Posted by David FG on July 29, 2006
In Reply to: "Italian torpedo" posted by Olya on July 28, 2006
: What is the origin or the phrase "Italian torpedo" (used in legal context as a name for a procedural device)
A torpedo is a maritime weapon used for holing (and thus stopping or at least slowing down) a ship.
In its legal sense, the Italian torpedo is a technique used to delay a case brought under the law of the European Union (EU).
In a patent or breach of copyright case (typically) the defendant in a case of breach of copyright can bring an action to declare that the alleged action is not in fact illegal. He can do this in another country from that in which the original action was brought. The rules of EU law dictate that if an case is being brought in one jurisdiction, the case can't be heard elsewhere.
So, if the defendant brings his action in a Member State notorious for its slow legal processes (eg Italy or Belgium)he can effectively stop the breach of copyright action for so long that even if successful it is largely useless.
Thus, if you sue me for breach of copyright in Ireland, and I bring a case to try to prove it was not a breach in Italy, your case will have to wait until mine has been determined - which could take so long that there will be little or no point in your bringing your action anyway.
I hope that makes some sort of sense.
The rule states that