Testament international

Le testament international est une forme de testament qui a été introduite en France en 1994 par décret. Il a été créé en 1973 par un traité international: la convention de Washington dite loi sur la forme d’un testament international. Il constitue avec le testament authentique et le testament olographe la troisième forme de testament.

Sa mise en œuvre est facile

Il peut être écrit dans une langue quelconque. Il est valable quel que soit le pays où il est rédigé, la situation des biens, la nationalité ou la résidence de celui qui le rédige.  

Il est peut-être écrit à la main mais il peut aussi être dactylographié. Il est impérativement signé. Il se fait obligatoirement en présence de deux témoins et d’une personne habilitée à authentifier le respect de la forme (le plus souvent, notaire ou avocat).  Le contenu du testament peut rester secret et le document peut être conservé selon les modalités que le testateur considère comme les plus utiles au respect des dispositions prises pour régler la succession. 

Ce qui caractérise le testament international, c’est sa forme.

La personne dite habilitée atteste que le testament a bien été rédigé dans les formes légales.

Cette forme de testament peut faciliter le règlement des successions internationales notamment dans les pays qui ne reconnaissent pas le certificat successoral européen.

Me Roger Ribault
Avocat à la cour

La protection juridique des majeurs étrangers sous tutelle en France (et des majeurs français sous tutelle à l’étranger).

La protection juridique des majeurs étrangers sous tutelle en France (et des majeurs français sous tutelle à l’étranger).

C’est en principe la loi du pays de résidence qui s’applique. Toutefois, la loi personnelle du majeur peut être prise en considération par le juge des tutelles français.

La Convention de la Haye sur la protection internationale des adultes est entrée en vigueur en 2009. Tout majeur étranger résident habituellement en France atteint d’une altération de ses facultés intellectuelles ou mentales qui le rend incapable de défendre ses intérêts est protégé par la loi française. Elle présente de grandes similitudes avec la loi de 2007 qui organise la protection des majeurs en France. 

Saisi pour une personne étrangère, le juge des tutelles français applique la loi locale du pays de résidence mais il a aussi la faculté de recourir à la loi du pays dont l’étranger est ressortissant si cela apparaît utile à la défense de ses intérêts particuliers. Le principe est que la convention donne au juge du pays de résidence habituelle de l’adulte à protéger pouvoir de prendre les mesures de protection de sa personne et de ses biens les mieux adaptées à la situation.

Si une disposition particulière prise par le juge des tutelles français doit être mise en œuvre dans un pays tiers, c’est la loi de ce pays qui détermine les conditions d’application de la mesure. 

En cas de déménagement durable de l’adulte dans un autre pays contractant, la compétence et le suivi de la mesure ordonnée initialement passe au juge local après une simple déclaration exécutoire. 

La personne qui donne mandat de protection future a toujours la possibilité de choisir la loi qu’il désire voir adopter pour protéger ses biens et sa personne.

Me Roger Ribault

Accéder au registre des bénéficiaires effectifs des sociétés

Accéder au registre des bénéficiaires effectifs des sociétés

Ce registre est tenu au greffe du tribunal de commerce. C’est une obligation pour les sociétés commerciales et civiles depuis la loi Sapin II. Elle permet d’identifier les bénéficiaires effectifs de ces entités et s’impose à toute personne qui détient directement ou indirectement plus de 25% du capital ou des droits de vote, ou à défaut la ou les personnes disposant d’un droit de contrôle.  

C’est une mesure destinée à prévenir le blanchiment de capitaux et le financement du terroriste.  

Les bénéficiaires doivent déposer en annexe du registre de commerce une déclaration qui identifie l’entreprise, ses bénéficiaires, leurs adresses et les modalités de contrôle dont ils disposent sur les entreprises.  

Le document n’est pas public mais certaines personnes et autorités disposent d’un droit de communication.  Pour accéder à cette information, les tiers doivent justifier d’un intérêt légitime. La requête se fait auprès du juge commis à la surveillance du registre de commerce. L’information qui résulte de l’accès au document peut être utile dans le cadre d’une succession ou d’un divorce disputé financièrement.

Roger Ribault, Avocat à la cour

Rapport ZIVY sur le Contrôle des Concentrations

Rapport ZIVY sur le Contrôle des Concentrations
Par Christophe BRICAGE Elève avocat

Le rapport ZIVY sur le contrôle des concentrations a été rendu public le 13 novembre

Commandé par le Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances et l’Autorité de la
concurrence, le rapport lance la réflexion afin d’améliorer la cohérence et la prévisibilité des décisions des autorités de concurrence tout en réduisant les coûts et les délais de notification.

Ce rapport fait suite à de récentes affaires ayant montré les limites du système d’autorisation des concentrations entre les autorités nationales de concurrence.

En effet, si le système dit du guichet unique institué par le règlement n° 4064/89 du 21 décembre 1989 a apporté un « progrès indéniable » en permettant aux entreprises de notifier les concentrations transfrontalières les plus importantes à la Commission européenne afin d’obtenir une décision unique, des difficultés persistent pour les concentrations de moindre envergure. Des opérations de taille intermédiaire qui ne sont
pas suffisamment importantes pour être soumises au contrôle de la Commission mais relèvent tout de même de la compétence de plusieurs États membres. Les concentrations peuvent ainsi devoir être notifiées à plusieurs autorités nationales de concurrence entraînant une « démultiplication des contrôles des concentrations au niveau national »
avec un risque de conflits de décisions.

Ainsi, en 2013, lors du projet d’acquisition de la société Metlac Holding S.r.l. par la société Akzo Nobel N.V., l’autorité de concurrence britannique, la Compétition commission, a pu interdire l’opération du fait qu’elle engendrerait une réduction significative de la concurrence (1), alors que l’autorité de concurrence allemande, le Bundeskartellamt, l’avait autorisé auparavant et ce, sans conditions (2).

De même, en 2012, dans l’affaire Eurotunnel / MyFerryLink, l’autorité de concurrence britannique avait également interdit l’opération (3) , alors que l’autorité de concurrence française, l’Autorité de la concurrence, avait précédemment autorisé la concentration (4).

Mais, au delà du risque de décisions divergentes, le rapport dénonce le coût, la complexité et les délais imposés aux entreprises de taille intermédiaire du fait de la fragmentation du contrôle des concentrations, au sein de l’Union européenne. En effet, les entreprises doivent notifier l’opération auprès de chaque autorité nationale de concurrence compétente, ce qui engendre notamment des frais supplémentaires et une multiplication
des droits applicables.

Le rapport préconise ainsi d’améliorer l’efficacité du contrôle des concentrations notamment en :
• permettant aux entreprises de solliciter un contrôle par la Commission européenne dès lors que deux autorités nationales de concurrence son compétentes, au lieu de trois actuellement ;
• unifiant les règles de fond applicables par les autorités nationales de concurrence afin d’éviter les divergences d’interprétation et d’application des droits nationaux ;
• favorisant les échanges d’informations et l’assistance entre les autorités de
concurrence et en
• prévoyant le recours à un Comité de conciliation en cas de décisions divergentes.

Ainsi, l’objectif est de favoriser la croissance externe des entreprises en simplifiant les démarches à accomplir. Il faut « aider les entreprises à réaliser leur projet de croissance » afin que se constituent de véritables « champions européens » pour affronter la concurrence mondiale.

(1) - Competition Commission (CC), 21 décembre 2012, Akzo Nobel N.V. / Metlac Holding S.r.l.
(2) - Bundeskartellamt (BkartA), 24 avril 2012, Akzo Nobel N.V. / Metlac Holding S.r.l., cas n° B 3 / 187-11
(3) - Competition Commission (CC), 6 juin 2013, Groupe Eurotunnel S.A. & SeaFrance S.A.
(4) - Autorité de la concurrence, 7 novembre 2012, Groupe Eurotunnel / SeaFrance, décision n° 12-DCC-154

Joint ownership of property in France

Joint ownership of property in France
Par Ray Rushe, Solicitor – Avocat à la cour


Introduction
French law applies to the disposal of real estate situated in France upon the death of the property owner. Furthermore, French law does not permit complete freedom of action on the disposal of real estate assets on death. In such situations ‘reserved heirship’ rules apply whereby the children of a marriage or civil partnership have absolute rights of inheritance over a protected percentage share of the estate of a deceased parent. For example, for an only child, 50% of the estate must be reserved to that child; for two children I/3 is reserved for each child. In the latter case this leaves 50% of the estate available and freely disposable by the parent and in the former case 1/3 will be freely disposable.

This law applies to all property holders owning real estate in France whatever their nationality. It is important therefore that both foreign residents and non-residents owning real estate in France are aware of this rule of French public policy when deciding on the method of holding real estate in France.

There are three different methods of multiple ownership of property in France:
1. En indivision
2. En Tontin
3. Purchase of the property by a company Société Civile Immobilière (SCI)

1. Ownership en Indivision

In English law ‘en division’ is similar to a ‘tenancy in common’. It is the most common method of joint ownership in France. The property is purchased by two or more persons, with each one holding a share (known as a ‘part’) corresponding to their investment in it. For example, a couple may purchase in equal parts (50/50) while in cases where there are more than two purchasers, it would normally be in proportion to the amount each party has contributed to the financing of the purchase e.g. 60% /
20% / 20%.

If the parties wish to hold the property in equal shares, but with different
contributions, it should be made clear in the purchase deed that the larger
contribution is not a gift, but a loan in order to avoid potential future complications with the French tax authorities concerning the droits de donation (gift tax).

This issue may also become important should a couple later separate or divorce. Unless, at the time of purchase, the differing contributions of each party are reflected in the purchase deed, the property will be considered held in equal shares by the holders and the sale proceeds after divorce or separation will be divided equally
between the parties.

One of the principle features of indivision is the decision making process that goes with it so that all holders of the parts are entitled to full participation in any decision making in relation to the property. This may be of little importance for a cohabiting couple, but it may easily present complications where several unrelated parties hold shares in the property or where the property is held by several beneficiaries as a result of a succession. In such circumstances the law stipulates that any decisions
affecting the property must be made by at least a two-third majority of the property holders unless one or more of them can demonstrate to the court that it is in the overwhelming interests of the indivision that a specific type of action be taken. For this reason it is common for part-holders to agree a convention d’indivision (management agreement).

Even where one property holder has a two-thirds or more share in the ownership of the property, this does not grant the majority part-holder the automatic right to do as they wish with it. In all decisions concerning the property a fairly strict and lengthy legal procedure applies, especially regarding its sale. The notaire involved in the sale is responsible for ensuring that minority interests are properly heard.

If there is deadlock between joint part-holders, an application to the court will be required for an order for the sale of the property. These proceedings may take several years to be heard and either side will have an automatic right of appeal.

A holder of part of the property may dispose of it by sale or gift. Where disposal is by sale, all the existing part-holders have a right of pre-emption; this rule does not apply to disposal by way of gift.

Property may be held in indivision either by married couples or civil partnerships (Pacte Civile de Solidarité – PACS), or between separate unrelated part-holders.

>>>  Married/Civil partnership couples en indivision

With regard to rights of inheritance, indivision has historically been problematic for the surviving spouse who was often obliged to sell the matrimonial home at the request of beneficiaries (often the children of the marriage) entitled by law to a share in the estate of the deceased (see above ‘reserved heirship rule’).

In recent years the situation has improved somewhat and the surviving spouse is now afforded a relatively large degree of protection by the law. However, the children of the marriage as ‘protected heirs’ are granted by law a reserved part of their parents’ estate. There is no derogation from this rule.

However, although the surviving spouse may not inherit the totality of the property upon the death of the other spouse because of the ‘reserve’ rule, today, the survivor has the right to remain in the property for life as long as it is their principal home. This is the case regardless of the proportion of the property which belongs to the child or children of the deceased spouse due to the reserved heirship rules.

If the deceased has children by a previous marriage or relationship, then they too are entitled to a share in the deceased parent’s property in the same way as children of the last marriage. Obviously this may be a source of conflict between family members however it will not weaken the legal position of the surviving spouse who will have a life interest in the property.

There is a spouse exemption with regard to droit de succession (Inheritance tax – IHT), but this does not apply to the children. However, in France the amount of IHT due by a beneficiary depends on the degree of blood relationship between the deceased and the beneficiary. As children are the closest in blood line to their parents the tax allowances available are the most generous.

The purchase of property en indivision is a common method of holding property for married couples. All marriages in France are covered by one of three régimes (pre-nuptual agreements). The régime de communauté universelle allows the spouses to leave the part of their estate identified in the marriage contract to the surviving spouse by means of a clause d’attribution intégrale. If however the spouses have children by previous relationships, such a French marriage régime will effectively disinherit children from outside the marriage who are not the children of the last
spouse to die. Notaires are therefore reluctant to allow couples with children outside the relationship to enter into such a marriage contract. In such circumstances the notaire is under a duty to notify such children of their position so that they may contest the marriage regime. The children then have a three month period in which to make their opposition known and challenge the marriage regime in court. The court will have to decide whether the matrimonial regime is in the best interests of the family.

Should the notaire fail to notify the children, they may bring an “action en
retranchement” for the annulment of the matrimonial regime, or, should they only become aware of the regime after the death of their parent, they may seek a proportion of the inheritance through a court action. It is possible for a child of a former marriage or relationship to renounce their right to bring l’action en retranchement, on condition that on the death of the surviving spouse they will retain their rights to an inheritance in the same way as the children of the existing marriage.
This is done by way of a pacte successoral” (family inheritance agreement) collateral to the marriage regime.

A simple alternative to indivision is to purchase the property through an SCI (see below).

>>> Unrelated Persons en Indivision

If the property holders are unmarried or in a civil partnership, then the approach to property held on indivision will be different and often more complex.

Upon the death of one of the part-holders with children, the property of the deceased will pass to the children who will share the property indivision. They may then force the sale of the property and a surviving part-holder will have limited rights.

There are alternative solutions to this situation depending on the individual
circumstances of the parties but they are generally based on granting a ‘life interest’ in the property to the surviving part-holder.

This may be done through a testament (will) or donation (gift). In this way the heirs of the deceased part-holder will receive the reversionary freehold interest in the property while the surviving part-holder will have a life interest in the property. The drawback is that while the life interest protects the surviving part-holder there will be a potential inheritance tax liability on the value of the life interest, currently charged at 60% of the value of the life interest after deduction of any personal allowance available.

Of course this tax imposition will not apply if the surviving part holder is married to the deceased or is in a PACS and has granted the co-part holder preferential rights to the property; in both these cases the spouse/partner tax exemption will apply, although this will mean that compensation must be paid to the heirs.

It is essential when purchasing property in such conditions that provision be made to take into account events such as separation or death of one of the part-holders by means of a convention d’indivision (tenancy in common agreement), drafted by a notaire, which will normally be valid for a period of five years unless stipulated to be made for an indefinite period.

A convention d’indivision cannot override the entrenched inheritance rights of the children, or avoid inheritance tax, however subject to these two exceptions it will clarify the situation in the event of separation or death. Such agreement should include a clause known as a faculté d’acquisition ou d’attribution de l’indivisaire survivant, to protect the survivor so that the part of the property belonging to the deceased will be held on life interest for the survivor, as long as adequate compensation is paid to the heirs.

Such an agreement will also set out the terms of the management arrangements for the property during the lifetime of its part-owners. This will include the appointment of one of them as the property manager.

>>> Conclusion

Indivision is an appropriate method of holding property for married or PACS couples. If however unmarried parties or unrelated part-holders purchase property en indivision, it may well lead to future complications on disposal following the death of one of the part-holders especially with regard to the French reserved heirship rules which automatically apply on death.

2. Ownership en tontine

A tontine clause is used to avoid the reserved heirship rights of children under French law, so that no part of the property will pass to them during the lifetime of any of the existing part-holders.

Under tontine the law does not recognise that each part-holder has a separate share in the property as is the case on indivision. So where a property is purchased by a couple en tontine, upon the death of the first, the surviving spouse/partner will become the sole owner. This is similar to the rights of survivorship in English law where the parties purchase property as beneficial joint tenants where each party in effect owns the whole of the property. If one of the party’s dies the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s) under the rights of survivorship.

A tontine clause is not often used in France because it may have droits de
succession (IHT) disadvantages, and it also disinherits children not of the blood line. These tax disadvantages however are less important today for married or civil partnership couples.

>>> HT (droits de succession)

The tontine gives security of tenure to the surviving partner in a non-married, non-civil partnership relationship. However, as the parties are considered to be unrelated persons, there will be a liability to IHT at the rate of 60% on 50% of any property held by the couple which is valued over €76,000.

Such parties should, as an alternative, use an SCI (see below) to purchase the property directly or purchase it through an SCI containing a tontine clause in its by-laws. In this way the parties would pay droit d’enregistrement (stamp duty) on the transfer of the shares, but would avoid paying IHT.

For married and civil partnership couples, there is a tax exemption. The tax liability arises when the property is inherited by the children or nearest relatives. However there are tax allowances available to children and a ‘tapering relief’ tax allowance for other relatives depending on the degree of blood relationship to the deceased.

>>> The Rights of inheritance

Where a couple already have children from previous relationships, the tontine clause will disenfranchise one side of the family. Thus, on the death of the surviving partner, only the progeny of the deceased will have an automatic right to inheritance. For example, Fred has two children by a previous relationship. He and his new partner Maggie buy their French home en tontine. They later have a child, Susan. If Fred is the first to die, his partner Maggie will inherit the property. When Maggie dies, the property will pass to Susan as there is no blood relationship between Fred’s children
and Maggie. If Maggie dies first, and Fred inherits the property, the children by the previous relationship as well as Susan will inherit the property.

In such cases it will be necessary to make separate provision for children from previous relationships by gifts during lifetime or other means.

>>> Further considerations

There are also other practical disadvantages of the en tontine clause:

  –  It cannot be waived without the agreement of both parties;
  –  In the event of divorce the property will remain in the joint names of the       parties unless they can reach agreement on its disposal;
  –  In the absence of such agreement, the property will remain en tontine           until the first to die, at which time it will transfer to the survivor;
  –  Using such a clause may also make it difficult to obtain a mortgage or             loan on a property, although this may be circumvented by arranging               separate loans under the names of each of the part-holders.

Because of the nature of ownership en tontine, it will serve to protect the property from other creditors who will have no recourse against it apart from a bank with a mortgage on the property.

>>> Conclusion

Purchase of property en tontine is viable only if the intention of the parties is that the survivor inherits the totality of the property. In French law today, the surviving spouse already has a high level of legal protection and a French marriage regime can work just as well as a tontine clause, giving rights over the whole of the estate and not just the property.

For unmarried couples, purchasing a French property en tontine is a useful way of protecting the surviving partner, especially if accompanied by a civil partnership so as to avoid any liability to IHT. However, in either situation the impact of the tontine clause will disenfranchise children born outside the relationship.

In these circumstances, for non-resident unmarried and non-civil partnership couples who have children from previous relationships, it would be more appropriate to purchase property through an SCI.

3. Purchase of the property by a company: Société Civile Immobilière (SCI)

An alternative to the purchase by individuals is to use a corporate vehicle to carry out the acquisition. In France an SCI is a corporate structure which is designed to facilitate the easy acquisition and management of property.

An SCI is a French ‘company’ (société), constituted for the ownership and
management of ‘real estate’ (immobilière). ‘Civile’ means that it is a ‘non-trading’ company, thereby distinguishing it from a company set up to pursue commercial objectives.

The SCI will have a distinct legal identity from that of its shareholders. However, normally it has no separate tax identity and is fiscally transparent.

Where an SCI is used for the purchase of real estate, the owners effectively
become occupants of the property owned by the company.

The SCI may hold more than one property, including principal and secondary homes, as well as letting properties.

Many French and international purchasers choose to buy property through an SCI because of the advantages it offers over the other two forms of ownership:

  • purchasing property by multiple persons
  • providing stability and continuity in the ownership and management of property
  • facilitating the transfer and ownership of property
  • avoiding the constraints of French IHT
  • some tax advantages
  • protecting the property from business creditors

One of the main reasons why an SCI is used is because it is probably the most suitable form of ownership for an extended family, or a group of co-owners.

For a couple who are neither married nor in a civil partnership, it also offers advantages in relation to French inheritance laws and reserved heirship (see above).

The SCI offers a simple method for two or more persons pooling funds to buy property in such a way that ownership is clearly defined in accordance with the contribution of each owner.

With regard to decision making, the SCI provides greater flexibility than other ownership structures. For example where several people are buying a property, an SCI can provide for a decision-making procedure less strict than the two-third majority required for indivision. Furthermore it can also provide a method of selling the property, which would not be available en tontine.

If for example a decision has to be made concerning major repairs to the property, or about letting the property, then the statutes (by-laws) of the SCI could provide that a simple majority decision is required, or that decisions could be delegated to the gérant (manager) or of the company.

The by-laws of the SCI will also regulate the cost sharing by the owners for repairs to the property and any other management costs.

It will also fix the sharing of any rental income, should the property be let.

It may also organize the periods of occupation of the property by the different owners in a similar way to a timeshare.

The SCI presents such advantages during the lifetime of the ownership, but there are also great advantages to the SCI following the death of one of the shareholders because of the French inheritance laws (see below).

Therefore the SCI clearly offers greater flexibility in the management arrangements of the property.

The downside is that any majority decision making structure such as an SCI will inevitably mean that the views of the minority are less well protected.
If there are two shareholders in the SCI each holding 50% of the capital of the company then there is always the possibility of deadlock in decision making.

Furthermore, if the shareholders decide that some or all decisions must be made unanimously, then this will inevitably lead to complications. For couples, this may not be a real problem but for unconnected parties such as investors, they may find themselves locked in.

Therefore it is most important to consider what would happen in the event that there was disagreement between the shareholders of the SCI and careful drafting of the by-laws of the SCI needs to be undertaken to anticipate such possibilities as a fall-out between shareholders.

>>> French succession laws

One of the principle advantages of buying French real estate through an SCI is to avoid French inheritance rules on reserved heirship (see above). If an SCI is set up to hold a property in France then the owners will hold shares in the SCI and the SCI itself will own the property. Therefore upon death only the shares will change ownership and the property will remain in the SCI. French law considers shares to be personal property and they will pass in accordance with the succession laws of the country of domicile or permanent residence of the deceased. If the deceased was ordinarily resident in the UK this will mean that English law applies so that the shares
can be bequested to whomever the deceased wishes thus avoiding the onerous French succession rules. There will of course be French CGT and IHT liability.

>>> Formation & Management of an SCI

An SCI is quick and easy to set-up, only two shareholders are required and their nationality is irrelevant. The SCI can be managed by one gérant (manager) who does not necessarily have to be a shareholder.

There is no fixed minimum value of shares and no minimum amount of capital is required for an SCI; the amount of capital usually reflects the value of the property being acquired, but there is no requirement to pay up in full upon incorporation.

If successors inherit property, particularly within families, they may sell their shares in an SCI without forcing the other shareholders to sell the property as would be the case for the other forms of real estate ownership (see above).

In France, it is not unusual to find an SCI used to hold property, and a French commercial company (SARL) operating a business from that property. Any rents collected by the SCI from the business exploiting its property are shared between the shareholders after deducting costs. This will provide a supplementary source of revenue, which will be taxed as part of the SCI shareholders’ personal income.

Furthermore an SCI can offer protection during insolvency proceedings. If the business occupying the SCI premises goes into liquidation, none of the business’ creditors will be able to seize the property for repayment of their debts as the business and the SCI are two separate entities.

>>> Taxation

Under Article 8 (1) of the French General Tax Code, an SCI whose sole purpose is to purchase, manage and subdivide a property between its members, is transparent for tax purposes and will therefore not usually be liable to French Corporation Tax (unless the property is a furnished letting). Instead, the shareholders of the SCI are treated as individual taxpayers owning a share of the underlying property personally. On disposal shareholders will be assessed individually to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) at
16% or the non-resident 33.1/3%. Share transfers inter vivos will be liable to CGT, calculated on the basis of the increase in value of the underlying property, in proportion to the size of the shareholding plus stamp duty at 5%.

Although transparent for tax purposes, an SCI is still considered by the French tax authorities as a legal entity, with parts (shares), and statuts (by-laws) setting out the company’s objects and management structure. The by-laws may be drafted to allow for qualified majorities for control, restriction on rights on disposing of shares etc. An SCI has no board of directors and is managed by a gérant (manager), who may be, but need not be, a shareholder in the SCI. The manager will have capital accounts prepared and various other returns which need to be filed annually. SCI’s require a
certain amount of administration and compliance procedures.

>>> Considering the SCI and indivision

In recent years the law relating to indivision has become more flexible so that where originally unanimity was required for decisions on the property, now a two-thirds majority will suffice. The original rule on unanimity was a key factor in the introduction of the SCI ownership structure as an alternative to indivision.

Furthermore, owners who hold a property on indivision may now also enter into a convention d’indivision (tenancy in common agreement) concerning the management of the property similar to that available through an SCI.

However the drawback to such an agreement is that it has to be renewed every five years, and any single ‘indivisaire’ is entitled to go to court to terminate the indivision and for the property to be sold “nul n’est tenu de rester dans l’indivision”. If however, the property is held through an SCI an enforced sale would be unnecessary.

In addition, on the death of one of the indivisaires, the property will be spilt again between the new successors in title, making decisions concerning the property even more difficult to obtain.

If one or more of the remaining part-holders uses the right of pre-emption to buy out any other indivisaires then it will be necessary to go through a property transfer procedure through a notaire, which is unnecessary in an SCI, where such a transaction can be accomplished by the transfer or transmission of the shares in the SCI.

>>> Conclusion

In summary, in France the SCI is tax neutral and puts its shareholders in the same position as they would be if they owned the property in their own names. However, legally, they own shares rather than land. These shares pass in accordance with the domicile of a deceased and not the lex situs so that the French reserved heirship law is avoided and the probate laws of the country of residence of the deceased apply.

Non-resident shareholders in an SCI are not taxed in France as the shares are considered personal assets and are therefore taxed in the country of the
shareholder’s residence.

Setting up an SCI does not trigger any taxation but filing requirements such as an annual report must be followed. Only if the SCI is rented out will it show any profits. An SCI is liable for Capital Gains tax, however, as it is considered a transparent company, taxes will only be declared if the property held by the SCI is let for profit.

For further information:
www.notaires.fr
www.impots.gouv.fr

Droit à l’Oubli – Arrêt de la Cour (grand chambre) 13 mai 2014 Google Spain SL, Google Inc. Contre Agence Espagnole de Protection des Données (AEPD)

Arrêt de la Cour (grand chambre) 13 mai 2014
Google Spain SL, Google Inc. Contre Agence Espagnole de Protection des
Données (AEPD)

Par Christophe Bricage Elève avocat

La Cour de justice de l’Union européenne participe à la gouvernance d’internet, en garantissant un droit à l’oubli.

La Cour, réunie en grande chambre, a rendu un arrêt d’une grande importance, en date du 13 mai 2014, qui participe à la gouvernance d’internet pour mettre un terme aux dérives que tout à chacun constate.

Aujourd’hui, qui n’a jamais été tenté d’entrer son nom et son prénom dans un moteur de recherche pour vérifier les résultats affichés ? C’est ainsi qu’un ressortissant espagnol a pu réaliser qu’en tapant son nom sur Google, dans la liste des résultats figuraient des liens vers deux pages du site web d’un quotidien espagnol faisant référence à une vente aux enchères immobilière liée à une saisie pratiquée en recouvrement de dettes de sécurité sociale. Ces deux pages dataient de 1998.

Désireux de voir supprimer toute référence à cet événement passé sur le moteur de recherche, ce ressortissant espagnol a saisi l’Agence Espagnole de Protection des Données (AEPD) qui a fait droit à sa demande en ordonnant aux sociétés Google Spain et Google Inc. le retrait de ces liens afin qu’ils n’apparaissent plus dans les résultats de affichés.

Google Spain et Google Inc. ont introduit un recours pour demander l’annulation de la décision. C’est dans ce cadre que la Cour de justice a été saisie d’une question préjudicielle.

La question était de savoir quelles obligations peuvent être imposées aux exploitants de moteurs de recherche pour protéger les données à caractère personnel de personnes ne souhaitant plus voir apparaître certaines informations les concernant, dans le cadre de la directive 95/46/CE.

Pour retenir la responsabilité des exploitants de moteur de recherche, la Cour de justice a fait une application littérale de la directive 95/46/CE en jugeant que leur activité qui consiste à « trouver des informations publiées ou placées sur internet par des tiers, à les indexer de manière automatique, à les stocker temporairement et, enfin, à les mettre à la disposition des internautes selon un ordre de préférence donné » doit être qualifiée de traitement de données à caractère personnel, puis en considérant que cet exploitant peut être désigné comme responsable en ce qu’il détermine « les finalités et les moyens du traitement de données à caractère personnel ».

Sur ce dernier point, il convient d’ailleurs de constater que la Cour n’a pas suivi les conclusions de l’avocat général Jääskinen pour qui le contexte de l’adoption de la directive 95/46/CE implique que le responsable du traitement sache ce qu’il fait des données à caractère personnel en étant conscient de leur nature et des raisons pour lesquelles il les traite. Ce qui n’est pas le cas en l’espèce.

Une fois l’exploitant du moteur de recherche déclaré responsable du traitement de données à caractère personnel, il restait ensuite à déterminer si la personne concernée par les données personnelles pouvait exiger de l’exploitant du moteur de recherche, la suppression des liens internet vers des sites web contenant des informations personnelles, lors d’une recherche effectuée à partir de son nom.

La Cour répond par l’affirmative en consacrant un véritable droit à l’oubli. Ainsi, toute personne peut demander à ce que soient supprimés de la liste de résultats d’une recherche liée à son nom, les liens renvoyant à des informations qui ne sont plus pertinentes notamment du fait de leur ancienneté. Et ce, sans avoir à prouver un quelconque préjudice du fait de la diffusion de l’information.

De plus, ce droit à l’oubli peut être invoqué y compris lorsque les informations publiées sur les sites web le sont de manière licite. En effet, les moteurs de recherche permettent une interconnexion des données avec un accès rapide et facile provoquant une plus grande ingérence dans la vie privée des personnes, ce qui justifie une protection plus large.

Toutefois, ce droit à l’oubli, garantissant le respect de la vie privée et la protection des données personnelles, n’est pas absolu et doit être concilié avec le droit à l’information. Si pour la Cour, le droit à l’oubli prévaut en principe sur le droit du public à accéder à l’information, il peut également exister un intérêt légitime pour le public à recevoir ces informations et ce, plus particulièrement lorsqu’il s’agit d’une personne publique. Ainsi, lorsque seront en cause des informations importantes pour le public,
la suppression des liens internet sur les moteurs de recherche ne pourra être exigée.

La demande de suppression des liens internet pourra être directement effectuée auprès de l’exploitant du moteur de recherche qui devra examiner le bien-fondé de la demande. En cas de refus, la personne invoquant le droit à l’oubli pourra saisir l’autorité de contrôle (en France, la CNIL) ou l’autorité judiciaire pour accomplir les vérifications nécessaires et ordonner, si besoin est, la suppression de ces liens.

Le droit de l’Union européenne apporte ainsi une protection efficace pour garantir aux citoyens européens le respect de leur vie privée. Cette protection apparaît d’autant plus légitime que la toile permet de conserver des informations presque indéfiniment tout en les rendant accessibles à tous instantanément. Toutefois, malgré le progrès incontestable pour les droits de la personne que représente cet arrêt, il convient de rester vigilant sur l’application qui sera faite du droit à l’oubli pour éviter que le droit d’accès à l’information ne devienne hypothétique.

Commercial litigation in the UK

Commercial litigation in the UK
Par Ray Rushe, Solicitor – Avocat à la cour

When engaging in litigation the outcome is inherently uncertain and will depend to a great extent on factors which are outside the control of the parties. Furthermore litigation is expensive and time consuming; therefore, in most circumstances it will be advisable to try firstly to resolve the dispute through a commercial solution.

It is by no means a sign of weakness to approach the other party in order to explore the possibilities of a settlement. In fact litigation should always be viewed as a last resort and negotiations with a view to
settlement may continue to be attempted at any time and even during the litigation process.

Several forms of dispute resolution are available, including negotiation, expert determination and mediation (see below). Whatever the form of dispute resolution, legal advice should firstly be obtained in order to ensure that discussions are conducted within the framework of ‘without prejudice’ negotiations. Working within such a framework allows the parties to discuss the dispute freely so that any concessions or admissions made by the parties during such proceedings will not adversely affect the parties’ positions should the resolution process fail.

When embarking on litigation the following points should be considered:

How much is the claim worth?
Can your adversary pay if you win?
What are the costs involved in bringing the claim?
What are the implications for your business should the claim fail?
Could the dispute cause any problems in terms of bad publicity when your firm is looking for new business?
Could the dispute affect your business reputation?
How much time commitment will be involved in instructing lawyers and generally managing the dispute?
Is there any commercial advantage for your business in suing your adversary? eg. by showing competitors that you are serious about protecting your rights.

Initial steps when a dispute arises:

You may receive official documents from the court indicating that a claim has been made against you; alternatively, an incident may occur which appears litigious. For risk management purposes, take legal
advice as soon as is practicable. Avoid at this stage talking to the other side. You may say something which can be used against you at a later stage. Do not make any admissions or agree to settle without first
discussing the situation with your lawyer. Do not procrastinate; you may need to comply with certain time limits. Ensure that any employees who are in contact on a business level with your adversary are aware
that a dispute has arisen.

Before Commencing Proceedings

Before commencing proceedings, the parties must comply with certain pre-action protocols (procedures).
Depending on the type of case, the appropriate guidance is set out in the relevant pre-action protocol and practice CPR direction.

Such protocols usually impose upon the claimant a duty to send a letter before action, which will be followed by a reasoned reply from the defendant as to why the party denies liability. Furthermore, the
parties are generally required at this stage to exchange any essential documentation to prove their respective cases; to consider whether their dispute could be settled by way of mediation or any other

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism; to consider whether the dispute may be resolved by making a Part 36 offer (an offer to settle for a certain fixed amount, which, if rejected can lead to certain
adverse cost consequences if the final award at trial is less than the amount offered in the Part 36 offer of settlement); and to consider whether they could appoint a joint expert in case expert evidence is required.

Limitation periods

Under the law of England and Wales various limitation periods are set out by statute, the most important of which is the Limitation Act 1980. The limitation period for contract is six years, with the time running from the breach of contract, and generally from the date on which the cause of action arose. In some circumstances i.e. in cases of fraud or concealment, the limitation period may be extended.

Litigation in England and Wales

The English legal system is based on the common law tradition. The English courts are bound by the principle of precedent. Civil court procedure in England is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)
1998.

The UK legal profession is divided between solicitors and barristers. Solicitors primarily have case management functions and have direct contact with clients on a day-to-day basis. Barristers (known in
court as ‘counsel’) are normally instructed by solicitors for any advocacy before the higher (senior) courts. Solicitor-advocates, who are solicitors with the same rights of audience in the senior courts as barristers, may also represent the interests of a party in court.

Contractual disputes in England and Wales are heard in the County courts or the High Court, both of which are courts of original jurisdiction (trial courts). Cases which are more, complex, sizeable and of higher value are exclusively dealt with by the High Court, which is divided into three divisions:

  • the Queen’s Bench Division (QBD) ;
  • the Chancery Division (ChD), and
  • the Family Division. (FamD).

The QBD deals with all commercial matters and is the most appropriate forum for claims in contract. The ChD deals, amongst others, with corporate matters and intellectual property. Appeals lie to a divisional
court of the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in the last instance, but only if the issue appealed is of ‘general public importance’.

There are various specialist courts within the High Court, including the Administrative court, the Technology and Construction Court, the Commercial Court, the Admiralty Court, the Companies Court and the Patents Court. The Commercial Court forms part of the High Court QBD in London, and is generally regarded as the most appropriate forum in England to resolve contractual disputes.
The main steps in commercial law proceedings before the courts of English and Wales are:

  • issue of a claim form in the court;
  • service of the claimant’s claim form and statement of case;
  • service on the defendant of a claim form and (usually at same time statement of claim);
  • service of the defence;
  • service of claimant’s reply;
  • allocation of the claim to a case management track;
  • disclosure of documents;
  • exchange of witness and expert evidence;
  • listing for trial;
  • trial; and
  • assessment of costs.

The CPR lays down strict time limits and procedural requirements for the various stages. The overall average duration of commercial proceedings (excluding appeals) varies between one and two years.
Appeal proceedings can take substantially longer, especially if the appeal is taken to the highest and last instance in England and Wales, the Supreme Court.

Costs in commercial proceedings vary considerably depending primarily upon the size and complexity of the case and the level of fees of the solicitors and counsel instructed.

In the courts of England and Wales there is a long-established common law principle that “costs follow the event”, whereby the loser generally bears the costs of the proceedings.

Unless agreed by the paying party, costs will need to be assessed at a detailed costs assessment hearing once the case is over. A substantial proportion of the costs incurred will generally be recoverable after
assessment, but this is unlikely to amount to a full reimbursement.

The legal system in England and Wales allows conditional fee arrangements between lawyers and their clients (“no win no fee”). However, these are limited to a percentage on top of the fees payable, known as an ‘uplift’. No contingency fees are allowed in contentious proceedings, so that lawyers cannot share in the damages awarded.

Once proceedings have commenced, defendants may apply for security for costs against a claimant company if there is reason to believe that it will be unable to pay the defendant’s costs if ordered to do so.
An application may also be made if a claimant is resident outside the EU, but only for the additional amount of costs that would be incurred in enforcing the judgment in the claimant’s jurisdiction.

Article 6 (1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) has made it increasingly difficult to obtain security for costs. The reason for this is that requiring a party to provide funds that it is unable to raise may amount to a breach of its rights to a fair trial.

Commencing Proceedings

Commercial proceedings are commenced by issuing a claim form, which is sealed by the competent court. The required steps for service of the claim form must be taken within four months of issuance. A claim form for service out of the jurisdiction must be served within six months of issuance.

The claim form sets out:

  • the names and addresses of the claimant and the defendant;
  • the nature of the claim;
  • the relief sought; and
  • the value of a money claim.

Service

Methods of service under the CPR include:

  • personal service;
  • leaving the document at a place specified in the CPR;
  • first-class post;
  • by fax or other means of electronic communications.

Service abroad is effected pursuant to the corresponding rules of service applicable in the country where service is sought. The 1965 Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-judicial

Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters and the EU Service Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No.1348/2000) provide guidance on service in the countries which are party to these instruments.

Permission of the court is required to serve proceedings on defendants outside the EU. Leave is not required for service on defendants in the EU, but a form must be lodged at court with the claim form
indicating the grounds on which service outside the jurisdiction is permitted.

The preferred method of service of foreign proceedings in England and Wales under the Hague Convention is by way of personal service.

Defending a Claim

The defence must state:

  • which allegations made in the particulars of claim the defendant denies;
  • which allegations the defendant admits;
  • which allegations the defendant is unable to admit or deny, but on which he puts the claimant ‘to proof’ ie. the defendant wishes to see proof of the matter alleged;

The defendant may also issue a counterclaim provided the party has a cause of action against the claimant and that the parties to the counterclaim can be sued in the same capacity in which they appear in the initial claim.

Where the defendant issues a counterclaim, the claimant must file a defence to counterclaim.

Third parties

Under Part 20 of the CPR a defendant may bring a claim (a “Part 20 claim”) against a third party for an indemnity or contribution or some other remedy within the context of the existing proceedings, rather than
commencing separate proceedings against that party. Once served with the Part 20 claim form, the third party becomes a party to the original action.

Allocation to a ‘track’

The courts of England and Wales apply a track allocation system, according to which commercial claims are allocated to one of three case management tracks:

  • small claims track
  • the fast track, or
  • the multi-track

The small claims track provides a speedy, informal and inexpensive procedure for simple claims worth no more than £5,000 and is dealt with by a District judge in chambers ie. not open court, in the County Court.

The fast track aims to provide an equally streamlined procedure for resolving disputes valued between £5,000 and £25,000 and is dealt with by the County Court. Fast track cases must be heard within 16 weeks
of filing and will be dealt with by way of a maximum one-day trial.

The multi-track caters for the resolution of more complex disputes whose value exceeds £25,000. However, claims worth less than £50,000 which have been commenced in the High Court will generally be transferred
to a County Court, unless there is a specific requirement for them to be heard in the High Court.

Claims brought before the Commercial Court are automatically allocated to the multi-track.

Under the CPR, the courts of England and Wales are under a duty to manage cases actively with a view to minimising costs incurred. Active judicial case management includes:

  • encouraging the parties to co-operate in the conduct of the proceedings;
  • identifying the issues that require full investigation and trial and deciding summarily on those which do not;
  • encouraging the parties to enter ADR if the court considers this appropriate;
  • facilitating the settlement of the dispute in whole or in part; controlling the process of the case in a cost-conscious and efficient manner by setting procedural timetables and giving other appropriate directions;
  • reducing the parties’ need to attend court to a minimum; and making full use of technology.

A range of interim applications are available to the parties. These include:

  • security for costs ;
  • interim injunctions (such as search orders and freezing orders);
  • orders for specific disclosure;
  • amendment of a statement of case;
  • costs sanctions and other constraining measures against a party who does not comply with the court’s previous procedural directions.

Under the CPR, the courts of England and Wales have powers to compel uncooperative parties to comply with its orders and directions, including the power to award cost orders. The courts are also empowered to
make a strike-out order whereby the courts are empowered to strike out the whole or any part of a statement of case on their own motion or upon application by one of the parties. Furthermore, the court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to the court that:

  • the statement discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending a claim;
  • the statement constitutes an abuse of the court’s process or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings; or
  • there has been a failure to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order.

Normally, an application for an order striking out a statement of case will be made during the pre-trial stages of proceedings, and often together with an application for summary judgment. However, a court can
exercise this power before trial or even during the course of trial.

Summary judgment

Under the CPR, the courts of England and Wales may enter summary judgment in favour of the claimant without holding a full trial. This may occur where a claimant can show that the defence has no real prospect
of success and there is no other reason why the case should go to trial.

Summary judgment procedure may also be invoked by defendants against weak or unfounded claims that lack any prospect of success and there is no other reason why the claim should be brought to trial.

The courts may also enter summary judgment of their own motion in order to prevent weak or unfounded cases from proceeding. This power is generally available for the benefit of claimants and defendants.

Disclosure

Disclosure is an exercise which obliges the parties to reveal their cases at a relatively early stage thus encouraging settlement. Disclosure must be treated seriously because it can impact heavily on the
outcome of proceedings. The credibility of a party at trial may be adversely affected if that party fails to give proper disclosure because documents have been destroyed or overlooked. The court may impose severe sanctions on any party not complying with its disclosure obligations. Furthermore, a lawyer owes an independent duty to the court to ensure that proper disclosure is given.

Under the CPR disclosure rules, the parties to the proceedings are under a duty to give advance notice to each other of any material documentation in their respective control. This process is known as “standard
disclosure” and usually consists of exchanging a list of relevant documents which are or have been in each party’s possession or control.

Disclosure is followed by inspection, where parties can request copies of documents appearing on the other party’s list or physically inspect the original documents at the other party’s solicitors’ office.

Standard disclosure requires the parties to disclose the following documents:

  • those on which a party relies for making its case;
  • those which adversely affect its own case or another party’s case; and
  • those which support another party’s case.

Documents that are not material to the case do not require disclosure.

Privilege

There are three categories of privilege in commercial proceedings:

  • legal advice privilege, covering any confidential communications between a solicitor and client for the purposes of giving legal advice;
  • litigation privilege covering confidential communications between a client and a third party or a lawyer and a third party provided that litigation was contemplated or pending and the information was for the purposes of the litigation; and
  • ‘without prejudice’ privilege, whereby any ‘without prejudice’ communications made orally or in writing with the intention of settling of the dispute are privileged and may not be disclosed to the court.

Documents that are classified as privileged must be disclosed by listing the existence of such documents. This is often done in a generic fashion, rather than by specific reference to the particular documents.
Privileged documents are not made available for inspection by the other side.

Evidence

Under the CPR, the parties are required to make advance disclosure of all material documents before trial. Moreover, court directions may require the parties to exchange expert reports and statements of witnesses of fact they seek to rely on at trial. Hearsay evidence is admissible at trial if advance notice identifying the hearsay evidence is given to the other party. Hearsay evidence is evidence which a witness gives of facts they have not personally experienced for the purpose of proving the truth of those facts.

Admissibility of evidence

Admissible evidence includes:

  • expert evidence;
  • witnesses of fact; and
  • hearsay evidence.

Permission of the court is required to adduce expert evidence and such evidence will be restricted to that which is reasonably required. A court may control expert evidence by giving directions as to the issues on which it requires evidence and the nature of the evidence which it requires to decide those issues.

Witnesses of fact

Written witness statements for each witness of fact are usually exchanged by the parties before trial and stand as evidence-in-chief of the witnesses to be called so that there is no oral examination–in-chief of
witnesses by their lawyer. However, witnesses giving evidence at trial are cross-examined by the lawyer acting for the other side.

Types of judgments

The court may make a summary judgment or a judgment by default. Judgment in default is a speedy way for claimants to obtain judgment without a trial. In most cases a defendant served with a claim form and particulars of claim must acknowledge service and then file a defence. If no acknowledgement or defence is forthcoming the claimant may ask the court to give it judgment in default.

The judgment can award damages e.g. for lost contractual profits, and/or an order e.g. for specific performance so that the court orders that a defaulting party performs its outstanding obligations under a contract and/or any other form of declaratory relief.

The courts of England and Wales are empowered to make a wide variety of orders, including:

  • injunction orders, compelling a party to perform a particular act (mandatory) or prohibiting a party from doing a particular act (prohibitory), or consent orders evidencing a contractual agreement between the parties;
  • Tomlin orders (a consent order in the form of a stay of proceedings on terms agreed between the parties and recorded in a confidential schedule); and
  • provisional damages orders which are normally confined to personal injury cases.

The courts of England and Wales may award damages for loss suffered, including economic loss. Where the loss suffered is negligible, the court will award nominal damages only.

The courts of England and Wales are not allowed to award punitive damages.

The courts have the power to award costs of the litigation in accordance with the ‘costs follow the event’ principle, whereby the loser usually pays the costs (see above).

There may be a departure from this principle if the winner has displayed unreasonable behaviour during the course of the proceedings. Cost orders are generally discretionary.
The courts may award interest on both damages and costs awarded.

Enforcing a domestic or a foreign judgment

Domestic judgments

A domestic money judgment may be enforced:

  • by means of a writ or warrant of execution granted by the court against the debtor’s goods;
  • by a third party debt order against the debtor’s bank account;
  • by attachment of earnings against the debtor’s salary; or
  • by obtaining a charging order whereby the debt is secured against the judgment debtors real estate.

Non-money judgments are enforced in accordance with their own specific enforcement procedures, as provided in the relevant legislation.

Foreign judgments

The direct enforcement of foreign judgments in the courts of England and Wales is governed by the bi/or multi-lateral conventions to which the UK is a party, and which have been transposed into English law. The
UK is a party to Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (formerly the Brussels Convention), which provides for the
enforcement of judgments throughout the European Union. The relevant provisions may also be found in the Administration of Justice Act 1920 and the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933.

Appeals

Under the CPR, an appellant is required to apply for permission to appeal. Permission to appeal may only be given if:

  • the court considers that the appeal would have a real prospect of success; or
  • there is some other compelling reason for which the appeal should be heard.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Apart from litigation, the most commonly used methods of ADR in England and Wales are arbitration and mediation.

Mediation

Mediation is a widely accepted alternative dispute resolution mechanism which is recognised by the CPR. Mediation usually requires the agreement of the parties to mediate. Under the case management powers of
the CPR the court does have the power to order the parties to attend mediation however it has no power to oblige the parties to settle.

The mediation process is confidential and benefits from the ‘without prejudice’ privilege rule, so that any communications made during the mediation proceedings where no settlement was reached may not be
disclosed at a later date without the express agreement of the mediating parties (unless there is a dispute as to whether a settlement was actually reached). The mediator is not empowered to adopt any interim
measures or make any type of orders. Mediations are usually facilitative only, so that the mediator merely assists the parties in finding a commercially viable solution to their dispute, instead of actively evaluating the merit of the parties’ respective positions. If the mediation is successful, it is concluded by a settlement
agreement, which is an enforceable contract.

Expert determination

Expert determination is often used for disputes relating to complex financial matters such as price adjustments on take-overs, the valuation of shares in private companies, information technology and
construction contracts. Expert determination is final and binding with no availability of an appeal. Unlike arbitrators, expert determiners deliver ‘non-speaking awards’, i.e. awards that do not set out detailed reasons for the final decision delivered. An expert determination may only be challenged on the grounds of a ‘manifest error’, or for breach of the principles of natural justice or due process.

Arbitration

Arbitration proceedings in England and Wales are governed by the English Arbitration Act 1996, which applies to both domestic and international arbitration. Depending on the parties’ arbitration agreement,
various institutional arbitration rules may be applied e.g. the Rules of the London Court, or those of the London-based trade associations.
The two major arbitration institutions in England and Wales are the London Court of International Arbitration and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Other more specialised arbitration institutions include:

  • the London Maritime Arbitrators’ Association;
  • the Federation of Oils, Seeds & Fats Association;
  • the London Metal Exchange.

Arbitration is a technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts where the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons (the arbitrators) whose decision the parties agree to be bound by. The
arbitrators review the evidence and impose a decision that is legally binding for both sides and enforceable. Arbitration is often used for the resolution of commercial disputes, particularly in the context of international commercial transactions.

The aim of arbitration is to obtain a fair resolution of disputes by an impartial tribunal without unnecessary delay or expense. Arbitrators in principle have more flexible schedules than judges and there is less likelihood of there being a delay. Parties have greater control over the timing of the arbitration proceedings.

Arbitration also leads to faster resolution because the proceedings are less formal than a court case. Furthermore, there is a limited right of appeal against arbitration awards thereby ensuring that disputes are not prolonged by long appeal processes which can mean speedier enforcement and less scope for a party
to delay matters.

However there is an ongoing debate concerning whether the cost of arbitration is lower than the cost of going to trial for more complex cases. Arbitrators’ fees can be relatively high and there are other incidental costs such as hire charges for the venue, transport and hotel costs for the parties etc. Therefore, costs may no longer be a relevant factor for consideration by the parties in their choice of whether or not to use arbitration as a means of dispute resolution.

Arbitration is less formal than court proceedings. Parties are attracted to this less formal approach which encourages a speedier and less costly way of settling disputes. This flexibility extends to the freedom to choose the venue of the arbitration whether in the arbitration agreement set out in the contract itself or at a later stage. This decision allows parties from different legal jurisdictions and different legal systems to pick a neutral venue or a venue that is convenient for them.

The parties may also decide on the seat of the arbitration i.e. the legal jurisdiction to which the arbitration is tied. The seat dictates which national law governs the procedure. The seat of the arbitration is important since it will normally determine the procedure or rules which the arbitration adopts, and the courts which exercise jurisdiction over the seat will have a supervisory role over the conduct of the arbitration.

Agreeing to arbitration also allows the parties to choose the language in which they would like the proceedings to be conducted.

There is an implied right of confidentiality in the arbitration process whereby matters arising in it remain private between the parties involved (court litigation falls into the public domain). Therefore in arbitration, outsiders do not get access to sensitive information and the parties do not risk the possibility of damaging publicity arising out of reports of the proceedings.

In terms of enforcement, the provisions of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the New York Convention) make arbitration awards generally easier to
enforce abroad than court judgments. There are more than 140 signatory states to the convention which recognise and enforce awards made in other signatory states.

For further information on litigation in the courts of England and Wales or ADR:
www.justice.gov.uk/courts
www.international-chamber.co.uk/arbitration
www.ciarb.org/
www.ukmediation.net/

Le Brevet Unitaire de l’Union européenne, incitation à l’innovation

Le Brevet Unitaire de l’Union européenne, incitation à l’innovation
Par Christophe Bricage Avocat élève

Hautement attendu, le brevet unitaire européen, qui pourrait être effectif en 2015, offrira une nouvelle option plus protectrice des droits des inventeurs grâce à une diminution des coûts et des contraintes liés à l’obtention et à la protection du brevet, tout en assurant une plus grande sécurité juridique.

Opérationnel, le brevet unitaire assurera la protection des inventions sur le territoire de tous les États membres de l’Union européenne, à l’exception de l’Italie et de l’Espagne qui ont refusé de s’engager pour des raisons liées aux langues du brevet européen qui seront l’anglais, l’allemand et le français.

Le brevet unitaire sera régi par trois textes, le règlement (UE) n° 1257/2012 mettant en œuvre la coopération renforcée dans le domaine de la création d’une procédure unitaire conférée par un brevet, le règlement (UE) n° 1260/2012 mettant en œuvre la coopération renforcée dans le domaine de la création d’une procédure unitaire conférée par un brevet en ce qui concerne les modalités applicables en matière de traduction, ainsi que l’Accord international sur la juridiction unifiée des brevets du 19 février 2013.

Ainsi, les inventions pourront être protégées à condition de remplir les conditions traditionnelles de brevetabilité des inventions qui doivent être nouvelles, correspondre à une activité inventive et être susceptibles d’application industrielle.

Concernant l’obtention du brevet, l’inventeur devra effectuer la demande auprès de l’Office Européen des Brevets (OEB), organe exécutif mis en place dans le cadre de la Convention sur le Brevet Européen (CEB), entrée en vigueur le 7 octobre 1977.

L’inventeur pourra ainsi choisir entre le brevet européen actuellement délivré par l’OEB permettant d’obtenir une protection dans près de 40 États selon les demandes de l’inventeur et le brevet unitaire.

Or, le brevet unitaire offre des avantages non négligeables. Il assurera une protection uniforme et des effets identiques dans chaque État membre de l’Union européenne à l’exception de l’Italie et de l’Espagne, pour un coût qui passerait d’environ 36 000 euros à près de 6 500 euros, pour une protection dans tous les États. En effet, contrairement au brevet européen, le brevet unitaire n’aura pas à être validé dans chaque État où la protection est demandée. De plus, le contentieux sera centralisé devant une même juridiction, la Juridiction Unifiée en matière de Brevets (JUB), qui appliquera pour le litige, une même loi nationale désignée selon l’article 7 du règlement (UE) n° 1257/2012 en fonction du lieu du domicile ou du principal établissement du demandeur à la date de dépôt du brevet. La JUB aura son siège à Paris, mais deux sections seront implantées à Londres et à Munich. À Paris, seront notamment traitées les affaires relatives aux techniques industrielles, aux transports et aux textiles. La section de Londres s’occupera des affaires relatives aux nécessités courantes de la vie, à la chimie et à la métallurgie, tandis que la section de Munich traitera notamment des affaires liées à la mécanique, à l’éclairage, au chauffage et à l’armement.

Étant entendu que le brevet unitaire présente également certains inconvénients comme le risque de perdre par une seule décision d’annulation la protection du brevet dans tous les États membres. De même, le renvoi à une loi nationale pour la protection du brevet unitaire remettrait en cause le caractère uniforme du brevet et risque de favoriser le forum shopping.

Le brevet unitaire européen devrait ainsi constituer une avancée importante afin de favoriser l’innovation et améliorer la compétitivité des entreprises européennes malgré ses imperfections et le manque de consensus politique.

Ribault & Rushe

Le cabinet Ribaut & Rushe conseille et assiste leurs clients irlandais, britanniques et français : entreprises et particuliers dans leur activités professionnelles et personnelles lorsqu’ils rencontrent des difficultés dues à leur double implantation, double résidence ou double origine. Le cabinet exerce avec une petite équipe de professionnels dirigé par les co-fondateurs Roger Ribault et Ray Rushe, et appuyée par un réseau de cabinets d’avocats et experts juridiques en France, au sein de l’Union Européenne, et envers les tiers, offrant des services juridiques aux sociétés et particuliers.

Roger Ribault, ancien juge et conseiller de la cour d’appel de Paris et avocat à la cour est expérimenté dans les affaires commerciales, civiles et fiscales.  

Ray Rushe, solicitor au barreau d’Angleterre et du Pays de Galles et avocat au Barreau de Paris exerce dans le domaine du droit privé international ; il intervient dans les activités transfrontalières dans le secteur du droit judiciaire et arbitrage, ainsi que des problématiques transnationales dans le domaine du droit des sociétés, du droit civil et commercial.

Ensemble, dotés d’une double expérience professionnelle et d’une culture juridique acquise par leur connaissance de la common law et du droit continental, Ribault & Rushe offrent des services juridiques qui prennent en considération la dimension internationale des difficultés qui leur sont soumis et assurent ainsi une défense de qualité aux intérêts de leurs clients dans les négociations auxquels ils participent en France et à l’étranger et devant les tribunaux français, irlandais et britanniques.

Parce que la barrière linguiste, les différences culturelles, les pratiques judiciaires locales constituent des obstacles souvent encore plus sérieux que la diversité des lois pour résoudre vos problèmes de droit, Ribault & Rushe sont particulièrement qualifiés pour vous aider. Ils sont bilingues, connaissent les avocats, les juges, les bons experts et les experts comptables en France, en Irlande et au Royaume uni.

Ils conseillent et agissent dans le respect des règles déontologiques des pays où ils exercent, avec le souci permanent de la préservation de leurs intérêts spécifiques.

Directement en collaboration ou avec d’autres spécialistes choisis parmi leurs correspondants, ils règlent tous les problèmes nés des réglementations transfrontalières.