The Unified Patent Court is a supranational judicial forum that shall act in the legal disputes relating to the infringement and validity of European patents. The relevant agreement has been signed by 25 Member States of the European Union, including Hungary.
The Government’s motion raises two abstract questions of constitutional law. The first question was whether the Constitutional Court handles the so-called enhanced cooperations similar to the present agreement as part of the EU-law, or treats them as agreements concluded on the basis of international law. In the framework of this review, the Constitutional Court recalled: as established in the Decision No. 22/2016. (XII. 5.) AB, by joining the European Union, Hungary has not given up its sovereignty but it only allowed for the joint exercising of certain powers, accordingly, the maintaining of Hungary’s sovereignty should be presumed in the course of assessing the joint exercising of powers additional to the rights and obligations specified in the founding treaties of the European Union (the so-called presumption of maintained sovereignty).
According to the Constitutional Court, the form of enhanced cooperation should enjoy special consideration under public law. Hungary is free to conclude an international treaty the only states parties of which are Member States of the European Union and which creates an institution that applies the law of the European Union, however, all this shall only become part of the EU-law if its legal basis can be found in the founding treaties. This should be examined by the Government in the case of the concrete cooperation. If in the present case the Government holds that the founding treaties of the European Union have already specified the power related to establishing the institution concerned, the legal basis of the publication of the implementing international treaty shall be Article E of the Fundamental Law, while in other cases the legal basis shall be Article Q of the Fundamental Law.
The other question to be answered concerned the conditions of validity necessary for the publication in case of an agreement under international law. In addressing this, the Constitutional Court first considered that the Unified Patent Court to be set up shall apply in its procedure not only the EU-law but also the national laws of the Member States. The Constitutional Court also recalled that the international agreements establishing judicial fora typically set up a forum with a special function of legal remedy. However, it is a peculiar feature of the international special court set up for specific case-groups that not only the appeal procedure but also the basic case shall be dealt with by the special court. Therefore the operation of such an international forum supplementing the national court structure would result in drawing the relevant legal disputes between private parties off the jurisdiction of the national courts, which would necessarily affect the Fundamental Law’s chapter dealing with the courts in Hungary. The Fundamental Law prescribes, by allowing no exceptions, that the national courts shall decide in all legal disputes of private law. The Constitutional Court concluded from the above that, according to the provisions of the Fundamental Law in force, the international agreement transferring to an international institution the jurisdiction of adjudicating a group of private law disputes may not be published.
The defendant of the case behind the constitutional complaint was the publisher of a national daily newspaper. An article with the title “Investigation under way against bishop” – the person concretely identified by name – “due to coercion” was published in the paper. The diocesan mentioned in the title had been the plaintiff of first order and subsequently he became one of the petitioners of the constitutional complaint. Further in the article the newspaper presented the following: the prosecutor’s office ordered investigation due to the suspicion of the criminal offence of coercion, “related to the acts” of the diocesan and the commissary.
To protect their rights, the plaintiffs turned to the court. In their opinion, the newspaper falsely stated that an investigation had been started against them due to any criminal offence, as in fact they have not been suspected and the investigation took place against an unknown perpetrator. The title of the article was about an investigation against one of them, despite of the fact that they have not been incriminated. After court proceedings of multiple stages, the plaintiffs finally turned to the Constitutional Court with a constitutional complaint. According to the petitioners, the Curia acted contrary to the Fundamental Law when it held permissible for the title of a press article to contain a falsehood.
As underlined by the Constitutional Court: if the whole of the press article provides true information, then the smaller inaccuracies, falsehoods found in certain sentences or terms of the article do not form ground for legal accountability. However, the Constitutional Court holds at the same time that the criteria concerned should be considered differently when they are applied with regard to the title of an article. In the course of the assessment focusing on personality rights, the title of a press article does not form unity with other parts of the article.
Accordingly, the interpretation of the law provided by the Curia does not comply with the criteria of constitutionality in its part stating that the falsehood contained in the title of the article should be assessed in the light of the totality of the article. Therefore the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged judicial decision. There shall be a repeated procedure in the case, as it is still the duty of the court in charge to decide about the lawfulness of the concrete article concerned in the case.
Judges Dr. Attila Horváth, Dr. Béla Pokol, Dr. Mária Szívós and Dr. András Varga Zs. attached concurring opinions to the decision.
Lack of provision for a name-changing process for lawfully settled non-Hungarian citizens violated the right to human dignity and the prohibition of discrimination.