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A matter of suitability: the CIArb Guidelines on Witness Conferencing

In April 2019, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators released its Guidelines for Witness Conferencing in International Arbitration. The document was developed for use by parties, arbitrators and experts when preparing and presenting evidence in such a conference.

   1. The Witnesses Conferencing: overview

Witnesses conferencing is an evidence-taking process by which two or more witnesses give their evidence concurrently before the arbitral tribunal. According to the Guidelines, it is not a single process, so it can assume different forms in order to assure the efficiency and effectiveness of taking of evidence and procedural orders.

The conferences concern the presentation of evidence of both factual and expert witnesses, although they have been more adopted for the latter. The tribunal, the parties’ or witnesses’ counsel or a combination of these may be responsible for the conduction of the process.

The CIArb document lists some advantages of the adoption of witnesses conferencing. Some examples are the effectiveness brought by conference when receiving the evidence, in comparison with consecutive examination; the improvement of the quality of evidence; and the efficiency brought by an evidentiary hearing, when the tribunal can hear the witnesses at the same time.

It is important to emphasise that the parties and the tribunal need to determine whether this evidence-taking process is the best option for their case. Even though the witness conferencing is adopted, its procedures shall be analysed and suited to the circumstances of the dispute.

   2. The Guidelines

The Guidelines contain as main sections the Checklist, the Standard Directions and the Specific Directions, besides Explanatory Notes with detailed information regarding the Checklist and the two groups of directions.

The Checklist sets out matters to be considered by the parties and the tribunal when determining if the witness conference may be adopted and, in such case, what form the conference may take. A matter of logistics, e.g. if “one or more witnesses is to give evidence by video conference”, refers to both questions of the suitability of the process and the form it should take at the same time. However, the Guidelines warn that “not all of the items […] will be relevant in all cases”.

The Standard Directions are a framework intended to be part of an initial procedural order issued by the arbitral tribunal. It sets principles to be applied when the tribunal “subsequently orders some of the witness evidence to be taken concurrently”. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the taking of consecutive evidence is dispensed.

The Specific Directions apply once the parties and the tribunal decided to adopt the process of taking evidence concurrently. It provides three different procedural frameworks: Tribunal-led Conference, Witness-led Conference and Counsel-led Conference. The Guidelines also allow the tribunal to combine these frameworks, to draw on different directions and to incorporate other directions. The aim of this section is to point which direction may be the most suitable for the case.

The CIArb Guidelines are an important document to assist the parties and the tribunal due to their flexibility and precise information. Once the suitability of the witness conferencing is carefully analysed, the Guidelines may help the international arbitration players even after the adoption of the process.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators received this year the Global Arbitration Review Award in Bert Innovation by an organisation for the Witness Conferencing Guidelines.

Digital justice in Brazil

The National Justice Council (www.cnj.jus.br) of Brazil has just approved the adoption of a totally remote system of Justice by the Judiciary instances. Known as “100% digital Justice”, it will be an option to the parties in a judicial procedure.

For the moment, the system, when adopted by the Brazilian courts, will be facultative. However, the CNJ understands that it will bring more efficiency to the proceedings, meeting the constitutional principle of the reasonable duration of the judicial process, a fundamental right, according to the Brazilian Constitution.

The decision was made considering the successful experience that the courts had with the remote proceedings adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil implemented the electronic process system in 20**. Since then, many measures are being taken to eliminate paper based process. Now, the digital era is covering all the system, including hearings and judgement sessions.

It seems that Brazilian Justice maybe very close to the on line courts model, in the words of Richard Susskind, strengthening the idea that Justice is a service, and not a venue.

It is never too soon to deal with privacy by design under Brazilian LGPD

Data protection has definitively remarked the discussions during the last years. The European experience in its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) spread over many countries and has inspired legislation regarding such matter.

Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD) passed in 2018 will enter into force soon, after a postponement caused by the current pandemic. It is expected that the law will bring more security for data subjects under the Brazilian legal framework.

Although LGPD will take effect only next year, both business and organisation need to prepare their data management and processes since now to avoid fines and, a little worst, loss of consumer trust.

Regarding measures to start the compliance program, the Privacy by Design (PbD) principles are likely a good way to ensure end-to-end privacy during data processing. The concept of PbD was developed in the 90’s by the former information and privacy commissioner of Ontario, Canada, Ann Cavoukian.

Several studies in such field aims to prove that Cavoukian’s 7 foundational principles are paramount to protect privacy, from IT systems and physical design to business practices. Both GDPR and LGPD have similarities, which may make it easier to develop PbD.

Cavoukian’s principles such as privacy as something proactive and preventive, transparent, and that is developed to guarantee end-to-end security (i.e. during the full data lifecycle) match some of the LGPD articles and provisions, although in an unexpressed manner.

On the other hand, GDPR has adopted the “data protection by design and by default” in its article 25, with reference to technical and organisational measures to implement data protection principles. It ensures privacy requirement from the very first moment of data collect until the erasure of the information.

Therefore, PbD deals with privacy and respect for the user from “cradle to grave”, in Ann Cavoukian’s words. However, that does not mean that business and organisation’s reputation and credibility need to follow the same way. Data protection legislation are not just a framework to comply with. Instead, if the business does not respect its user’s privacy, more than receiving fines, it will bury its image before the activity sector.

To sum up, the 90’s bring to us many technological and legal advances, such as the World Wide Web, Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and, of course, the PbD. But what it really teaches us is that it is never too soon to discuss and implement privacy as an organisational default.

The next 90’s lesson is still unclear, but for now we are more than experts to start seeing privacy as benefit, not as an issue.

Brazil – Retention of title in international business

We commonly find, in contracts for the purchase and sale of movable property, and even in more generic documents (for example in General Conditions of Sale), the existence of the so-called “retention of title” (reserva de domínio) clause, the purpose of which is to ensure that the seller continues as owner of the goods sold until the price for the said goods has been paid in full by the purchaser.

Although the insertion of such a clause in credit sales is a common practice and is even to be recommended, it is important to emphasise that the contractual provision of a retention of title clause does not by itself guarantee the protection desired, and may not produce the practical effect expected.

Brazilian law contains certain rules that must be complied with in order for the title retention clause to be effective, but many international contracts do not in fact observe such rules, which can cause disagreeable surprises for the seller when it tries to exercise its rights in relation to the retention of title.

In most cases, this occurs because foreign sellers simply enter into contracts and/or establish general conditions of sale based on their own laws, and choose to submit any disputes to the jurisdiction of their own country.

It is understandable that the foreign seller may often prefer to choose the law and jurisdiction of its own country in order to govern its contracts, on the assumption that such choice offers it more facilities and security. However, in matters involving international business, this may prove to be a serious problem if the seller is not aware of the legal rules that exist in the country of the purchaser.

In this respect, it should be pointed out that, in certain cases, the simple choice of foreign law and jurisdiction may not be the best option, even though foreign companies may have the false impression that such option will always be the one that best meets their interests. It must be remembered that, taking as an example a retention of title clause, any legal action to recover possession of the goods in the event of the purchaser’s default, will take place in the country of the purchaser, and for this reason it is essential to know whether such action is likely to cause conflict with the laws of that country.

In Brazil, the choice of law in itself is frequently the subject of controversy and must be considered on a case-by-case basis, since Brazilian law imposes certain restrictions on the parties’ freedom of choice on this topic. There are cases where there exists an imposition of the law of the country of the offeror, while in others there are special Brazilian laws regarded as being rules of public policy.

The choice of forum must also be considered very carefully, because even if it is possible to take advantage of a foreign jurisdiction, it must be remembered that any foreign decision needs to undergo a process of validation by the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice in order to be recognised and be enforceable in Brazil, which could lengthen the procedure.

With specific reference to the retention of title, Brazilian law establishes, among other requirements, that the contract containing such clause must be registered at a notary’s office (Deeds and Documents Registry) of the purchaser’s domicile, within a period of 20 days as from its signature. Late registration does not invalidate the contract, but retention of title is only effective as from such registration.

If the contract is written in a foreign language, it is also necessary to have the document officially translated into Portuguese by a sworn public translator before applying for registration.

Absence of registration of the contract at a notary’s office does not guarantee protection to the seller, whether vis-à-vis the purchaser or third parties. Thus, the seller cannot claim the property if the purchaser has sold it to a third party, or pledged it to a third party as security, or if the seller becomes insolvent, as in cases of judicial restructuring, where the clause will not be effective against other creditors, and the seller may end up as an unsecured creditor.

Apart from the need to register the contract at a notary’s office, it is also essential to put the debtor officially in default, by notification or protest of the “security”, as only then will the seller be able to claim recovery of the property. Here too there is another peculiarity of Brazilian law, since the exercise of the right to repossess goods sold subject to retention of title presupposes the existence of a debt represented by an enforceable instrument (for example, a promissory note, bill of exchange or even a contract containing characteristics of an enforceable instrument under Brazilian law).

In addition, Brazilian law now allows contracts to establish the rules relating to procedural matters that may arise between the parties and, in this respect, it is recommended that contracts containing a title retention clause provide, for example, for the possibility of search and seizure of the goods in the event of non-payment, the manner of appraising the goods for the purpose of calculating a debit balance, who will be responsible for the cost of such appraisal, the possibility of sale or assignment of the goods to a third party to avoid the risk of deterioration, among others.

Apart from the measures referred to above, special care must be taken when General Conditions of Sale are concerned. This is because such documents have a generic characteristic and, unlike specific contracts of purchase and sale, do not contain a description of the merchandise, which is essential for the effectiveness of the retention of title, because the Brazilian Civil Code stipulates that “An object that cannot be described perfectly cannot be the subject-matter of a sale with retention of title”. In principle, there exist means of complying with the legal requirements even in cases of retention of title in General Conditions of Sale (for example, registration of the said general conditions together with the invoice containing a description of the merchandise sold, inclusion of an express reference to the general conditions in the invoice itself, among others), but this must be evaluated in each specific case.

These brief comments make it clear that protection of the seller’s rights as regards title to the goods requires more careful consideration than the mere inclusion of a retention of title clause. A wider examination of the issue is always to be recommended, taking into consideration the peculiarities of the laws of the country of the purchaser, in order to ensure maximum legal protection for the seller.

Frederico Amaral Filho and Charles Wowk

Associate lawyer and Partner in the Civil Area – São Paulo

[email protected] and [email protected]

Is there a relationship between PVP Law and agribusiness?

In the field of intellectual property, it is common to think in trademarks, patents and computer programs as its great representatives. Although that is true, there is a specific area that are both agribusiness and IP subject we are required to understand: the cultivated variety, or just “cultivar”.

Brazilian IP Law bars the protection of natural living beings, in whole or in part, and biological material, when found in nature or isolated, from patent system. Such provision was an option for each signatory of both Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) and International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the UPOV Convention from 1978). In this regard, plant variety such as sugarcane, cotton, banana, orange and corn, whose harvests were particularly responsible for increase in 3,81% the Brazilian agrobusiness GDP in 2019, have a sui generis protection system.

The Brazilian Plant Variety Protection Law (Law No. 9,456/1997) regards several criteria in order to distinguish the cultivar use and reproduce from another kind of plant. To do so, the article 10 presents actions that are not deemed to be breeder’s right infringement. For instance, a person who stores and plants seeds for his/her own use on his/her premises or on the premises of third parties shall not be considered a PVP infringer. Using the plant as a source of variation in genetic improvement or in scientific research is another exception.

A special treatment is given to small rural producers (familiar agriculture), who are allowed to multiply seeds for donation or exchange in dealings exclusively with other small rural producers, under programs of financing or support authorised by the Government.

But such general provisions do not apply to the cultivation of sugarcane. A specific list of provisions regulates cultivar. The producer who wants to multiply vegetative propagating material, for example, is obliged to secure authorisation from the owner of the right to the plant variety, even for his/her own use. It does not apply just in case the rural property the producer has possession or ownership has less than four modules, according to Law No. 4,504/1964.

To regulate and manage applications for protection, Brazilian PVP Law established the National Plant Varieties Protection Service (SNPC), under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA). All responsibilities of this agency are listed at article 3 of Decree No. 2,366/1997, that implements regulations of the Plant Variety Protection Law.

Under article 9 of UPOV Convention, Brazilian PVP Law provides restrictions in the exercise of breeder’s right in two main cases: compulsory license and restricted public use.

The first restriction ensures the availability of the plant variety on the market, at reasonable prices, when the maintenance of a regular supply is being unduly hampered by the title holder. Any part having legitimate interest may request this measure if there is evidence that the requester has attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain a voluntary license from the holder of the cultivar.

Conversely, the second restriction is declared ex officio by the MAPA, based on a technical opinion issued by the competent agencies. Article 36 of Brazilian PVP Law allows restricted public use declaration in case of national emergency, abuse of economic power or other circumstances of extreme urgency. The cultivar may be exploited directly by the Federal Union or by third parties designed by it.

According to article 6 of the law its provisions also applies to applications for PVP originating abroad and filed within the country by a natural or legal person whose protection is ensured by a treaty effective in Brazil. It is important to note that the person domiciled abroad shall appoint and maintain an agent with power of attorney domiciled in Brazil to represent him/her in dealings with the SNPC.

In addition, the term of protection under Brazilian law is basically the minimum settled at UPOV Convention: fifteen years. For vines and fruit, forest and ornamental trees, including their rootstock, the period is eighteen years. Both periods begin in the date of grant of the Provisional Certificate of Protection issued by SNPC, and at the end of such term the cultivar shall pass into the public domain.

The law also ensures that any person who infringes the rights of a protected plant variety shall be bound to indemnify the title holder as well as shall be deemed guilty of the crime of infringement of the rights of the breeder.

The increasing of agricultural activities depends on plant variety protection for planting and harvesting. Consequentially, nowadays intellectual property has a tight relationship and is becoming a more and more important issue for agribusiness.

Anvisa publishes guidelines for embarkation of crew

In order to set forth best practice on crew change in face of the pandemic, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) published guidelines and necessary procedures for embarkation and disembarkation of crew members of vessels and platforms in Brazil.

The text compiles guidelines on screening crew members on a work schedule and preventive measures for embarkation and disembarkation of symptomatic and asymptomatic crew members. The following guideline has been published by Anvisa.

Care of the crew on vessels and platforms

One of the essential measures is the screening of the crew, before the start of the work schedule, to identify possible cases of individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

The guideline states that crew members must therefore comply with a 14-day quarantine at home or in a hotel before embarking on vessel/platform. In those 14 days they will have their health monitored and, if they show respiratory symptoms or fever, they should be prevented from boarding.

The document also lists measures for the disembarkation of symptomatic and asymptomatic crew members, as well as the use of rapid tests, in addition to presenting tables with guidelines in the form of summary topics on home quarantine, quarantine in hotels, guidelines for mandatory isolation and hygiene procedures for the means of transport of those suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As already informed in our previous updates the disembarkation of foreing crewmembers in Brazil remains prohibited until the end of May, except in cases of direct repatriation or for medical assistance.

See the full text of the guideline here.