Scotland PHOTO

Family and consumer law ‘need greater attention under Brexit’

Family law is heading for “the wilderness of uncertainty” under current Brexit proposals, a senior member of the Faculty of Advocates has told MSPs.

A second member called for consumer protection issues to be moved up the Brexit agenda.

Janys Scott QC, chair of the Advocates’ Family Law Association, and James Mure QC, convenor of the Faculty’s International Committee, along with advocate Peter Sellar, a member of the International Committee, gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.

The committee was examining Brexit in relation to family law, and to civil, commercial and consumer law.

Mrs Scott gave an example of a divorce where a wife was in Scotland and the husband was in France. Currently, the wife could start proceedings in Scotland and the French court could not intervene. However, under the EU Withdrawal Bill as currently drafted, courts in the two countries could each deal with the case, and possibly come to conflicting decisions.

“One cannot defend the EU system as perfect, it is a work in progress. But what is proposed is to set us off into the wilderness of uncertainty when we are on a course bringing us greater certainty, albeit it is not perfect,” said Mrs Scott.

Family law was “a long way down the list” of Brexit issues, she added, but it was an important issue for citizens of Scotland and the UK, and she asked the MSPs to help raise the profile of family law.

Her plea was echoed by Mr Mure in relation to consumer protection. He said concern had been expressed widely that consumer protection had not figured sufficiently in UK government papers on Brexit.

“I think there is a need for people to articulate consumer protection particularly…the answer is to bring it up the agenda. These are real issues that will affect people,” added Mr Mure.

Watch the evidence session at https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/justice-committee-january-30-2018

Freshfields PHOTO

Freshfields management team takes home £19.1m amid overall profit uptick

The management team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer took home £19.1m for the 2016/17 financial year, according to latest LLP accounts filed with Companies House.

This combined remuneration for the Magic Circle firm’s senior partner, managing partners and heads of global practice groups is a 6% increase on the previous year’s £18.1m package.

For this accounting period, the management team includes senior partner Edward Braham, managing partner Stephan Eilers and former co-managing partner Chris Pugh, who officially stepped down from the role in August 2017. Freshfields’ LLP accounts do not divulge figures for the highest-paid member.

Total revenue for the year ending 30 April 2017 was £1.34bn, a 4.7% increase on last year’s £1.28bn, while operating profit saw a 6% increase to £416.7m from £392.3m the prior year.

The figure is a significant improvement on the 2015/16 financial year when Freshfields operating profit fell drastically by 24% to £392.3m from £514.2m, affected by a sharp increase in the firm’s pension provision. Freshfields had £76m of net cash compared with £96m the previous year.

This time last year, Freshfields’ Companies House filings stated turnover as £40m lower than its previously reported revenue figures for 2015/16, with the firm claiming exchange rates as the reason for the discrepancy. The firm posted a 0.5% revenue lift for the 2015/16 financial year, after it claimed a 7% turnover boost for the same period when it unveiled results last year.

The latest accounts show staff costs increased 10% from £584.5m to £642.5m, while overall staff numbers fell 2% from 4,622 to 4,543. The number of fee-earning staff fell by 4% to 2,420 from 2,511 the previous year, while there was a slight increase in the number of secretarial and support staff at 2,123, compared with 2,111 the previous year.

Clifford Chance (CC) and Allen & Overy (A&O) are the other Magic Circle firms to have published their LLP accounts so far.

CC’s 13-strong executive leadership team took home £16m for the 2016/17 financial year, up 7% on the previous year. The rise reflected only a slight per head increase on last year’s figure, where the 12-person executive received £15m.

CC’s overall revenue for the year was up 11% to £1.54bn from £1.39bn. However as the firm stated in its filing: ‘Excluding the effect of exchange rates, revenue growth compared to last year was 2%.’

Meanwhile A&O’s management team saw a collective remuneration hike of 16% to £15.8m compared with £13.6m the previous year. The firm recorded a £48.2m boost attributed to swings in the value of sterling, putting average profit per full partner at £1.51m, an increase of more than 25% on 2016’s PEP of £1.2m. Without the forex gains, PEP would have been £1.4m.

Nigeria Map PHOTO

Investing in Nigeria Made Easy

Nigeria has enormous resources, most of which are yet to be fully exploited. These resources include but are not limited to minerals, agricultural and human resources. With a population of about 180 million people, the Nigerian market potential stretches into the growing West African sub-region and offers the market in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result of this, the government has put in place policies and programs that guarantee a free market economy; administrative and bureaucratic procedures have been greatly streamlined, with a dynamic private sector which has assured greater responsibilities under the new economic environment.

According to www.doingbusiness.org, economies are ranked on their ease of doing business, from 1–190. A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm.

It is worthy of note that the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the 3rd October 2017, launched the second National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business as part of the administration’s medium term: “Economic Growth and Recovery Plan” (EGRP) to build a globally competitive economy.

The Vice President had earlier presided over an expanded meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in Abuja.

A statement by PEBEC Secretary and Senior Special Assistant (SSA) Industry, Trade & Investment in the office of the Vice President, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, on the 3rd October, said PEBEC had approved a second 60-day National Action Plan know as (NAP 2.0) to drive reforms aimed at making Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business.

The said program (NAP 2.0) will run from October 3 to December 1, 2017, and is expected to further reduce the challenges faced by SMEs when getting credit, paying taxes, or moving goods across the country, amongst others, by removing critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria.

The Federal Government is moving ahead with its plan to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria as it recently slashed the period required for the perfection of import and export documentation papers from two weeks to between seven and ten days for export documentation and a maximum of eight days for import documentation. These new measures are a direct response to demands from many quarters for government to ease the nation’s business environment.

The above structural reforms are meant to improve the countries’ economic outcomes thereby making it easier for local businesses and foreign investment participation.

From the action policies and programmes of the current administration in creating a conducive environment for potential investors, investing in the Nigeria business economy which was a tedious task has become a thing of the past.

The long and tiring wait of getting a business permit, certificate of incorporation, export and import documents, visa applications and many more are over. From all these mentioned above, it is safe to say that doing business in Nigeria for local and foreign investors has been made effortless.

Some potential foreign investors are still in doubt will others have been exploring the opportunities therein. Invest in Nigeria today and discover a world of opportunities.

For more information on this article, or for consultation and advice, email: [email protected] or call (+234)8034869295.

Know Your Rights PHOTO

European backing for agreement to protect rights of lawyers

An agreement protecting the rights of lawyers across Europe has taken a step closer to reality, after a Council of Europe (CoE) body approved plans for a convention specifying those rights.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made up of members of parliament from the CoE’s 47 member states, approved recommendations to draft a convention at a meeting in Strasbourg last week.

The idea will now go to the CoE’s Committee of Ministers for approval. The deadline for approval is nine months. Should ministers approve the plans, a convention will be drafted by an expert committee which, once agreed, would need to be signed and ratified by member states.

The assembly cited an increasing number of threats and attacks against lawyers as its inspiration for recommending the convention. Sabien Lahaye Battheu, PACE rapporteur, said a string of attacks on lawyers has taken place in the past 12 months alone. Last year, hundreds of lawyers were detained after the failed coup in Turkey.

According to the recommendation, the convention should ‘fully respect, protect and promote the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer’. The recommendation also considers that there is a need for an ‘early-warning mechanism’ to respond to immediate threats to lawyers’ safety and independence.

The CoE is recommending that the convention be open to non-member states to opt in.

Legal professional bodies, including the Bar Council, have backed the idea.

Law Society president Joe Egan said lawyers must be allowed to carry out their professional duties without interference and should never be identified with their clients or clients’ causes.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe said the recommendation was a ‘major step forward in the protection of human rights and the rule of law’.

O'Conor PHOTO

Winds of change in Argentina

Substantial Amendments in the prosecution of trademarks and patents.

The Decree 27/2018 of January 10, 2018, (here in after the “Decree”) amends certain articles of the current Law of Trademarks and Designations (Law No. 22,362), the Law of Patents and Utility Models (Law No. 24,481), and Decree (Law No. 6673/1963).

The recitals of the “Decree”, indicate the need to implement an administrative procedure for the parties, prior to the judicial instance, for the administrative procedure and resolution of the oppositions IN trademarks, in order to reduce deadlines in obtaining resolutions. In connection with Utility Models and Designs, with the proposed amendments, users may make multiple applications for registration per file, adopt new technologies in the manner of submitting drawings, and request the postponement of publications.

We have prepared a comparison of the present procedures and the changes that are introduced by the Decree, which are not yet in force upon receiving this Newsletter.

Trademarks: specifically referring to the formalities of the registration process of a trademark, article 70 of the “Decree”, states that oppositions to the registration of a trademark must be electronically filed at the National Institute of Industrial Property (hereinafter “I.N.P.I.”), and not in writing as it is currently.

Article 71 of the “Decree”, introduces an important change regarding the opposition procedure in the current Law No. 22,362 of Trademarks and Designations. The aforementioned law foresees in article 16 that 1 (year) after the notification of the opposition “the application shall be declared abandoned in the following cases: (a) If the applicant and the opponent do not reach an agreement allowing for an administrative solution and the applicant does not bring legal action within the period indicated; (b) If legal action is brought by the applicant but the period of limitation expires”. The new article 16, establishes a system by which, 3 (three) months after the notification of an opposition, if the applicant does not obtain it’s removal, the National Trademark Office will be the one in charge of resolving it in an administrative instance.

Likewise, article 17 of Law Nº22,362, states that the procedure to obtain the withdrawal of oppositions is carried out through the initiation of a legal action. The “Decree” modifies said article, as follows: “the procedure to resolve the oppositions, will be fixed by the Application Authority (…)”, and “(…) the resolutions by oppositions issued by the National Directorate of Trademarks will only be subject to direct appeal before the National Chamber of Federal Civil and Commercial Appeals within 30 (thirty) business days of it’s notification. The appeal must be submitted to the I.N.P.I., who will notify the latter and sent to the courts (…)”. Thus, the administrative instance must first be concluded, in order to be able to initiate a legal action to obtain the withdrawal of an opposition.

In regard of Nullities, the “Decree” establishes that “The I.N.P.I., through the National Trademark Directorate, ex officio or at the request of a party, shall resolve in administrative instance the nullity of trademarks which refers to paragraph a) of this article. The resolution of a nullity of a trademark shall be appealable within the term of 30 (thirty) business days as from the notification, only by direct appeal before the National Chamber of Appeals in the Civil and Commercial Federal, which will be filed at the I.N.P.I.”. This change is significant, since Law Nº22,362 in articles 23 and 24, only refers to nullity in a judicial instance.

Presently, Article 26 of Law Nº22.362, states that ” At the request of a party, a trademark shall be declared expired if it has not been used in Argentina within the five (5) years preceding the date of institution of proceedings, unless the non-use was for reasons of overwhelming force. A trademark that is registered and not used in one class does not expire if it has been used to commercialize a good or provide a service included in other classes or if it is part of the designation of an activity. In this connection, the “Decree” states that I.N.P.I., ex officio or upon request, according to the regulations that will be dictated, will declare the revocation of the trademark, even partially, in relation of products or services for which it has not been used in the country within 5 (five) years prior to the expiration request, unless if there were causes of overwhelming force. The resolution of trademark expiration shall be appealable within 30 (thirty) business days since the notification, only by direct appeal before the National Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial matters, which shall be filed with the I.N.P.I. A trademark registered and not used in a class or for specific products or services shall not expire, if this trademark was used in the commercialization of a product or the provision of a related or similar service to those, even if it was included in other classes, or if it is part of the designation of an activity related to those. Likewise, once the fifth year of the registration of the trademark has been granted, and before the expiration of the sixth year, the owner must submit a Declaration of Use regarding the use that would have been made until that time”.

Article 47 of Law Nº22.362 establishes that “Procedures with the National Directorate of Industrial Property shall be subject to the payment of official fees, the amounts of which shall be determined in the regulations (…). The “Decree” amends said article, granting greater powers to the I.N.P.I., since, according to said decree, ” the latter is empowered to dictate the complementary regulations of this law, regarding the procedure of trademark registrations, in everything that facilitates this procedure, eliminate requirements if they became obsolete in order to, accelerate and simplify the registration process. For this purpose it may, among others, modify the procedure described in the second section of this law; limit the examination of applications to absolute prohibitions or those related to public order, subordinating those relating to it’s approach by third parties; establish the publication for oppositions of third parties subsequent to the granting of the trademark; subordinating the validity of the title to what the I.N.P.I. resolves in case of oppositions that may be received, as well as the expiration of the priority period of the Paris Convention in the event of the existence any priorities unknown at the time of the concession “.

Patents: Article 19 of the Patents and Utility Models Law (Law No. 24,481) states that “A patent application should include: a) The title and the description of the invention; b) The plans or technical drawings necessary for understanding the description; c) One or more claims; d) A summary of the description of the invention and copies of the drawings, to be used only for publication and as technical information; e) Written evidence of the payment of official fees; f) Documents of assignment of rights and priority documents. If 90 (ninety) days elapsed from the date of the filing of the application without accompanying the entire documentation, the latter will be denied without further formality, except cases of overwhelming force duly justified. The lack of filing within the same period of the documents recorded in paragraph f) will cause the loss of the right of the international priority.” The “Decree” amends article d) hereinafter, namely: “To obtain the patent, the following documents must be submitted: A summary of the description of the invention that will serve only for publication and as technical information. After 30 (thirty) consecutive days, from the date of presentation of the application without completing the requirements indicated above, the patent application will be denied without further procedure”.

Likewise, we can again appreciate a reduction in terms established by the recent “Decree”, in that Law No. 24,481 in article 23 establishes that ” During it’s prosecution, a patent application may be changed into an application for a utility model, and vice versa. This change may be made only within 90 (ninety) days of the application date, or within 90 (ninety) days of a requirement by the National Patent Office for said conversion to be made. If the applicant does not perform such conversion within the required period, the application shall be considered abandoned”. The “Decree”, states that in regard to said conversion, the applicant may make it “(…) within 30 (thirty) calendar days counted from the date of filing the application; or within 30 (thirty) calendar days from the date on which the National Patent Administration would have requested the same (…)”.

Article 24 of Law No. 24,481 will also have a reduction in terms, since it currently states that “The National Patent Office shall carry out a preliminary examination of the documents filed and may require the applicant to provide any further details as may be deemed necessary, or to save any omissions therein. If the applicant fails to meet this requirement within a period of 180 (one hundred and eighty days), the application shall be considered abandoned”. The “Decree” shortens that term to 30 (thirty) calendar days.

Another reduction of terms is applicable to article 27 of Law No. 24,481, given that in its last paragraph states that “(…) If after a period of 3 (three) years counted as from the filing date of the patent application, the applicant does not pay the official fee corresponding to the substantive examination, the application shall be considered abandoned”, while the “Decree” establishes the patent abandoned after 18 (eighteen) months of said filing.

Article 32 of Law No. 24,481 is also amended by the “Decree”, given that the granting of patent will no longer be published in a Bulletin, but “on the I.N.P.I.’s website, according to regulations that will be established by the Application Authority “.

Utility Models/Designs: Article 57 of Law No. 24.481 states that “Once an application for an utility model has been submitted, it will be examined if the requirements of articles 50 and 53 have been fulfilled. Once this examination has been carried out, and the verification of the stated in the previous paragraph is completed, or rectified when it is possible, the certificate will be issued”. In this respect, the “Decree” states that “Once an application for an utility model has been filed and after paying the examination rate, the National Patent Administration will examine if the requirements of articles 53 and 55 have been fulfilled. Once this examination is approved it will proceed to publish the application. Within the term of 30 (thirty) calendar days counted from the publication, any person may carry out observations to the utility model application and add documentary evidence. The observations must consist of the lack or insufficiency of the legal requirements for it’s granting. Once this last term has expired, the National Patent Administration will proceed to resolve the request and issue the utility model certificate if applicable. After 3 (three) months from the presentation of the utility model application without the payment of the substantive examination official fees by the applicant, the application shall be considered abandoned.“

Article 68 of Law 24.481 establishes that “When the applications are filed through a legal representative, this one must prove his / her legal capacity through: a) Power of Attorney or certified copy of power that empowers him / her; b) Power of Attorney granted in accordance with the applicable legislation in the place where it is granted or in accordance with international treaties, in case the representative is a foreign legal person; c) In each file that is processed the legal status of the representative must be evidenced, being sufficient a simple copy of the registration certificate, for the case that the power of attorney is registered in the general registry of Power of Attorneys at the I.N.P.I. The “Decree” states that “The representation invoked in applications for patents of invention and / or utility models shall have the characteristic of an affidavit. In case of considering it pertinent, the National Patent Administration may request documentation that proves the nature invoked. In the event that the role of business manager is invoked, the latter must be ratified within a period of 40 (forty) business days after the filing, under penalty of declaring the nullity of the submission “.

Likewise, article 72 of Law Nº24.481 establishes that “The appeal for reconsideration will proceed: a) Against a resolution that denies the granting of a patent or an utility model; b) Against the resolution that gives place to the observations, in the terms of article 29 of the present law. In both cases, it shall be submitted in writing to the President of the I.N.P.I. within a peremptory period of 30 (thirty) days, counted as from the date of the notification of the respective resolution. (…) “. On the other hand, the “Decree” establishes that “The administrative appeal will proceed against the provision that denies a patent application or utility model, which shall be filed before the I.N.P.I. within the peremptory term 30 (thirty) business days as from the date of notification of the respective provision. (…)“.

The Decree-Law No. 6673/63, is also amended by the “Decree”. In it’s article 6, subsection a, Decree-Law N ° 6673/63 establishes that “They cannot enjoy the benefits granted by this decree: a) Those models or industrial designs that have been published or exploited publicly, in the country or abroad, prior to the date of deposit, except in the cases contemplated in article 14 of this Decree. However, it will not be an impediment for the authors to cover the said benefits by having exhibited, either by themselves or through an authorized person, the model or design of their creation in exhibitions or fairs made in Argentina or abroad, with the condition that the respective deposit be filed within a period of 6 (six) months from the opening of the exhibition or the fair”. The “Decree” amends this item as follows: “They cannot enjoy the benefits granted by this Decree-Law: a) Those models or industrial designs that have been published or exploited publicly, in the country or abroad, prior to the date of registration. However, the models or designs divulgated within the 6 (six) months preceding the date of the presentation of the application or priority are considered not known when: 1. Such divulgation would have been direct or indirectly result of acts performed by the author or his / her legitimate successors. 2. The divulgation from a third party by an act in bad faith or incidence; of a breach of contract or other unlawful act committed against the author or legitimate successor. 3. The publication of applications made erroneously or improperly by the management of industrial models and designs.“

Another important change, this time in regard the quantity of requests for models or industrial designs. The “Decree” states that “The application for registration of a model or industrial design, the inclusion in the application of up to twenty (20) industrial models or designs, applications for divisional registrations, postponement of publication, as the renewals mentioned in the previous article, will pay the official fees that will be determined in the respective regulation, whose values will be established proportionally to the value set for the official fees that is received for the original registration of a model or industrial design. The I.N.P.I. is authorized to establish, modify and eliminate official fees, including those applicable to the maintenance of the right of the owner”.

The “Decree” states that “The same application for registration may include up to 20 (twenty) Industrial Models or Designs only when all of them are applied or incorporated into products that belong to the same Class of the International Classification for the Industrial Designs of the Locarno Agreement. If an application that includes more than 1 (one) Model or Industrial Design does not meet the conditions prescribed by the current regulations, the I.N.P.I. may require the applicant to choose between the modification of the initial registration application to fulfill such conditions, or divide the initial registration application into 2 (two) or more divisional registrations, distributing among these ones the industrial models or designs for which protection was requested in the application for initial registration. The divisional applications will keep the date of presentation of the initial application and the benefit of the right of priority if this were appropriate. The rights derived from the models or designs included in an application or in a multiple registration will be independent from each other and, given the provisions of article 15, may be exercised, transferred, taxed, renewed or canceled separately”.

The “Decree” states that “The application for renewal of the registration must be filed within the term of the last 6 (six) months of its validity. The renewal may also be filed within 6 (six) months after said term, with the payment of a different official fee that will be established. “

On the other hand, the “Decree” stipulates that “(…) The resolution rejecting an application for registration shall be appealable before the I.N.P.I. Once the administrative instance has been concluded, the resolution issued by the I.N.P.I. shall be appealable before the Federal Civil and Commercial Court.

Finally, It is important to mention the amendment introduced to article 21 of Decree-Law N° 6673/1963, given that it currently states that “They will be punished with a penalty of three thousand to one hundred thousand pesos: 1. Those who manufacture or have manufactured industrial products that present the protected characteristics by the registration of a model or design or its copies. 2. Those who are aware of its illicit nature, sell, exhibit, import, export or otherwise trade the products referred in the preceding paragraph. 3. Those who maliciously, hold these products or cover their manufacturers. 4. Those who, without having registered a model or design, maliciously invoke it. 5. Those who sell as their own, plans of designs protected by a third party registry. In this case of recidivism the penalties established in this article will be doubled”. On this item, the “Decree” determines: “will be punished with a minimum penalty fee equivalent to the value of the official fees that is received for 50 (fifty) records of industrial models and designs, and a maximum of three hundred and 330 (thirty) of the same rate or tariff: a) Those who manufacture or have manufactured industrial products that have the characteristics protected by the registration of a model or design, or their copies. (…) “. We see that in this way it is sought that the value of the penalty fee is not affected by inflation, keeping its value constantly updated.

We shall keep you updated of the implementation of these changes.

Brexit PHOTO

Breaking News: A quarter of managing partners voted for Brexit

An overwhelming 82 per cent of UK-based lawyers voted to remain in the EU in the referendum, new data collected by Advisory Excellence shows.

However, a new survey of our readers also shows that over a quarter (26 per cent) of managing and senior partners voted for Brexit. This is a higher percentage than the average leave vote in the legal market of 18 per cent.

These results show how the vote in the legal market differed strongly from the general public’s attitude towards Brexit.

Within the professional services market, lawyers are the least likely to see the primacy of UK courts as important regardless of their vote in the EU referendum. Instead, they claim that the highest objective for Brexit negotiations should be free trade with the EU.

But that was not the only difference. Only 30 per cent of legal readers agreed that “we just need to get on with Brexit”, compared to a majority of 54 per cent of the general public. Some 56 per cent of readers disagreed with the statement compared to 14 per cent of the general public.

Two out of three of those surveyed by Advisory Excellence claim to want a second referendum to determine whether Brexit should go ahead. Of these, 19 per cent have already said that they would vote to leave should that referendum occur.

Advisory Excellence’s survey has also revealed that one in four readers voted for the Lib Dems in the last election. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable is the politician with the most popular views on Brexit within the legal sector, contrasting with the least popular views from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Jean Claude Juncker.

The survey was conducted at the end of 2017, collating opinions from almost 3,000 respondents. Of these, 22.4 per cent worked in-house, 70.5 per cent worked in private practice and 5.6 per cent worked at the Bar.

Next month Advisory Excellence will release an exclusive report in collaboration with Thomson Reuters that explores how Brexit will impact firms in the UK and across Europe.

The in-depth analysis includes insight from over 300 senior lawyers in private practice, detailing how their clients and their own businesses will be impacted and their strategy to respond to Brexit.