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New EU-Regulation

Good news for our clients in need of measures for a cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters.

As from January 18th, 2017 a new EU Regulation (nr. 655/2014) is applicable in all Member States of the EU. This Regulation establishes a procedure to facilitate cross-border debt recovery.  

Protective measures

In all Member States it is possible to obtain protective measures such as account preservation orders. The conditions for the grant of such measures and the efficiency of their implementation however vary considerably.

European Order

From now on it is possible to obtain a European Account Preservation Order. This Order will prevent the creditor’s claim from being jeopardised through the transfer or withdrawal of funds which are held by the debtor in a bank account maintained in another Member State.

Conditions

It is a condition that the Order is requested to a Court in another Member State than where the bank account to be seized is maintained by the debtor. Another condition is that the creditor is domiciled in another Member State than where the bank account of the debtor is maintained.

For example: the creditor is domiciled in Belgium and his debtor has a bank account in The Netherlands. The creditor can make an application for an Order to a Belgian Court, regardless where his debtor is living. So, if the debtor is also living in Belgium but he maintains a bank account in The Netherlands, it will now be possible to seize the Dutch bank account.  

Unknown bank account

In case the creditor has obtained in Belgium an enforceable judgment, which requires the debtor to pay the creditor’s claim and the creditor has reasons to believe that the debtor holds one or more accounts with a bank in The Netherlands, but knows neither the name and/or address of the bank nor the IBAN, BIC, he may request the Belgian court that the ‘information authority’ of The Netherlands obtain the information necessary to allow the bank or banks and the debtor’s account or accounts to be identified.

In The Netherlands this ‘information authority’ is the bailiff. The bailiff is authorized to submit a request for obtaining account information from banks, based in The Netherlands. The banks are obliged to reply to the request expeditiously. The bank is not allowed to inform the debtor.

Roderick Rischen,

Rischen & Nijhuis, advocaten

Rotterdam, January 13th, 2017

Introduction

‘Crimea – the Golden Island in the Black Sea’. This was the title of an exhibition which took place in the Allard Pierson Museum (APM) in Amsterdam from February till September 2014. Works of art from several museums in Crimea had been transferred to Amsterdam with an export authorization, issued by the Ukraine Government. In March 2014 the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea decided to join Russia.

After the exhibition APM did not know to whom to return the works of art. The Crimean museums started a procedure before the Court of Amsterdam against APM. The State of Ukraine intervened in that procedure.

The Amsterdam Court issued its judgment on 14 December 2016.

Procedure

Both the Crimean museums and the State of Ukraine claimed  from APM to return the works of art to them.

The museums argued that APM had the objects on the basis of an operational agreement in which APM had guaranteed to return the objects to the museums after the exhibition. The museums and not the State of Ukraine are the proprietor of the objects.

The State of Ukraine argued that the works of art are the cultural heritage of Ukraine. The Law of Ukraine On Protection of Archaeological Heritage states in article 18 that cultural heritage and archaeological objects are the property of the State of Ukraine. Furthermore the State argued that the export license, which was valid until the end of the exhibition was expired. As a result of that they are considered unlawfully exported.

Ownership

The Court of Amsterdam did not decide upon the question who is the lawful owner of the works of art. On the basis of article 1012 of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure the ownership will be  determined by the national law of the State which has brought proceedings for recovery after the return of the works of art.

Cultural Property

The Court established that all parties involved agreed that the works of art belong to the cultural heritage. In the UNESCO Treaty of 1970 `cultural property' is defined as property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science. The museum claimed that the works of art belong to the cultural heritage of Crimea. The Republic of Crimea however is not recognized as a State. At the time of export to The Netherlands Crimea was a part of Ukraine.

Illicit (Unlawful) Export

The Parties to the UNESCO Convention recognize that the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is one of the main causes of the impoverishment of the cultural heritage of the countries of origin of such property. Although at the time of export of the works of art, there was no illicit (unlawful) export, as the State of Ukraine had issued an export licence, at the end of the exhibition, the licence was expired.

Decision

The Court decided that the expiration of the export licence was to be considered as equivalent to illicit export. Therefore the works of art should be returned to Ukraine. However the Court also decided that the judgment would not be enforceable forthwith. If in appeal the Court of Appeal would decide differently and in the meantime the works of art would have been returned to Ukraine, APM would be in an impossible position, as the Allard Pierson Museum would not be able to return the works of art to the Crimea museums.

The museums have the possibility to appeal against the judgment of the Amsterdam Court until 14 March 2017.

Roderick D. Rischen

Rischen & Nijhuis advocaten

16 December 2016

As intellectual capital and more precisely intellectual property (IP) and intellectual property rights (IPRs) play an increasingly important role in corporate strategy , the accurate valuation of IP remains a major obstacle to their emergence as a tradable asset class. Though there are several generally accepted ways to measure the value of IC/IP, the introduction of more transparency in IP valuation procedures may render the trading of IP rights significantly more efficient and profitable which can be used in legal cases.

Recently the European Commission (EC) appointed panel of European IP valuation experts drawn from a range of disciplines including those involved with accounting, business valuation, IP consulting, litigation and damage award activities.

The panel's task was to consider how IP valuation plays a part in the policy for the "Innovation Union" and the bottlenecks that occur. This Expert Group focused on valuation methods for IP and their use; to identify bottle necks in the valuation methods used for the purpose of a company’s financial reporting, access to finance and litigation; to identify good practices; and to recommend possible policy actions. The intangible assets created through the processes of innovation represent a major share of the value of today's businesses. The IP rights associated with those assets are the legal underpinning for potential returns on investment in that innovation. Despite their fundamental importance, the understanding of IC/IP and IP rights does however differ widely amongst businesses large and small.

There is a clear need to increase market actors’ confidence and certainty in IC/IP valuation methods as a way to stimulate IC/IP transactions, to support IC/IP based financing and to give companies the tools to provide information about their IC/IP. This will also allow investors to better understand the business and the value of the company itself and even to provide decision makers with the required information to decide whether to enforce or to license IC/IP.

However, the Expert Group has demonstrated that it is not the lack of valuation methods per se, or even standards for valuing IP that are missing, but rather other barriers that are having a greater influence on business and lenders. As IP is, by its nature, innovative and therefore different, each case for valuation requires investigation, rather than having an automated approach to IP valuation. As a result, IP valuation of a company’s assets is an opinion, at a particular point in time – similar in many respects to the way that a legal opinion is given.

Although an informed layman might proffer a good guess, it is important to note that in the same way that one cannot automate the judgment on a law suit, one cannot automate judgment on an independent IP valuation. There are many factors involved and evidence and purpose can have a large impact.

The valuation of IP assets is a challenge but , new measuring systems and accounting systems are entering the business scene and will contribute to decisions when IP is protected by rights such as patents and trademarks, where a requisite for obtaining such rights is that the IP starts to exist. Valuation involves assumptions and judgment by the valuer derived from and justified based on a bespoke, rigorous analysis of the IP within its business context, together with its importance versus

The bottleneck for the improvement of an IP market is not in the lack of accepted methods or standards, their content or consistency, but in the limited dissemination of the fact that they exist and the little confidence in their results.

This expert group has firstly investigated European best practice in IP valuation as performed by financial institutions that are providing capital, particularly to SMEs. This report presents the results of this research and their approach to IP backed financing – the successes and failures and whether IP valuation is actually carried out as part of the financing process.

The findings of the research carried out are summarized under the headings of equity financing and debt financing and some examples of current practice are provided. We note that there is a significant difference in the approach to lending to SMEs and start-ups compared with larger corporate that have a strong trading history. A solution is needed to fund the commercialization of innovative ideas, with the value of the IP asset acting as collateral.

Overcoming the barriers to lending against IP assets is therefore attractive at a national and European Level.

It must be noted that cases of intangible asset based lending (IABL) have occurred in certain circumstances. Combined asset based lending has been achieved whereby a bank provides a loan to a pension fund against tangible assets and the pension fund then provides a sale and lease-back arrangement against intangible assets. IABL from pension funds (on a sale and lease back arrangement) rather than banks, provides a route for SMEs to obtain loans that is gaining increasing attention. One reason given for this uptake in IABL between a company and director pension funds is the growing number of SMEs who have difficulties in securing bank loans.

In the Accounting and Reporting section the Expert Group reports that there are limitations on when and how it is possible to place the value of IP assets on the balance sheet of the company. The complexity of IP from an accounting perspective leads to problems in its reporting, which may result in the vulnerability of firms which base most of their performance on IP. The existing regulatory situation implies that IP will be recognize in more and more cases . In the past historical cost based on a previous acquisition of such IP. It is difficult to recognize internally generated IP as, when the expenditure to develop the IP is incurred, it is usually unclear whether it will generate benefits in the future. As a consequence, an important part of internally generated IP was not recognized in the balance sheet of an enterprise, meaning that potential investors are not receiving some relevant information about the company.

This is changing. The filing of a “management report” together with the annual report, giving detailed information about IP value, seems to be a useful vehicle to improve publicly available information on intangibles. There are now already measure systems and accounting systems available which are in line with the IAS and IFRS accounting standards.

Finally, the Expert Group states that an issue that influences a company’s decision to protect its IP, especially in the case of SMEs, is to what extent such rights are enforceable, the time and costs involved in litigation, and the foreseeable economic results. The quality of the enforcement system has an important impact in IP protection.

SMEs and large companies need to be assured an accessible justice system in case of infringement, validity and other IPR related litigation cases, which implies the need to provide judges and professional valuers with the appropriate tools and data to facilitate valuation in litigation.

As a result of the in-depth analysis carried out in all the mentioned areas, the Expert Group recommends a number of policy actions that could have a significant impact on reducing the identified barriers in order to increase the efficient use of IP valuation and to make such valuation flexible, transparent and reliable to respond to market requirements.

Please read more on: http://bookshop.europa.eu/fr/final-report-from-the-expert-group-onintellectual-property-valuation-pbKI0114460/

ANTEIUS Advocaten - Belgium

December 2016

Par voie d’ordonnance rendu le 10 février 2016, le gouvernement a promulgué une réforme du droit des contrats qui a modifié environ 300 articles du Code Civil. A cette occasion, il convient de vérifier les conditions générales de vente et d’affaires pour s’assurer de la conformité à la nouvelle législation.

Voici trois exemples de modifications importantes:

1.   Les informations précontractuelles

Le texte de loi prévoit que la partie qui connaît une information dont l’importance est déterminante pour le consentement de l’autre doit l’en informer dès lors que légitimement cette dernière ignore cette information. On fait confiance à son contractant. Le manquement au devoir d’information peut entraîner l’annulation du contrat.

L’entreprise doit donc réfléchir aux informations déterminantes pouvant influer sur la volonté du client de signer le contrat. Il convient de les inscrire au contrat ou de les communiquer par écrit avant signature et faire approuver par le client qu’il en a pris connaissance et les a comprises.

2.   Les contrats d’adhésion

La réforme du droit des contrats prévoit qu’en cas de doute sur l’interprétation des contrats, quand une clause n’est pas claire, l’interprétation du contrat se fera en faveur de la partie qui n’a pu négocier.

3.   Les circonstances imprévisibles

Le texte nouveau prévoit que « si un changement de circonstance imprévisible lors de la conclusion du contrat rend l’exécution onéreuse pour une partie qui n’avait pu accepter d’en assumer le risque, celle-ci peut demander une renégociation du contrat à son co-contractant »

Cet article créée une certaine incertitude juridique car il permettra peut-être aux tribunaux de revenir sur l’interprétation de conditions substantielles du contrat. 

Il faudra attendre la jurisprudence nouvelle à venir. Il peut donc être utile de procéder à une révision des conditions générales.

 

Jean-Frédéric MAURO

 

Avocat à la Cour

France, Decembre 2016

Intellectual Property has become one of the most valuable assets of most businesses across the EU and elsewhere. European policies recognize this and offer comprehensive EU protection of IP rights. Design rights are among the most common rights across industrial sectors. According to the European Office of Industrial Property, today 62% of EU companies use design in their business.

The importance of these rights deserves focused attention, especially as the risk of copying and counterfeiting is ever-present. Successful design adds value to products and therefore deserves protecting.

We start with the presumption of the existence of a registered Community design (RCD) that has allegedly been violated. In such case, it is first necessary to consider the merit of an infringement action before any formal action is initiated. Merit should be confirmed by an appropriate test for RCD infringement.

To support infringement action against an RCD violation, the design in question must be incorporated in or applied to a product in relation to which an infringing act has taken place, i.e., “offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using of a product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is attached, or storing such a product for those purposes.”

For a design to be infringing, it must not create on the informed user a different overall impression to the design protected under the RCD. The scope of protection is set out in Art. 10 of the Council Regulation on RCDs: “The scope of the protection conferred by a Community design shall include any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression. In assessing the scope of protection, the degree of freedom of the designer in developing his design shall be taken into consideration.”

An “overall impression” depends on the existing design corpus, the nature of the product, the industrial sector and the level of freedom of the designer.

Designs are to be assessed from the perspective of an “informed user”. This can be defined as a physical person who is a user of the product in which the design is intended to be incorporated, and who is not a designer or a manufacturer or seller. The term “informed user” in this context is understood as a person who perceives the designs as a whole without analyzing any details and, at the same time, does not observe in detail any minimal differences that may exist.

If the application of the test indicates an infringement, we must consider to which court we will apply for legal remedies such as an interim injunction and further action on the merits of the matter. When dealing with EU cross-border cases or even global overseas cases with infringement impact on the territory of a Member State, we must carefully follow the provisions of the Council Regulation on RCDs to prevent any refusal or possibly serious delay in our action against the infringement.

Despite the provisions of the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgements in Civil and Commercial Matters, signed in Brussels on 27 September 1968, disputes concerning the infringement and validity of Community designs are in general decided by Community design courts. Under the provisions of the Council Regulation on RCDs, each Member State was asked to communicate to the EU Commission not later than March 6, 2005 a list of so-called “Community design courts”, indicating their names and their territorial jurisdiction.

If a Member State has not communicated the list of its Community design courts, jurisdiction for any relevant Community design proceedings remains with the court of the Member State in question that would have jurisdiction ratione loci and ratione materiae in proceedings relating to a national design right of that State.

Provided that the Community design courts were duly communicated to the European Commission, the following rules will apply.

Proceedings with respect to actions and claims relating to an infringement of an RCD shall be brought in the courts of the Member State in which the defendant is domiciled or, if he is not domiciled in any of the Member States, in any Member State in which he has an establishment. If the defendant is neither domiciled nor has an establishment in any of the Member States, such proceedings shall be brought in the courts of the Member State in which the plaintiff is domiciled or, if he is not domiciled in any of the Member States, in any Member State in which he has an establishment.

If neither the defendant nor the plaintiff is so domiciled nor has such an establishment, such proceedings shall be brought in the courts of the Member State where the EI Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has its seat, i.e. in Alicante, Spain.

The relevant Articles of the above-mentioned Convention shall still apply if the parties agree that a different Community design court shall have jurisdiction, or if the defendant enters an appearance before a different Community design Court.

Furthermore, proceedings for infringement actions and, if permitted under national law, actions with respect to a threatened infringement of Community designs may also be brought in the courts of the Member State where an act of infringement has been committed or threatened.

When considering the Community design court’s jurisdiction, we recommend paying special attention to UK overseas territories. It could very well be the case that such overseas UK territories have not designated a Community Design court, and there would be the likelihood that infringement proceedings would need to be commenced in the United Kingdom (such as in case of Gibraltar, despite Gibraltar’s particular position within the EU). To conclude, be observant.

Prague 23/11/16

REHAK LEGAL