Dutch court denies RWE, UNIPER damages for coal phase-out. Rejects ia ‘permit defence’ under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme ETS.

RWE’s case (seeking huge damages for the impact on its assets following the Dutch coal phase-out) under investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) continues I understand (I would also suggest it is problematic given the ECT’s fork in the road provisions), while Uniper’s will be dropped as part of its bail-out conditions. Yet this post is about yesterday’s first instance Uniper judgment and RWE judgment in the Dutch courts. I use the Uniper judgment for this post, the RWE judgment is not materially different as to its legal analysis.

Of note is first of all that these judgments are by the ‘commercial’ chamber at the Den Haag court, not an ‘environmental’ chamber. This might be relevant for those wishing to present the judgment as one of a maverick band of environmental crusaders.

RWE and UNIPER’s claims are based on ‘A1P1‘ (Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) and Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, both of which protect the right to property.

[5.6] the court lays out the benchmarks (translation courtesy of DeepL and double-checked by me):

( a) is there “possession” (property)

( b) is there “interference,” that is, deprivation or regulation of the right to property?

If both these conditions are met, then the following requirements are examined:

( c) is the interference “lawful,” that is, provided for by law;

( d) if so, does the infringement have a legitimate objective that serves to promote the “general interest,” and

( e) if so, is there a “fair balance,” that is, a reasonable balance, between the requirements of the general interest and the protection of the fundamental rights of the individual?

The latter “fair balance test” is not satisfied if there is an individual and excessive burden on the person concerned.

[5.9] the State had argued that uncertain future earnings are not caught by A1P1 however the court [5.10] disagrees. The corporations have a long-term guarantee to use of the site, ia via a long-term lease. That the earnings might potentially not qualify as possessions, does not diminish the qualification of the guaranteed economic interest as ‘property’.

Interference, lawfulness and general interest are established each in one para [5.11 ff] , and did not seem to be the focus of much discussion even by the parties.

Fair balance is discussed extensively [5.14] ff. [5.15.3] the court qualifies the measure as regulatory interference and not de facto expropriation (the latter would have triggered guaranteed compensation rights). Even if electricity generation using coal will be phased-out, after the end of the transition period, Uniper will continue to have use of the site and has indeed already assumed such use in announced coal-free business plans.

The court then discusses the foreseeability at length, concluding [5.16.31] that although the Dutch Government frequently expressed support for modern facilities generating electricity using coal, this was always done with the caveat that that method had to be compatible with the Dutch climate commitments. [5.16.35] the ETS permit defence is dismissed.

[5.17.9] the court, having studies the various scientific reports presented to it, holds that there are most definitely alternative uses for the site. That their profitability is uncertain, is simply also a feature of energy markets as a whole.

[5.18] the court holds that the Dutch coal phase-out does have an effect on reduced CO2 emissions (carbon leakage is not accepted as being of much relevance to that conclusion). For the measure to be considered not the least trade-restrictive, the Dutch State is held to have a wide margin of manoeuvre and it is not established that the State gravely erred in opting for a coal phase-out [5.18.7]. The long transition period is held to substantiate enough room for compensation [5.19.6], again with reference to the volatility of market returns as being part and parcel of energy markets full stop.

Like the Dutch judgments eg in Urgenda, this judgment on protection of property rights viz GHG emission reduction policies, is likely to serve as an international benchmark. It can be appealed, of course.

Geert.

Tilman v Unilever. CJEU supports choice of court in GTCs even if no possibility of click-wrap is offered.

Update 29 November 2022 see here for questions between Marco Farina and myself re the CJEU’s discussion 28-31 of the applicability at all of Lugano, in light of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The CJEU last week held in C-358/21 Tilman v Unilever, the context of which I reviewed here. Krzysztof Pacula has initial analysis here and also refers to the application of the consent for choice of court issues in Ebury Partners.

One of the parties’ (Unilever’s) GTCs  are contained on a website, and their existence is ‘flagged’ in the written main contrac, without there bring a tickable box that click-wraps the agreement. Does that suffice to bind the parties as to the GTC’s choice of court (in favour of the English courts)? Note the courts were seized pre-Brexit; the UK’s Lugano troubles are not engaged.

The CJEU answers exactly along the lines I suggested in my earlier post: no impeding of commercial practice; need for the contracting party relying on the clause to have drawn the attention to the GTCs; need for that clause to be durably consultable and storable; finally it is the national court’s task to verify  the formation of consent in these factual circumstances. That there is no box that can be ‘ticked’ is not conclusive [52].

All in all a welcome support for commercial choice of court.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.10.

Sedgwick v Mapfre Espana. On subrogation in Rome II, and yet again on its procedural carve-out (re: interest rates).

Sedgwick v Mapfre Espana Compania De Seguros Y Reaseguros Sa [2022] EWHC 2704 (KB) discusses the application of Article 19 Rome II on direct actions against insurers, and the procedural carve-out of the Regulation.

Claimant lives in Wales. At the time of the accident she was on her honeymoon, staying at the Hotel Blue Sea Callao Garden in Santa Cruz which was owned and operated by a company registered and incorporated in Spain. She was descending an inadequately lit concrete staircase when she fell and sustained severe fracture injuries to her left knee and to her right heel.

Spanish law is the governing law of the insurance contract/policy which provides the tortfeasor with the right of indemnity within the terms of the policy and that the claimant has, under Spanish law, a direct right of action against the insurer. Parties also agree that Spanish law applies per A4(1) Rome II.

The scope of the law applicable is set out in A15 Rome II, which reads in relevant part: “…the law applicable to non-contractual obligations under this Regulation shall govern in particular: (a) the basis and extent of liability including the determination of persons who may be held liable for acts performed by them; (b) the grounds for exemption from liability, any limitation of liability and any division of liability; (c) the existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed;…

A1(3) Rome II carves out all matters of procedure and evidence to the law of the forum court: “This Regulation shall not apply to evidence and procedure “. I have reported on the carve-out frequently (see eg here and linked postings there, or use search tag ‘evidence and procedure’).

On a technical side-note, Matthew Hoyle here (he also has a general excellent note on proving foreign law here) correctly notes a confusion with the judge [11] on the issue of proving foreign law, seeing as she conflates assumption of English law as the lex causae when the content of a suggested foreign law is not proven and pleaded (it was so in the case at issue), and assumption in certain circumstances, of the foreign law as being identical to English law.

Issues for determination, are:

i) the resolution of a series of questions relevant to the award of general damages (for non-pecuniary loss) under Spanish law; these are purely issues of Spanish law and of no interest to the blog.

ii) whether the claimant is able to pursue a claim for subrogated losses on behalf of her travel insurer. The contentious issue is whether the claimant herself is able to bring a claim for subrogated losses or whether the claim must be brought in a separate action by the insurer.

[60] if the claim is to be brought separately, it can no longer so be brought because it is now time-barred.

Defendant submits that the claim for those losses incurred by the travel insurer must be brought in accordance with Spanish law and that the proper person entitled to bring a claim against the defendant insurer under A43 Spanish Insurance Contract Act 50/1980 is the third party insurer, not the claimant, as those subrogated losses are losses of the third party payer.

Claimant submits that Spanish law is relevant only to the extent that, as the applicable law of the tort, it provides for recovery of expenses. Spanish law does not govern the relationship between the claimant and the travel insurer, nor the travel insurer’s rights of subrogation by means of the claimant’s claim under those policies. Those matters are regulated, it is argued, by the law governing the insurance policy, in this case, English law, consequential to A19 Rome II (“where a person (the creditor) has a non-contractual claim upon another (the debtor) and a third person has a duty to satisfy the creditor, or has in fact satisfied the creditor in discharge of that duty, the law which governs the third person’s duty to satisfy the creditor shall determine whether and the extent to which the third person is entitled to exercise against the debtor the rights which the creditor had against the debtor under the law governing their relationship.”)

The issue therefore is whether the question of whether the insurer may bring a claim in the name of the insured (rather than by other means) a question of “whether, and the extent to which” the insurer is entitled to exercise the rights of the insured against the third party? Lambert J [73] says it is, as a matter of language and construction, and she also expresses it (less immediately convincing to my mind) as an issue of common sense:

‘Putting the matter another way, it would be distinctly odd if English law determined the right of subrogation and limits upon that right (e.g. the legal principle that there must be full indemnity before subrogated rights attach) but an important aspect of the English law of subrogation (namely that the claim may and must be brought in the name of the insured) may not apply depending on where loss is caused which is to be indemnified.’

Finally, iii) the appropriate rate of interest to apply to the damages award, whether the Spanish (penalty) rate of interest applies or a rate applied under s 35A [E&W] Senior Courts Act 1981. Clearly the issue is whether penalty interest rules are substantive rather than procedural: in the latter case, they are carved out from Rome II, and English law as the lex causae applies.

Troke v Amgen is referred to, and the judge in Swedgwick decides [101]

Whether the decision in Troke is binding upon me or not, I agree with its conclusion and the underlying reasoning which I endorse and follow.

and [102]

the penalty interest provisions are discretionary; they may be excluded if there is a good reason to do so and they are procedural in character.

In my review of Troke I noted its reasoning was unconvincing. Lambert J [101] adds more arguments here, and I find these more convincing, if not conclusive.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.8.

Ebuy Partners. Anti-suit viz Belgian proceedings re incorporation of e-mailed and /or hyperlinked general terms and conditions, with a serious miss on Rome I.

Ebury Partners Belgium SA/NV v Technical Touch BV & Anor [2022] EWHC 2927 (Comm) discusses ia whether choice of court and law included in general terms and conditions – GTCs, agreed (or not) by inclusion in email and /or e-mailed click-wrapeable hyperlink (this is a factual discussion), justifies an anti-suit injunction against Belgian proceedings.

Pre-Brexit such injunction would not have been possible. It has since of course been granted frequently; my most recent report of one was QBE Europe v Generali. Issuing an anti-suit post Brexit therefore is no longer surprising (commentators continue to suggest the EU should somehow shield EU proceedings from them). The application of the Rome I Regulation under retained EU law however does remain less discussed – and it is poorly executed in current judgment.

Anticipatory proceedings seeking a declaration of non-liability were launched unexpectedly (Belgian CPR requires no prior warning in any circumstance) in Belgium on 4 May 2022. The Belgian court later that month held that Ebury’s jurisdiction challenge  will not be dealt with separately, instead, as is standard, will be reserved for consideration at the same time as the merits.

The English proceedings were launched in July 2022. A critical question is whether Ebury can show, with a high degree of probability, that there is a jurisdiction agreement governing the dispute in question. Was the E&W jurisdiction clause contained in Ebury’s RA standard terms incorporated into the agreement between Ebury and TT? The factual circumstances are not conclusive, for there are suggestions of GTCS with choice of court sent by incorporation in an e-mail and /or by click-wrapeable  hyperlink similarly e-mailed.

The judge is correct to classify Rome I as retained law [83]. However the exclusion of choice of court agreements from that Regulation has somehow entirely escaped him and counsel, it seems.

Rather therefore than considering the issue under English conflict of laws (in EU Member States the issue is now subject to Article 25  Brussels Ia however that is irrelevant here), the judgment ventures into Article 10 Rome I’s putative law /von Munchausen /bootstrap principle, to identify English substantive law as the lex cause for the validity (including the issue of incorporation) of the choice of court. This leads after extensive discussion to a finding of incorporation under English law [102].

[103] ff Belgian law is signalled as a fall-back under Article 3(5) and 10(2) Rome I, however the judge essentially ignores that possibility (although he formally entertains it) by referring to a lack of indication on the facts that the counterparty agreed to the relevant clauses. He uses the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ formula to reach that conclusion: counterparty did consult or should have consulted the GTCs and there are no factual indications it disagreed with them. Conflicting Belgian law  expert evidence is not discussed.

Anti-suit was eventually granted.

If their apparent lack of raising the proper analysis (ie: no inclusion of choice of court) of the Rome I issue does not prevent defendants from appealing, they clearly should, to the extent the English conflict of laws approach to validity of choice of court, may lead to a finding of non-incorporation.

Geert.

CA Indosuez v Afriquia. On Lugano claims and service out, and on jurisdiction for third party claims when the main claim has settled.

CA Indosuez (Switzerland) SA & Anor v Afriquia Gaz SA & Anor [2022] EWHC 2871 (Comm) is largely a case of statutory construction (here: of the amended Civil Procedure Rules – CPR).

It transpires from current judgment that similar issues were discussed (yet eventually did not need determination) in Naftiran Intertrade Company (Nico) Limited and Anor v G.L. Greenland Limited and Anor [2022] EWHC 896 (Comm) (unpublished).

I do not often copy /paste big chunks of judgment let alone the facts parts of them, however here I feel it is quite necessary: [1] ff, in summary:

Gulf Petroleum FZC, the First Part 20 Defendant (“GP”) had trade finance facilities with CA Indosuez (Switzerland) SA (the Claimant: “CAIS”) and with UBS Switzerland AG (the Second Part 20 Defendant: “UBS”).

Afriquia Gaz SA and Maghreb Gaz SA, the Defendants and Part 20 Claimants (“AG” and “MG”), purchased a cargo of butane from GP.  GP assigned to CAIS the debt represented by the purchase price.  GP issued its invoices to AG and MG on 23 July 2020 and CAIS sent notices of assignment on 27 and 28 July 2020.

However on 19 August 2020 AG and MG paid, by SWIFT, the sums due to GP’s account with UBS. The funds were received into one of GP’s accounts with UBS and then transferred to what appears to have been its loan or overdraft account.

GP instructed UBS to transfer the sums received to CAIS. UBS refused. It claimed to have been entitled to set off those sums against GP’s liabilities to it.

By Rule 20.1 of the Civil Procedure Rules, the purpose of Part 20 of the CPR is “to enable counterclaims and other additional claims to be managed in the most convenient and effective manner”. CAIS commenced this claim against AG and MG for the purchase price, a claim in debt. AG and MG denied liability but added (Part 20) claims against GP and UBS for the sums received, and in unjust enrichment and for liability as constructive trustee. Following the exchange of expert reports on Swiss law, AG and MG have accepted that their claim against UBS based on an alleged constructive trust must fail, and that the claim in unjust enrichment will only arise in certain circumstances.

GP is incorporated in the UAE.  The sale contract with AG and MG contained an exclusive jurisdiction agreement in favour of the High Court in London. The Part 20 Claim Form was issued with the following indorsement:

“[AG and MG] are permitted to serve the [Part 20] Claim on [GP] pursuant to CPR r.6.33(2)(b)(v) and Article 25 of the Judgments Regulation because [GP] is a party to an agreement … conferring exclusive jurisdiction within Article 25 of the Judgments Regulation.  [AG and MG] are permitted to serve the [Part 20] Claim on [UBS] out of the jurisdiction pursuant to CPR r.6.33(1)(b)(i) and Article 6(3) of the Lugano Convention.

The reference to Article 6(3) was a mistake for Article 6(2).

The Part 20 Claim Form against GP and UBS was issued on 30 December 2020, before the end of the Brexit transition period. UBS declined to instruct solicitors to accept service in England. AG and MG meanwhile on 20 January 2021 obtained an order from Cockerill J extending the validity of the Part 20 Claim Form. The Part 20 Claim Form was served or purportedly served on UBS, out of the jurisdiction, on 9 March 2021.

Crucially, the Court’s permission for service out of the jurisdiction on UBS was not sought. Counsel for claimant informed the Court that those representing AG and MG considered at the time that no permission would be needed, on the basis that jurisdiction under the Lugano Convention, which existed at the date of issue of the Claim Form, was preserved. Counsel also contented that even if permission to serve out was required and had been sought, it would inevitably have been granted, as questions of appropriate forum (considered in an application for permission to serve out) were not relevant in the context of the Lugano Convention. 

UBS acknowledged service on 26 March 2021, indicating an intention to contest jurisdiction.  Current judgment focuses on that contestation.

Under the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018, implementing the EU Withdrawal Treaty, an implementation period came to an end at 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020 (a day after the claim form that initiated current litigation was issued; also known as “IP completion day”). During the implementation period, obligations stemming from international agreements to which the EU was party continued to apply. Until IP completion day therefore the Lugano Convention applied to it by reason of the EU’s membership of the Convention. That clearly is no longer the case.

Essentially, E&W CPR was amended to include transitional provisions in relation to service out of the jurisdiction, which specifically maintain the pre-existing position that permission is not required for a claim form issued prior to withdrawal where jurisdiction is based on Brussels Ia. However, there is no equivalent saving for claim forms where jurisdiction exists under the Lugano Convention.

Knowles J [25] on the issue of permission, reaches the same conclusion as Ms Dias QC in Naftiran (above): namely that the widened A6.33(3) CPR rule applies to include Lugano Convention claims. That rule now reads

“6.33(3) The claimant may serve the claim form on a defendant out of the United Kingdom where each claim made against the defendant to be served and included in the claim form is a claim which the court has power to determine other than under [the Convention on Choice of Court Agreements concluded on 30th June 2005 at the Hague], notwithstanding that (a) the person against whom the claim is made is not within the jurisdiction; or (b) the facts giving rise to the claim did not occur within the jurisdiction.”

Having decided the issue of permission, the judge still had to decide whether Lugano conveys jurisdiction in this case. A 6(2) Lugano provides that a person domiciled in the state bound by the Convention may be sued “as a third party in an action on a warranty or guarantee, or in any other third party proceedings, in the court seised of the original proceedings, unless these were instituted solely with the object of removing him from the jurisdiction of the court which would be competent in his case;”

A core issue in current case is that the main claim is settled [12]; can the third party proceedings still continue in the main claim’s forum? The judge refers to CJEU C-365/88 Kongress Agentur (a Lugano case) and [44] holds that there is sufficiency of connection between the claims for jurisdiction to be established; that there is no authority for defendants’ proposition that only ‘exceptional circumstances’ may justify third-party proceedings to continue when the main claim is settled, and that in essence [41] sufficiency of connection between the third party claims and the main claim suffice for the former to continue in the latter’s jurisdictional home.

There are echoes here of potential for abuse per CJEU CDC, however that route was seemingly not pursued and on the facts would seem challenging to substantiate.

Geert.

The Dutch MH17 judgment and the conflict of laws. On civil claims anchored to criminal suits, and the application of Article 4(3) Rome II’s escape clause.

Their relevance is of course insignificant in light of the dreadful events that  triggered the judgments, however I thought I would flag the private international law elements in this week’s four Dutch judgments following the criminal prosecution of the suspects (now culprits) in the downing of MH17.

The judgment against Mr Pulatov was the  only one to respond to defence arguments actually made: he was the only one to have been represented (the other judgments were held in absentia). The judges extrapolate his arguments to the  other defendants to ensure some kind of proper representation, however they also explore further elements not raised by Mr Pulatov in the other judgments. This includes precisely the private international law elements for, it seems, no private claim was attached to the prosecution of Mr Pulatov while it was against the other defendants.

In this post I take the judgment against Mr Dubinskiy as the relevant text (structure and content of the other 2 judgments are essentially the same).

[12.4.1] discusses the possibility of judging the civil leg of a criminal suit. That the crimes could be prosecuted in The Netherlands is established on the basis of international criminal law of course, which is not the area of this blog. Jurisdiction for the civil leg is justified by reference to this being accepted international practice. Support (not: legal basis per se) is found by the court in Article 7(3) Brussels Ia:

A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State:

as regards a civil claim for damages or restitution which is based on an act giving rise to criminal proceedings, in the court seised of those proceedings, to the extent that that court has jurisdiction under its own law to entertain civil proceedings;

and in the similar regime under the Lugano Convention. The court rejects a potential (this judgment as noted was issued in absentia) lis pendens argument vis-a-vis proceedings  in the United States. The court remarks that these judgments had already been issued before the Dutch criminal prosecution was initiated; that therefore there are no concurrent proceedings unto which a lis pendens argument could be raised; and that the US judgments reached the same conclusion.

Res judicata of the US judgments is dismissed as an element which would impact the Dutch judgments at this stage. The court does point out that res judicata may return at the enforcement stage of the damages part of the judgments, in that the victims will not be entitled to double compensation. Note that the US judgments included punitive damages which as readers will know is also a complicating factor for enforcement in the EU.

At 12.14.2 the court then turns to applicable law, for which it of course applies Rome II. With reference to CJEU C-350/14 Lazar, it dismisses the ‘extraordinary suffering’ of the relatives of the victims as ‘indirect damage’ under Rome II, instead exclusively taking the direct damage (the passing away) of the victims on Ukrainian territory as determinant for locus damni.

Dutch law is held not to be ‘manifestly more closely connected’ per A4(3) Rome II, despite the majority of the victims being Dutch. The court in this respect refers firstly to the link with Ukraine not being accidental (such as might be the case in ‘ordinary’ mass claims) but rather directly linked to the hostilities in Ukraine), moreover to the need to guard what it calls the ‘internal harmony’ of the judgment seeing as there are also non-Dutch relatives involved. This I find a touch unconvincing, particularly seeing as the court itself in the same para, with reference to Jan von Hein in Callies’ 2nd ed. of the Rome Regulations commentary, refers to the need to consider A4(3)’s escape clause individually, not collectively.

Geert.

Links to all 4 judgments:

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12219

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12218

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12217

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12216

GW Pharma v Otsuka. Moçambique rule confirmed as not being engaged in mere contractual dispute. Court of Appeal ia distinguishes direct intellectual property rights validity challenges, and proceedings “principally concerned with” validity.

In GW Pharma Ltd & Anor v Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 1462, the Court of Appeal confirmed jurisdiction for the courts of England and Wales, confirming the first instance judgment which I reviewed here.

The first instance judgment dismissing GW Pharma’s application decided three issues: jurisdiction under the Moçambique principle, foreign act of state and a distinct application for a stay on forum non conveniens grounds.

Arguments on appeal are listed [20] ff:

GW Pharma’s grounds 1 and 2 address the Moçambique principle and its application. GW Pharma contend that the judge erred in applying an overly restrictive test for the purposes of the Moçambique principle and further erred in his application of that test to the facts.

Ground 3 addresses the foreign act of state doctrine, and the common law public policy exception. The submission is that the judge erred in law in holding that the act of state doctrine (or common law public policy) did not require the court to decline jurisdiction.

Ground 4 relates to forum non conveniens, contending that the judge erred in declining a stay on those grounds.

Otsuka’s case is that the judge was right for the reasons he gave but Otsuka also advances two additional points in support of the judge’s overall conclusion. The first point is that as well as the exception to the Moçambique rule based on whether a validity challenge is direct or not which the judge applied, there is a second exception – for claims which relate to a contract. This case would also fall within that exception. The second point is a submission that GW Pharma’s case would necessarily involve a country-by-country approach, contrary to the approach adopted by the English courts in related contexts (citing the Supreme Court in Unwired Planet v Huawei [2020] UKSC 37). The relevant principles ought not to be applied so as to prevent Otsuka from bringing its contractual royalty claim against GW Pharma in a single set of proceedings in GW Pharma’s home jurisdiction.

Birss LJ [26] notes, with common sense, that Brussels Ia authority still has relevance, despite the Regulation no longer applying

the fact the Regulation does not apply is a different thing from the question whether aspects of the thinking behind the Brussels Regulation may illuminate questions which do arise.

[29] the main point of UKSC Lucasfilm is summarised as the

modern trend [being] in favour of the enforcement of foreign intellectual property rights, particularly where there is no issue as to validity.

That modern trend of course provokes discussion as to when a claim engages validity as opposed to mere infringement, with Chugai a classic illustration. The judge here sometimes necessarily skates on thin ice for creative counsel may direct the end-result by claim formulation. Here Birss LJ offers a relevant distinction between direct challenges to the validity of a patent, as opposed to proceedings being ‘principally concerned with’ such challenges:

In Chugai there is reference to both the idea of whether a validity challenge is a direct one and also to whether proceedings are “principally concerned with” validity. These two expressions are performing different tasks and it is worth keeping them distinct. A claim consisting of nothing other than a claim for infringement, in which the defendant does not claim that the patent is invalid, but merely requires the court to ask itself, as a guide to construction, what would be the hypothetical consequences for validity if there was infringement, does not involve a direct challenge to validity. Such a claim is also not principally concerned with validity. On the other hand a claim consisting of nothing other than a request for revocation on the ground of invalidity or a declaration of invalidity would be a direct challenge to validity, and would be principally concerned with validity. However a claim raising multiple issues might well properly be said not to be principally concerned with validity, even if one of the subsidiary issues was a direct challenge to validity; but in such a case the court’s response would depend on the circumstances. The court might not decline jurisdiction over the dispute as a whole but might address individual issues separately. If the direct challenge only arises on a contingent basis then the right response might involve case management. Unlike the judge below, I would not describe this latter situation as one in which what was really a direct validity challenge was rendered not a direct challenge owing to its subsidiary nature in the action as a whole. The nature of the challenge is a direct one, but its status in the proceedings as a whole means that they are not principally concerned with it.

This is a discussion which to my mind is also useful for the A24(4) discussion in Brussels Ia, sub judice in BSH Hausgeräte v Electrolux.

[38] ff discusses the long standing exception to the Moçambique rule concerning contracts and equitable obligations. [40] There are said to be two questions in the present case about the contract exception. One is whether it depends on the existence of an exclusive jurisdiction clause in the contract  (answered [42] in the negative] and the other is about the extent of the exception itself. Would it, for example, allow the court to entertain a direct challenge to the validity of a foreign patent which the court would not have had jurisdiction to determine in the absence of the relevant contract (or equitable obligation)? : [43]:

In a way the question is whether the exception really is an exception to a rule that the court has no jurisdiction to determine a claim principally concerned with title (etc.) to foreign land or whether it is really just a manifestation of the proper application of the test for what it does or does not mean to say that a claim is principally concerned with title (etc.). Or putting it another way, can the court, when considering a contract claim, decide on title to foreign land, and by extension the validity of a foreign patent?

[46] that question is answered with reference to the classic in rem v in personam discussion that is part of the original Moçambique rule (and A24(1)BIa)

The contract exception does not allow the court to make a decision about the validity of a foreign patent in rem but it would allow the court to address the validity of a foreign patent in the course of making a decision concerning contractual rights in personam, assuming (such as if the Lear point does work in the way I have described) such a question was relevant to the contract decision.

[48] ff Lord Justice Birss summarises:

Bearing all this in mind, I would state the Moçambique rule as explained and formulated in Lucasfilm, and as it applies to patents in the following way:

First, in a case in which the courts of England and Wales have in personam jurisdiction over a defendant, then the courts have jurisdiction in proceedings for infringement of a foreign patent save where those proceedings are principally concerned with a question of the validity of that patent. The proceedings will not be principally concerned with validity only because the defendant, who does not claim that the patent is invalid, requires the court to ask itself as a guide to construction, what would be the hypothetical consequences for validity if there was infringement. However what the rule does not permit is a direct challenge to the validity of a foreign patent, and (subject to the exception below) the court has no jurisdiction to determine a claim that the foreign patent is invalid.

Second, this Moçambique principle is also subject to a contractual exception. If the case is one in which the court is asked to enforce a contract between the parties then in addition to questions of patent scope/infringement, if and only to the extent that questions of the validity of foreign patents need to be addressed in order to decide on the true nature and scope of the parties’ contractual obligations to one another, then the court can do so.

Applying this summary to the first instance judgment, that judgment is confirmed [60].

The third ground of appeal then invokes the foreign act of State doctrine, in that is is said that (certain) intellectual property rights may be said to depend on the grant or registration by the state. Birss LJ dismisses the argument [73] essentially by suggesting it harks back to bygone notions of intellectual property rights:

even absent the authorities I would hold that as a matter of principle the modern grant of a patent for an invention does not fit within the act of state doctrine as it stands today for two reasons. The first reason relates to the exercise of grant itself. The very word “grant” harks back to a past time, before the Statute of Monopolies 1623, when letters patent were granted on the whim of the Stuart monarchs (and similarly I suspect the Danish monarchy in Blad v Bamfield). Today there is no such condescension by the sovereign power in the grant of a patent by the Comptroller of the Patent Office. Once a properly constituted patent application has been examined and found to comply with the requirements of the law, the Comptroller is required by statute to grant the patent. The relevant words are in s18(4) of the Patents Act 1977 which provide essentially that if the applicant’s application is all in order then ‘the comptroller shall … grant him a patent.’ The second reason follows on from this and was given by Henry Carr J in Chugai at paragraph 68. He observed that once the patent had been granted, any party can challenge the validity of the patent and then can do so in a manner and on grounds which are quite different from an attempt to challenge legislation or government acts such as requisition.

Conclusion on this ground [75]

on grounds of authority and principle, I agree with the judge below that the act of state doctrine is not relevant to the analysis of the court’s jurisdiction in this case.

The first instance judge’s finding on forum non is also confirmed and the appeal therefore dismissed.

I do not know whether, if sought, permission to appeal to the Supreme Court will be granted, but it seems unlikely. The appeal judgment in my view includes important instruction in particular on the ‘principally concerned with’ issue however it largely applies existing UKSC authority.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.196 ff.

Grand Production v GO4YU. Szpunar AG (not, due to suggested inadmissibility) on copyright, VPNs and forum delicti for platform streaming.

Szpunar AG opined a few weeks back in C-423/21 Grand Production v GO4YU  ea. The case involves a variety of issues related to streaming and VPNs, many of which concern telecoms law yet one is of interest to the blog: namely the question whether

in the event of an allegation of infringement of copyright and related rights guaranteed by the Member State of the court seised, that court has jurisdiction only to rule on the damage caused in the territory of the Member State to which it belongs – because the territoriality principle precludes domestic courts from having jurisdiction to determine and examine the facts in relation to foreign acts of infringement – or can or must that court also rule on offences committed outside that territory (worldwide), as alleged by the author whose rights were allegedly infringed?

It transpires from the Opinion however that the case in the national court does not involve one for damages, yet rather one for a temporary injunction prohibiting distribution. To the degree this is aimed at the Serbian defendants at issue, these are domiciled outside the EU and hence not subject for actions in tort, to Brussels Ia. Against the Austrian defendants, the case is subject to full jurisdiction under A4 forum re, hence not triggering the full or partial jurisdictional issues of the relevant CJEU case-law (Bolagsupplysningen etc.).

The AG suggests inadmissibility of the Brussels Ia question.

Geert.

Sweden v Serwin. (Inter alia) on lex causae for (alleged) fiduciary duty and Rome II.

Kingdom of Sweden v Serwin & Ors [2022] EWHC 2706 (Comm) concerns an attempt by Sweden to gain compensation of a number of defendants whom it alleges were parties to a substantial fraud.  The fraud resulted in the misappropriation of in excess of €115m from the pension saving accounts of some 46,222 Swedish pension savers.

I may have to think one or two things through however I wanted to collect my initial thoughts at any rate.

Of note is that the application was one for summary judgment and that quite a few of the respondents did not file an acknowledgment of service or a defence. However, Sweden obtained permission from the court to obtain summary judgment on the merits even against them, rather than entering judgment in default (ia because that makes enforcement more straightforward). Other defendants are serving prison sentences in Sweden and they did enter a defence.

I do not want to turn this post into a banking and finance one however some background is required: [20] ff

The Swedish pension system has various types of pension provision, including a compulsory premium pension (PPM), in which a percentage of a pension saver’s earnings is put into an account, which is invested in investment funds selected by the pension saver from an online platform that the Swedish Pension Authority (SPA) maintains. Each pension saver has a PPM account. Among the investments which might be made were investments in so-called UCITS funds where these had been approved by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA). UCITS funds are those meeting the requirements of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directive 209/65/EC.

A company that wished to participate in the PPM was required to
enter into a cooperation agreement with the SPA. This case arises from two UCITS funds which were listed on the PPM online platform:

i)            the Optimus High Yield Fund (Optimus), managed by Optimus Fonder which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA on 26 March 2012; and

ii)          the Falcon Funds SICA V plc (Falcon) which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA in relation to three funders under its management.

The events concerning these two separate funds have been described in the evidence as the Optimus phase and the Falcon phase..

There was consensus ([38]) that the law applicable to the Swedish claims so far as they concerned the Optimus phase was Swedish law, whether by virtue of Article 4(1) or (3) Rome II. That Sweden’s claims relating to the Optimus phase were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, merger, cause of action estoppel or the allied doctrine in Henderson v Henderson, was dismissed by Foxton J [44].

Falcon then was incorporated and authorised by the Maltese Financial Services Authority as a UCITS fund on 22 November 2013. Sweden’s summary judgment claim in relation to the Falcon phase argued that its claims in delict and for breach of fiduciary duty relating to that phase are governed by Maltese law and not Swedish law.

As far as the delict issue is concerned (misappropriation), application of A4(2)  to some of the defendants was clear, and Sweden argued application of A4(1) for the remainder, seemingly arguing (judgment is a bit unclear on this point) that the damage was suffered in Malta when funds held in Falcon were applied to the various classes of loss-making investments.  Reference was made by counsel and judge to Dicey 16th ed. 35-027: “in misappropriation cases … it seems appropriate to locate damage at the place where an asset … is taken from the control of the claimant or another person with whom the claimant has a relationship” – the judge held that it is strongly arguable that this happened when Sweden’s funds became subject to the control of Falcon and the powers of its directors or those operating behind the scenes; the judge seems to locate this in Sweden, not Malta, and to some degree it does not matter for with reference ia to Avonwick and reasons listed [81] it is held that A4(3) arguably is engaged to make the lex causae Swedish law.

[86] reference is again made to Dicey for the applicable law issue as far as breach of fiduciary duties is concerned: Dicey, Morris & Collins [36-069]-[36-070]:

i)                 If equitable obligations of a fiduciary character arise in the context of a contractual relationship, there is a strong argument that the law applicable to the parties’ contractual relationship under Rome I determines whether a fiduciary relationship exists and the nature and content of the duties imposed.

ii)               If, however, the equitable obligations are characterised as incidents of a company law relationship rather than as “contractual”, common law principles determine the applicable law ( company law matters are excluded from Rome I and Rome II).

iii)             If a fiduciary duty arises where the parties were not in a prior relationship, such as in the case of a recipient of trust property, then the “better view” is that the obligation is non- contractual in nature and falls within the ambit of Rome II.

Unlike Sweden, the judge holds there are strong arguments that Swedish law applies, by reference it seems to Dicey, above, i) and with the ‘anchor’ agreement being the one by which Falcon becomes eligible to received PPM funds. Rule ii) seems to be moved aside by the judge here, and at any rate the extent of that rule is not clear-cut (see the CJEU itself recently). It is clear and it was correct to hold that the discussion is not one for summary judgment material.

An interesting final, obiter point comes [91] ff re the ‘reflective loss’ rule (a shareholder (and some others) cannot claim for a fall in the value of their holdings due to loss suffered by the company, if and when the company has a cause of action against the same wrongdoer) under Maltese law. Falcon itself is currently asserting claims against some of the alleged wrongdoers in relation to those same misappropriations, however Sweden argues an exception to that rule on the basis of Maltese expert evidence that was not considered to be robust enough for the summary judgment stage.

I wonder though whether the suggested relevance of the reflective loss rule, does not serve as ammunition for the suggestion that Rome I and II’s corporate carve-out is engaged viz the breach of fiduciary duties claim. For is the DNA of the rule not one of clear lex incorporationis?

To be further pondered.

Geert.

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