provision must be interpreted as requiring the original of the application initiating proceedings to be signed by hand by the lawyer instructed by the applicant. It is that interpretation which is adopted in the Instructions to the Registrar of the General Court which, in Article 7(3) thereof, instruct the Registrar to accept only documents bearing ‘the original signature of the … lawyer’ (see Case T-223/06 P Parliament v Eistrup [2007] ECR II-1581, paragraph 40 and the case‑law cited).

17      With the exception of the case referred to in Article 3 of the decision of the General Court of 14 September 2011 on the lodging and service of procedural documents by means of e-Curia (OJ 2011 C 289, p. 9), which is not applicable in this case, the handwritten signature of the lawyer or agent representing a party, on the original of every procedural document, constitutes the sole means of ensuring that responsibility for such a document is assumed by a person entitled to represent the party before the Courts of the Union, in accordance with Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice (see, to that effect and by analogy, order in Case T-37/98 FTA and Others v Council [2000] ECR II-373, paragraph 26).

18      In the present case, it must be stated that the application initiating proceedings was signed by only Mr Zamorodian. As a consequence, the production of the certificate, mentioned in paragraph 5 above, which proves that Mr Kronhöffer has been a member of the Swedish Bar since 26 August 2011 and that he is therefore authorised to practise as an ‘advokat’ in Sweden, has no effect on the admissibility of the action, given that he did not sign the document in question.

19      It follows from all the foregoing that, as the application initiating proceedings was signed only by Mr Zamorodian, the present action was not brought in accordance with the third and fourth paragraphs of Article 19 of the Statute of the Court of Justice and the first paragraph of Article 43(1) of the Rules of Procedure.

20      Consequently, the action must be dismissed as manifestly inadmissible.

 Costs

21      As the present order has been adopted before the application was notified to the defendant and before the defendant was able to incur costs, it suffices to decide that the applicant shall bear its own costs, in accordance with Article 87(1) of the Rules of Procedure.

On those grounds,

THE GENERAL COURT (Ninth Chamber)

hereby orders:

1.      The action is dismissed as manifestly inadmissible.

2.      Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. shall bear its own costs.

Luxembourg, 9 December 2013.

E. Coulon

      G. Berardis

Registrar

      President