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Gilles Cuniberti

Checking Out

It has been seven years since I wrote my first post on Conflict of Laws .Net.

The blog has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I am stepping back and leaving the blog in the expert hands of my co-editors.

CJEU Rules Again on Jurisdiction over Co-Perpetrators

By Jonas Steinle

Jonas Steinle, LL.M., is a doctoral student at the chair of Prof. Dr. Matthias Weller, Mag.rer.publ., Professor for Civil Law, Civil Procedure and Private International Law at EBS Law School Wiesbaden, Germany.

On 5 June 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered another judgment on Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation in Coty Germany GmbH ./. First Note Perfumes NV, C-360/12.  With its decision, the Court completed a series of three pending decisions that all concerned cases where there are several supposed perpetrators and one of them is sued in a jurisdiction other than the one he acted in.

Facts

The German based claimant, the Coty Germany GmbH, sells and manufactures perfumes and cosmetics in Germany. Among its products there is one perfume that comes in a bottle, corresponding to a three-dimensional Community trademark whereof Coty Germany is the proprietor. The defendant, First Note, is a Belgium based perfume wholesaler. One of the perfumes of First Note was sold in a bottle, similar to the one that is protected by the Community trademark of Coty Germany. First Note sold this perfume to a German based intermediary, the Stefan P. Warenhandel. These sales were performed entirely outside of Germany since Stefan P. Warenhandel had collected the perfumes directly at the premises of First Note in Belgium and resold them in Germany.

Coty Germany claimed that the distribution of the perfume in Belgium by First Note constituted an infringement of its Community trademark and commenced proceedings against First Note before German (!) courts, although these sales had been performed entirely outside of Germany. Coty Germany argued that jurisdiction of the German courts could be established pursuant to Art. 93 para. 5 of the Trademark Regulation, which requires that the defendant allegedly acted within the territory of the seized court. The second basis for establishing jurisdiction of the German courts was Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation, which provides for the place where the damage occurred. Coty Germany claims that the acts of the German based Stefan P. Warenhandel can be imputed to the Belgium based defendant, First Note, and that therefore jurisdiction may be established before the German courts. Both heads of jurisdiction formed each a question for reference to the Court.

Ruling

In its first part of the judgment, the Court referred to Art. 93 para. 5 of the Trademark Regulation as a potential basis for jurisdiction. The Court ruled that the application of Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation is expressly precluded under the Trademark Regulation and that Art. 93 para. 5 of the Trademark must therefore be interpreted independently from Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation (para. 31) without making reference to the existing case law of the Brussels I Regulation (para. 32). By referring to the wording and the purpose of that rule, the Court came to the conclusion that Art. 93 para. 5 of the Trademark Regulation does only allow jurisdiction to be established before the courts where the trade mark was presumably infringed and not before the courts, where a potential accomplice had made any such infringements.

With regard to the second referred question on Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation, the Court distinguished between the place where the causal event occurred and the place where the damage occurred.

As for the first alternative of this rule, the question at hand was whether one can impute the action of one perpetrator to his accomplice in order to establish jurisdiction under Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation under the place where the causal event occurred. This would essentially allow the claimant to sue any perpetrator at a place of action of his accomplices and hence at a venue where he himself never acted. Here, the Court simply referred to its ruling in the case Melzer in 2013, where the Court clearly had denied such possibility as a basis for jurisdiction under Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation.

Since the referring court, the German Bundesgerichtshof, had not limited the order for reference to the place where the causal event occurred, the CJEU this time could also address the second alternative under Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation as a potential basis for jurisdiction, which is the place where the damage occurred. Here, the Court came to a different conclusion by referring to the Wintersteiger and Pinckney decisions where it had held that the occurrence of damage in a particular Member State is subject to the protection in that relevant Member State (para. 55). Holding that this was also true for infringements of unfair competition, which was the case here, the Court stated:

57 “It must therefore be held that, in circumstances such as those of the main proceedings, an action relating to an infringement of that law may be brought before the German courts, to the extent that the act committed in another Member State caused or may cause damage within the jurisdiction of the court seised.”

Accordingly, the Court does allow jurisdiction to be established on the basis of the place of occurrence of damage, to hear an action for damages against a person established in another Member State who acted in that State and whose actions – through the furtherance of another perpetrator – caused damage within the jurisdiction of the seised court.

Evaluation

A new edition of Pierre Mayer and Vincent Heuzé’s leading treaty on French private international law is scheduled for publication in June.

Mayer is professor emeritus, and Heuzé currently teaches, at Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) School of Law.

More details on the book can be found here.

Here.

Moses on the Arbitration/Litigation Interface in Europe

Margaret Moses (Loyola University Chicago Law School) has posted Arbitration/Litigation Interface: The European Debate on SSRN.

Luxembourg Code of Private International Law

I am delighted to announce the publication of the second edition of the Luxembourg code of private international law.

The book gathers all applicable legislation in the field of private international law in Luxembourg: international conventions ratified by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, European legislation and Luxembourg domestic provisions.

On 13  June 2014, the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in cooperation with the Universities of Lausanne, Geneva and Urbino will host a conference on the Cultural Dimension of Private International Law in Lausanne. Speakers will address the audience in French, Italian or English.

Faculty Position at the University of Windsor (Canada)

The Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor is seeking an outstanding individual or individuals for appointment to the Paul Martin Professorship in International Affairs and Law.

Regis Bismuth (university of Poitiers) has posted The Path Towards an International Public Policy for Sovereign Debt Contracts on SSRN.

UK Supreme Court Rules on Law Governing Damages

On 2 April 2014, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom delivered its judgment in C0x v Ergo Versicherung AG.

In this pre-Rome II case, the issue before the court was whether issues of damages were substantive or procedural in character for choice of law purposes.

The court issued the following press summary.

BACKGROUND TO THE APPEALS

These proceedings arise out of a fatal accident in Germany. On 21 May 2004 Major Cox, an officer serving with H.M. Forces in Germany, was riding his bicycle on the verge of a road near his base when a car left the road and hit him, causing injuries from which he died. The driver was Mr Kretschmer, a German national resident and domiciled in Germany. He was insured by the respondent, a German insurance company, under a contract governed by German law. The appellant, Major Cox’s widow, was living with him in Germany at the time of the accident. After the accident, she returned to England where she has at all relevant times been domiciled. She has since entered into a new relationship and has had two children with her new partner.

Liability is not in dispute, but there are a number of issues relating to damages. Their resolution depends on whether they are governed by German or English law, and, if by English law, whether by the provisions of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (“the 1976 Act”) or on some other basis. The question which law applies was ordered to be tried as a preliminary issue.

There are two relevant respects in which an award under English Law, specifically the 1976 Act, may differ from an award under the relevant German Law, “the BGB”. First, damages awarded to a widow under the BGB will take account of any legal right to maintenance by virtue of a subsequent remarriage or a subsequent non-marital relationship following the birth of a child. Section 3(3) of the 1976 Act expressly excludes remarriage or the prospect of remarriage as a relevant consideration in English law. Secondly, Section 844 of the BGB confers no right to a solatium for bereavement. Under section 823 of the BGB the widow may in principle be entitled to compensation for her own pain and suffering, but this would require proof of suffering going beyond normal grief and amounting to a psychological disturbance comparable to physical injury.

English rules of private international law distinguish between questions of procedure, governed by the law of the forum i.e. in this case England, and questions of substance, governed by the local laws, in this case Germany. The issue in the present case is whether Mrs Cox is entitled to rely on the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the 1976 Act. They provide for a measure of damages substantially more favourable to her than the corresponding provisions of German law, mainly because of the more favourable rule concerning the exclusion of her current partner’s payments of maintenance. This issue depends on whether the damages rules in sections 1A and 3 of the 1976 Act fall to be applied (i) on ordinary principles of private international law as procedural rules of the forum, or (ii) as rules applicable irrespective of the ordinary principles of private international law.

The Court of Appeal held that English law should adopt the German damages rules as its own and apply them not directly but by analogy.

JUDGMENT

The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal and finds that the German damages rules apply. Lord Sumption writes the leading judgment and Lord Mance writes a concurring judgment [37].

REASONS FOR THE JUDGMENT