FDI v Barclays and others. A case-management stay on clarification grounds and the prospect of an Article 33-34 challenge given earlier US proceedings?

I am in tidying up mode clearly for my goodness I have way too many windows open on various browsers. And as always: Bloggo, ergo sum. (Or at the least: when I blog and /or Tweet the cases seem more firmly lodged in my memory). In FDI v Barclays & Ors [2022] EWHC 391 (Ch) defendants applied successfully for a case management stay to allow for clarification of the position in parallel US multi-district litigation (‘MDL’) proceedings (started earlier) involving the LIBOR fixing rate scandal. The confusion seems to be about what US  jurisdictional decisions in those proceedings mean against at least some of the defendants in the UK proceedings.

The UK proceedings were started pre-Brexit. One assumes therefore that the decision takes full advantage of the wedge that exists between a procedural, case management stay and a full-blown jurisdictional decision. The latter surely needs to be discussed under Brussels Ia, including its Articles 33-34 forum non-type mechanism, lest  one were to argue res judicata which, if the US Proceedings have not moved beyond jurisdictional decisions, is unlikely.

The judgment also indicates that a further CMC – Case Management Conference will be held in October. One looks forward to further development there.

Geert.

Galapagos Bidco v DE. The CJEU fails to clarify whether move of COMI by mere market notice, may be effective.

Krzysztof Pacula reported end of March on CJEU C-723/20 Galapagos Bidco v DE and justifiably highlighted the Brexit issue. The case concerns a move of COMI – centre of main interest within the context of the Insolvency Regulation 2015/848 and it is on the element of impromptu move that my post will focus.

Galapagos SA is a Luxembourg holding company whose centre of administration (‘effective place of management‘ according to the former directors) was moved in June 2019, at least so contend previous directors, to England. At the end of August 2019, they apply to the High Court in England and Wales to have insolvency proceedings opened.

Echos of the tussle are here and of course also in Galapagos Bidco SARL v Kebekus & ors [2021] EWHC 68 (Ch). The day after the move of centre of administration, the former directors were replaced with one other, who moved centre of administration to Dusseldorf and issued relevant market regulation statements to that effect. This move was subsequently recognised  by the Courts at Dusseldorf as having established COMI there. The High Court action in London was never withdrawn and would seem to have been dormant since.

Applicant in the proceedings is Galapagos BIDCO Sarl, a creditor of Galapagos SA. It is I understand (but I am happy to be corrected by those in the know) Luxembourg based. As Krzysztof reports, it contests that the German move has effected move of COMI which it argues lies in England (although I fail to see how its reasoning should not also apply to the earlier instant move from presumably Luxembourg to England).

The question that arises is whether, in the determination of the centre of a debtor company’s main interests, specific requirements must be imposed to prevent abusive conduct. Specifically, in the light of the Regulation’s stated aim of preventing forum shopping, whether ‘on a regular basis’ in the second sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 3(1) Insolvency Regulation 2015, presupposes an adequate degree of permanence and is not present if the establishment of a centre of administration is pursued at the same time as a request to have insolvency proceedings opened. Respondents in the appeal, which include the insolvency administrator (trustee) contend that the requirement of administration ‘on a regular basis’ is fulfilled if the administration is permanent.

The CJEU unfortunately fails to answer that question, choosing to reply instead with a hierarchical answer which encourages race to court: [36]

the court of a Member State with which a request to open main insolvency proceedings has been lodged retains exclusive jurisdiction to open such proceedings where the centre of the debtor’s main interests is moved to another Member State after that request is lodged, but before that court has delivered a decision on that request, and that, consequently, where a request is lodged subsequently for the same purpose before a court of another Member State, that court cannot, in principle, declare that it has jurisdiction to open such proceedings until the first court has delivered its decision and declined jurisdiction.

However in the case at issue, the Withdrawal Agreement has the effect that if the High Court has not, as it would seem, taken its decision on the opening of proceedings prior to the end of Brexit Implementation Day 1 January 2021 (CET), the German courts need no longer apply that consequence of mutual trust and are at liberty to determine the existence of COMI.

The CJEU ends by suggesting Q1 no longer needs answering. Yet I think it does. Perhaps not so much for the case at issue (which explains why the judicially economical CJEU does not offer a reply). The German courts, as Zacaroli J notes in his decision [14], held in October 2019 that COMI for GAS has successfully moved to Germany as from 25 August 2019, the day the capital market and bondholders were informed that the centre of administration had been moved to Düsseldorf. Yet the file does not suggest that COMI prior to the attempted move, existed in Germany: it was established there following the new director’s decision. In accordance with the Regulation’s presumptions, it would have previously existed in Luxembourg. The element of ‘on a regular basis’ therefore still matters. Is the CJEU suggesting that a mere information of the capital markets suffices to move COMI?

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 5.6.1.

 

BRG NOAL v Kowski. A debatable applicable law consideration under A4 Rome I decides a forum non stay.

BRG NOAL GP SARL & Anor v Kowski & Anor [2022] EWHC 867 (Ch) continues the current trend of forum non conveniens applications galore, following Brexit. In the case at issue, with Luxembourg suggested as the appropriate forum, applicable law determination, under (retained) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ rule plays a core role.

Applicable law needs to be determined essentially viz an undertaking as I understand it, by a, validly removed, investment fund General Partner, not to torpedo the subsequent orderly continuation of the fund. The core commitment reads

“I, [name], hereby acknowledge that [NOAL GP] is the managing general partner (“General partner”) of [the Fund] with effect from 27 August 2021 and unconditionally and irrevocably undertake (a) not to assert otherwise, or to induce or procure an assertion to the contrary or otherwise challenge or question the validity of its appointment or induce or produce such challenge or question, in any applicable forum and (b) to cooperate with and assist the General Partner in completing a full, orderly and timely transfer of the control of the Partnership and all of its assets and any obligations to the General Partner”.

Claimant [57] suggests the specific Undertaking in and of itself meets the CJEU Handte definition of a stand alone contractual obligation, however Smith J does not specifically hold on this for in her view even if this were correct, the overall contractual construction would have an impact on the applicable law consideration, seeing as in her view:

no choice of law was made; no default ‘passe partout’ contract as listed in A4(1) Rome I applies; A4(2) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ test does not lead to an answer ([61]: there is no ‘characteristic performance’] and at any rate even if there were, the judge would have applied A4(3)’s escape clause to lead to Luxembourg law; and the ‘proper law of the contract’ per A4(4) Rome I ‘clearly’ [63-64] leads to Luxembourgish law.

In conclusion, a stay is ordered and the forum non application is successful. In my view the judge jumped too easily to Articles 4(3) and (4), denying Article 4(2)’s or even Article 3 choice of law’s effet utile. It is not unusual for judges to let their predetermination to apply A4(3) and /or (4) determine their A4(2) search for a lex contractus. Yet that frequency does not make the judgment right.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed, 2021, Heading 3.2.6.2.

ValueLicensing v Microsoft. The High Court, in rejecting forum non conveniens, puts great emphasis on only English courts determining the course of English law post Brexit.

In JJH Enterprises Ltd (Trading As ValueLicensing) v Microsoft Corporation & Ors [2022] EWHC 929 (Comm) Picken J makes a debatable point in his discussion of a forum non conveniens application by defendants, Microsoft.

In the proceedings ValueLicensing claim damages arising from alleged breaches of competition law by Microsoft. The claim is a ‘stand alone’ one, not a ‘follow-on’ one. There is no underlying infringement decision of the European Commission (or any domestic competition regulator) on which ValueLicensing can rely to establish that an infringement of competition law has been committed.

Some of the Microsoft entities firstly seek summary dismissal of the case against them, arguing they cannot be held liable for an alleged infringement of either Article 101 or 102 TFEU as a result of an overall Microsoft ‘campaign’ in which they did not demonstrably take part. Here [31] ff there is interesting discussion ia of Provimi (Roche Products Ltd. & Ors v Provimi Ltd [2003] EWHC 961 (Comm)), which held that an entity that implements an agreement in breach of A101 to which a member of the same undertaking is a party can be held liable for the infringement even though the implementer itself does not know of the infringement. Specifically, whether Provimi was wrongly decided following from Cooper Tire Europe Ltd v Bayer Public Co Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 864  – this is an issue for which CJEU referral is not possible post Brexit.

The judge however refers to the broader concept of ‘undertaking’ in the A101-102 sense following eg CJEU C-882/19 Sumal SL v Mercedes Benz Trucks Espana SL. Sumal, Picken J holds [44], is relevant authority both pre and post Brexit.

Quite how parties see a difference in the lex causae for the competition law infringement pre and post Brexit is not clear to me. Pre Brexit it is said to be ‘English law’ (held to include 101-102 TFEU prior to Brexit), full stop, while post Brexit that law is said to be determined by (retained) Article 6 Rome II, which for same of the claim will be English law as being one of the ‘affected markets’ per A6 Rome II.

It is in the forum non application that the judge posits [78] that an important consideration of England as the more appropriate forum, is

it is clear that Microsoft UK’s position at trial will be that in certain material respects English law has taken a divergent path from EU law. In such circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate, and certainly undesirable, for a court in Ireland to be determining whether Microsoft UK is right about this. On the other hand, there would be no difficulty with the Court here applying EU competition law, either as part of English law (in respect of the pre-Brexit period and, if that is what the Court determines is the case, also in respect of the post-Brexit period) or as part of the laws of other EU/EEA member states, since the Court here is very experienced in doing just that.

If it is true that under forum non, only English courts can be held properly to determine the direction of English law post Brexit, the hand of many a claimant in forum non applications will surely be strengthened.

Geert.

Cryptoassets, non-fungible tokens and consumer protection. The High Court rejects jurisdiction in Soleymani v Nifty, re-igniting the opaqueness of the arbitration exception under Brussels Ia.

In Amir Soleymani v Nifty Gateway LLC [2022] EWHC 773 (Comm) Abrose J largely rejected jurisdiction for the English courts in a claim following auction brought by a UK-based digital artwork collector. Another part of the claim was stayed pending arbitration in New York.

Faced with a clause in Nifty’s general terms and conditions that provide for binding arbitration in New York and for New York law to be the governing law of the contract, claimant seeks a declaration that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to it being unfair under the UK Consumer Rights Act 2015. Alternatively, he argued the governing law clause is invalid on the same statutory ground, and that a contract arising from the auction is void for illegality pursuant to the UK Gambling Act 2005.

Of note is that the US based arbitrator, in the proceedings initiated by Nifty, is considering himself (with procedural and discovery orders having been issued) broadly similar issues under consumer protection provisions of the ADR provider.

At [34] the qualification of NFTs as ‘art’ or merely ‘technology’ [‘the nature of NFTs as assets, and whether they are artwork, with the Claimant’s position being that he was trading in digital art whereas the Defendant maintained that an NFT is merely a unique string of code stored on a blockchain ledger that makes a digital artwork accessible, and marks authenticity’] is announced as potentially relevant for substance but not for current application.

The discussion largely takes place under retained EU law (s15b of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (as amended)). The judge holds [55] that the claim falls within the arbitration exception of (retained) Brussels Ia seeing as, as she qualifies it

The principal focus and subject matter of Mr Soleymani’s claim is whether he is legally obliged to arbitrate.

Recital 12 BIa is called upon in support. Claimant ([49]-[50] in particular are a good summary of the position) essentially argues such a view is incompatible with the effet utile of the consumer title. I believe that point has merit and one imagines it will be on this point that appeal will be sought (Bitar v Banque Libano-Francaise was offered in some support).

Whether the contract is a ‘consumer’ contract is still discussed [62] ff viz the claim for declaratory relief regarding the unfairness of the arbitration clause under the Gambling Act. The judge holds [79] that on the evidence put forward, Claimant has the better of the argument as to whether the Defendant was directing commercial activities to England (and the UK more generally). However she decides to grant the defendant a stay (which would not have been possible pre-Brexit) in favour of the unfairness issues being discussed in the New York arbitration. (These issues may later return to a UK court in the shape of an ordre public opposition to enforcement of the award in the UK).

I will of course notify if and when permission to appeal will have been granted.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.3.2, and 2.2.9.2.

Al Assam v Tsouvelekakis. Yet another lengthy forum non conveniens discussion, keeping the case in E&W and not Cyprus.

Al Assam & Ors v Tsouvelekakis [2022] EWHC 451 (Ch) shows the way many claims involving EU Member States facts or defendants are likely to go, until the novelty of newly found forum non freedom wears off perhaps: with intensive forum non conveniens-based jurisdictional challenges.

The defendant is domiciled in England and Wales. The claimants are the settlors of 2 Cypriot trusts who claim for the losses suffered in connection with the trusts’ investments. The trusts were both established under the International Trusts Law of the Republic of Cyprus.

As in Klifa v Slater, the forum non test, following Spiliada and VTB v Nutritek, [12] involves two limbs: Under limb 1 of the test, the Defendant must establish that the courts of Cyprus are both (i) “available” and (ii) are clearly or distinctly more appropriate than the English courts as a forum for determining the dispute. If the Defendant can establish that limb 1 of Spiliada is satisfied, it becomes necessary to consider limb 2. Limb 2 requires a consideration of whether, even if the courts of Cyprus are an available forum that is clearly or distinctly more appropriate for the trial of the action than the courts of England, justice nevertheless requires that a stay of the English proceedings should not be granted.

On availability, there is a bit of to and fro and each other’s Cypriot law legal experts, particularly on the territorial jurisdiction under residual Cypriot rules. However the conclusion [26] is that the Cypriot courts are ‘available’.

Obiter, Richards DJ discusses whether if there is no availability under Cypriot law, there might be availability if there is a submission to jurisdiction and/or an agreement /choice of court.

Discussion here was first whether A26 Brussels Ia could remedy the lack of territorial jurisdiction under Cypriot law. Unlike A25 choice of court, A26 does not include language making the defendant’s domicile in the EU a precondition for its application. At [32] the conclusion for the purpose of these proceedings is that there is a real risk that the Cypriot courts will not have jurisdiction on the basis of A26.

The discussion then [33ff] turns to the Cypriot courts being the clearly or distinctly a more appropriate forum with the conclusion being in the negative.

Helpfully, and suggested by counsel, the judge puts the following structure to the analysis:

a) personal connections ([39]: defendant’s residence in England remains a relevant factor pointing towards the English courts being the appropriate forum);

b) factual connections (held: correspondence between the parties will be of more relevance than the physical location of parties in Cyprus);

c) evidence/convenience/expense (conflicting factors here but none leading overwhelmingly to Cyprus);

d) applicable law (most likely Cypriot law for many of the claims however ia given the similarity with English law, this is not an overwhelmingly relevant issue [56] and some Swiss law will have to be applied anyways); and

e) the “overall shape of the litigation”, held [59] not to be Cypriot.

Limb 2, the requirements of justice, is considered obiter under two angles [61]: delays and the possibility of statutes of limitation kicking in. On the delays, [67] comity and caution to express chauvinistic views upon a friendly jurisdiction argue against a finding of unavailability of justice on this ground, particularly as the experts’ views on this were inconclusive; the possibility of statute of limitation is held [68] largely to be of the claimants’ own making (ia because they had started but discontinued proceedings in Cyprus. Limb 2 therefore, had it mattered, would not have been satisfied and had limb 1 been met, a stay of the proceedings in England would have been ordered.

Geert.

Klifa v Slater. Post Brexit, a forum non challenge (for the courts of France) rejected ia on the basis of costs recovery.

In Klifa v Slater & Anor [2022] EWHC 427 (QB), concerning a ski accident in Courchevel, France, the Claim Form was issued on 14 January 2021, just within the three year limitation period of England and Wales but just after the Brexit “Exit Day” also know as IP day (Brexit implementation day) (of 31 December 2020). Defendants take advantage of that to argue a forum non conveniens defence (which readers will know would have been impossible under Brussels Ia). France is suggested to be the ‘most appropriate forum’.

The skiing accident took place on 27 January 2018 and when (and as still is the case) the Claimant was domiciled and resident and habitually resident in France, the First Defendant was domiciled and resident (they being on holiday) in England & Wales, and the Second Defendant (the insurance company) was domiciled in England & Wales. Under Rome II, French law is the applicable law, other than for procedural law, including as to recovery of legal and other costs of the litigation, which is subject to English law, lex fori.

That latter element returns (with reference to ia Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers) [25] as part of the forum non conveniens assessment, seeing as (Dagnall M) ‘in consequence of the difference in their methods of adducing expert evidence, the English & Welsh jurisdiction procedural approach is likely to be considerably more expensive than that in France, and which is reflected in the costs rules and approach of each country.’

At [40] Master Dagnall sums up the many issues leading to the case being very ‘French’ in nature, deciding on balance however [42] that the defendants have not met the (high hurdle) of proving that France is “distinctly” or “clearly” the more appropriate forum.

At [44] ff he holds obiter that even if they had met that test, a stay in favour of proceedings in France would not assist with “achieving the ends of justice”L the second part of the forum non test. At [48] two factors are singled out: enforcement will have to take place in England; and a lot of work prior to the claim form being issued was carried out prior to IP day, when forum non was not an issue. Recovering those costs would be impossible in France.

The point has been made ad nauseam by many and this case is a good illustration: post Brexit, forum non is back with a vengeance and it is a time-consuming and costly business.

Geert.

A further Prestige instalment, this time on the powers of first instance judges to refer to Luxembourg and the, curtailed, authority of the Court of Appeal to stop them.

The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v The Kingdom of Spain M/T “PRESTIGE” (No. 5) [2022] EWCA Civ 238 is an appeal against The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v The Kingdom of Spain [2020] EWHC 1920 which I reported on here.

The issue on this appeal (tag ‘Prestige’ on this blog and ‘Prestige(@GAVClaw)’ on Twitter search will give you plenty of returns) is the very reference of the judge to the CJEU. At Kirchberg the case is known under reference C-700/20 and the hearing was held a few weeks back.

At issue is essentially whether the judge should have made reference to the CJEU at all, hence querying the ‘necessity’ of a reference to the CJEU including in this particular context of Brexit (with the Court of Appeal now longer being able to refer to Luxembourg by the time the case would have reached it).

Phillips LJ holds [47] that the reference was not necessary in light of CJEU authority on that element of necessity and that the judge should not have made it. Yet under the EU rule of law, a Court of Appeal cannot set aside the reference: [56] all the CA can do is ask the judge to reconsider, with [60] a call for fast-tracking in the event the CJEU might  rule before the judge withdraws the reference: if that latter is what he would be minded to do.

An interesting EU institutional law issue.

Geert.

 

 

Open Rights Group. The Court of Appeal on grace periods, the consequences of judicial review and remedies for breach of (supreme) retained EU law.

A posting that is long overdue but over at GAVC law  we have lots of things coming our way and the inevitable consequence is a bit of a queue on the blog. Open Rights Group & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor [2021] EWCA Civ 1573 was held end of October and discussed remedies for breach of retained EU law, that is in essence, EU law which has force in law in the UK by virtue of the Government’s copy /paste exercise following Brexit.

In April 2021 the CA had held that that the “Immigration Exemption” (which disapplies some data protection rights where their application would be likely to prejudice immigration control) of the UK Data Protection Act 2018 is contrary to Article 23 GDPR and Article 23 of the UK GDPR: [2021] EWCA Civ 800.  However in that judgment the CA had not specified at that stage what form of relief should be granted. It does now.

The claim form sought a declaratory order, the effect of which would be to “disapply” the Immigration Exemption. The Government argue it be granted a grace period to make regulations adding to or varying the provisions. The complicating factor is that even retained EU law enjoys supremacy (not by virtue of EU law but by virtue of the Government’s choice to do so). That means that any conflict between the GDPR and domestic legislation (including primary legislation) must be resolved in favour of the former: the domestic legislation must be overridden, treated as invalid or, in the conventional language, disapplied.

[15] A quashing order would not meet with the UK constitutional understanding and its limits to the rule of judges. However must supremacy, post Brexit, mean the courts must inevitably make an immediately binding order? Warby LJ sets out the principles of EU retained law as they follow from domestic legislation (the ‘EUWA’) at [23]:

(1) A UK court must now decide any question as to the validity, meaning or effect of any retained EU law for itself: it is no longer possible to refer any matter to the CJEU: EUWA s 6(1)(b).

(2) But the general rule is that the court must decide any such question in accordance with any retained case law and any retained general principles of EU law that are relevant: EUWA s 6(3). “Retained EU case law” and “retained general principles” mean principles laid down and decisions made by the CJEU before IP completion day.

(3) When it comes to principles laid down or decisions made by the CJEU after IP completion day, the court is not bound (EUWA s 6(1)) but “may have regard” to them (EUWA s 6(2)).

(4) The position is different in a “relevant court”, which includes the Court of Appeal. Subject to an exception that does not apply here, a relevant court is not absolutely bound by any retained EU case law: EUWA s 6(4)(ba) and Regulations 1 and 4. It can depart from that law; but the test to be applied in deciding whether to do so is “the same test as the Supreme Court would apply in deciding whether to depart from the case law of the Supreme Court”: EUWA 6(5A)(c) and Regulation 5.

(5) The test the Supreme Court applies is the one laid down by the House of Lords in its Practice Statement [1966] 1 WLR 1234, when Lord Gardiner LC said

“Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It provides at least some degree of certainty upon which individuals can rely in the conduct of their affairs, as well as a basis for orderly development of legal rules. Their Lordships nevertheless recognise that too rigid adherence to precedent may lead to injustice in a particular case and also unduly restrict the proper development of the law. They propose, therefore, to modify their present practice and, while treating former decisions of this House as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision when it appears right to do so. In this connection they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which contracts, settlements of property and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the especial need for certainty as to the criminal law. This announcement is not intended to affect the use of precedent elsewhere than in this House.”

Relevant CJEU authority is LibertyLa Quadrature, A v Gewestelijke Stedenbouwkundige Ambtenaar van het Department ruimte Vlaanderen (Case C-24/19) (“Gewestelijke”), and B v Latvijas Republikas Saeima Case C-439/19, EU-C-2021-504 (“B v Latvia”). [24] Gewestelijke was decided before IP completion day. We are not absolutely bound by them, but we should decide this case in accordance with the principles they set out, unless we think it right to depart from those cases for the reasons set out by Lord Gardiner. B v Latvia was decided after IP completion day, so we can “have regard” to it.

[26] Warby LJ suggests 3 options:

One is to hold that since the power to suspend relief in respect of substantive laws that is identified in Gewestelijke is one that can only be exercised by the CJEU, it cannot be exercised at all in E&W. This is rejected [27] as an unduly mechanistic and literal approach, tending to subvert rather than promote the legal policy that underlies this aspect of the CJEU jurisprudence: it would remove from the judicial armoury a power that is, by definition, essential. 

An alternative would be what Warby LJ called “the Regulation 5 approach”: to apply the principles laid down in the 1966 HoL Practice Statement and depart from the CJEU case-law, holding that the power which, in that jurisprudence, is reserved to the CJEU should now be treated as available to at least some UK Courts. This [28] enable a court to perform one of its essential tasks: averting legal disorder and is an option which Warby LJ suggests is open to the Court of Appeal.

A third option is to follow and apply the CJEU jurisprudence as to the existence and limits of the power to suspend, but not that aspect of the case-law that reserves the exercise of that power to the European Court. That [31] is Warby LJ’s preferred route however he decides (and the other LJs agree) that there is at this time no need to choose between both options for in essence they lead to the same result in the case at issue. The Court concludes that the Government were given time until 31 January 2022 for the Data Protection Act 2018 to be amended so as to remedy the incompatibility. Whether the Government have done so, I leave to data privacy lawyers to verify.

Underhill LJ emphasises one point [57] ‘that, as Warby LJ says at para. 13 of his judgment, our power to suspend our declaration – in practice, to suspend the disapplication of the Immigration Exemption – derives entirely from retained EU law. It was not argued that the Court had any equivalent power at common law.’

This is an important judgment viz the application of retained EU law but also wider, viz the consequences of judicial review which is a hot topic at the moment in more than just the UK.

Geert.

Easygroup v Beauty Perfectionists. No huge make-over for acquired EU law on trademark jurisdiction.

In Easygroup Ltd v Beauty Perfectionists Ltd & Ors [2021] EWHC 3385 (Ch) defendants argue that even though the proceedings were initiated prior to IP completion day (31 December 2020), the English courts no longer have jurisdiction to grant a pan-EU injunction or other remedies in respect of alleged infringement of EU trade marks (“EUTMs”).  The suggestion is that lack of such jurisdiction post 1 January 2021 is a consequence of the relevant statutory UK instrument, the Trade Marks Amendment etc (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The jurisdictional impact  of the EU Trademark Regulation 2017/1001 was previously considered i.a. in another Easygroup case which I discuss here. In current case, defendants argue that as a result of (potentially an omission in) the 2019 UK Statute, the High Court no longer is an ‘EU Trade Mark Court’ and, that EU Regulation 2017/1001 was not part of EU retained law under section 2(1) of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Their submission is based entirely on statutory construction, involving ia reading of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020 and its alleged impact on Withdrawal Agreement rights.

[48] ff Flaux C takes a much shorter approach to siding with claimants, holding [50] that the clear intention of Article 67 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which has full legal effect, is that the High Court should retain the same jurisdiction under EU Regulation 2017/1001 as it had before IP completion day. He finds support in a more common sense reading of the various Statutes in the context of Brexit with arrangements (as opposed to the potential of a no-deal Brexit).

The application for strike-out was therefore dismissed.

I do not know whether appeal has been sought. The case is a good illustration of the many layers of complexity provoked by the presence of the Withdrawal Agreement (with UK commitment to provide direct effect in the same circumstances as would apply under EU law), the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, and all the statutory provisions designed to cater for both a deal and a no-deal Brexit.

Geert.

 

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