IP/IT News – March 2024

⭐ [ Best of ] Read the March top news about intellectual property, technology and data protection.

Cybercrime / Justice: Brazil and Spain collaborated with INTERPOL to dismantle a Grandoreiro malware operation, a widespread banking Trojan in Spanish-speaking countries since 2017. This malware, distributed through phishing emails, was used to empty victims’ bank accounts, resulting in millions of euros in losses. Five individuals involved in creating and operating the malicious software have been arrested (Press release, March 18, 2024).

Counterfeiting / Justice: A criminal organisation involved in the counterfeiting of luxury watches in Antwerp has been dismantled in an operation supported by Europol. Fifteen suspects were arrested in Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Israel, with the seizure of luxury watches, diamonds, cash, drugs, and other assets (Press Release, March 14, 2024).

DMA / Regulation: Microsoft rolls out an update for Windows enabling the uninstallation of Edge and OneDrive applications, along with other changes such as the ability to uninstall “Microsoft Bing Web Search” and automatically unlinking from other services when associating an account. These adjustments aim to comply with the DMA and enhance transparency and control over data (Press Release, March 7, 2024).

Elections / Regulation: The EU adopts new rules to increase transparency and regulate political advertising targeting, aiming to counter misinformation and foreign interference in elections. Citizens will be better able to identify political ads, know their authors, and determine if they have been targeted, while protecting their privacy and freedoms of opinion and expression. The regulation will come into effect in the fall of 2025 (Press release, March 11, 2024).

Disinformation / Regulation: The OECD highlights in its report “Facts not fakes” the urgency of combating disinformation in the digital space, particularly by strengthening transparency and accountability of digital platforms, preserving media pluralism, and educating society about the challenges of disinformation. It also advocates for international cooperation among governments to address this challenge that threatens democracy (Report March 4, 2024).

Counterfeiting / Olympics: During an operation led by the DNRED, 600 toys infringing the “Paris 2024 Olympic Games” brand were seized. This seizure, considered a first in France, is part of the new anti-counterfeiting plan presented by Thomas Cazenave. Customs officers discovered these toys in the premises of a wholesaler in Aubervilliers. After recognition of their counterfeit nature by the COJO, the toys will be destroyed (Press Release, March 11, 2024).

Designs and Models / Justice: The European Union General Court confirms the decision of the EUIPO to invalidate a community design of Puma shoes, following the early disclosure of the design by Rihanna on Instagram in December 2014. The images from Rihanna’s Instagram account were deemed sufficient to prove the prior disclosure of the design, despite Puma’s arguments that interest in Rihanna’s shoes at that time was limited (CJEU, T‑647/22, March 6, 2024).

Personal Data / Justice: The CJEU has clarified two points regarding the auctioning of personal data for advertising purposes following a lawsuit between the Belgian Data Protection Authority and IAB Europe. Indeed, the TC String used by IAB Europe to store user preferences has been deemed as personal data. Furthermore, the responsibility of IAB Europe as a “joint data controller” has been confirmed, but it would not be responsible for subsequent data processing operations unless it influences these operations (CJEU March 7 2024). 

Competition / DMA: In a thirty-page document, Apple expresses its discontent with the DMA, scheduled to come into effect soon. The company argues that this will lead to a decrease in security for European iPhone users, even though they will remain among the best protected. It emphasises the importance of the integrity of its ecosystem and claims to have implemented new measures to protect users. Among these measures is notarisation, a process of reviewing applications aimed at enhancing platform security (Official document, March 2024).

Competition / Legislation: The Digital Markets Act (DMA) comes into effect on March 6, 2024, imposing constraints on tech giants such as Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and TikTok. The main companies concerned are designated as “gatekeepers.” Major changes include the ability for users to choose their default browser on iOS, the separation of Facebook and Messenger, the ability to uninstall multiple default apps on Windows, and adjustments in Google Maps. Companies must comply with the DMA under penalty of fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.

Competition / Justice: The European Commission has imposed a fine of over 1.8 billion euros on Apple for imposing abusive rules related to the App Store on providers of streaming music services on iOS. Apple has been accused of preventing developers from informing iOS users about the existence of other cheaper services outside the App Store, thus violating EU competition rules. The Commission has also ordered Apple to remove these practices and not to repeat them in the future (Press release, March 4, 2024).

Cybercrime / Overview: Over the past three years, more than 36 million credentials have been compromised and are currently being offered for sale on the dark web, including accounts for services like ChatGPT and Roblox. Cybersecurity experts at Kaspersky have observed a significant rise in credential theft, with nearly 688,000 ChatGPT credentials, 1,160,000 Canva credentials, and 839,000 Grammarly credentials, all being sold on online black markets. Video games, particularly Roblox, have also been targeted, with 34 million credentials stolen in 2023 (Press Release, February 29, 2024).

Intellectual Property / EU: In a ruling on February 28, the European Union General Court confirms the lack of infringement despite the renown of the PUMA brand. Despite the high similarity of the signs, the Court emphasises that the targeted products cater to different audiences, thus eliminating any risk of confusion due to distinct markets, such as those of professional bakery and sports articles (EU General Court, February 28, 2024).

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