Category Archives: Dutch Case Law

Dutch Supreme Court rules is favour of Samsung

Samsung has not infringed the patent op Apple with its table computers according tot the Supreme Court in the Netherlands is a decision of May, 31, 2013. Apple submitted that the Galaxy Tab 10.1v infringed its European patent on the Ipad tablet. The lawyers of Samsung were successfull in fighting the claim op Apple. In the earlier judgment of the District Court and the Court of Appeal the claim of Apple was also ruled out. In several other European countries Apple has also started infringement proceedings.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
According the Courts in the Netherlands the Apple design only has a character of its own to a limited extent. The elements of the design already exist in products that were marketed previously by others. Therefor the scope of legal protection of the design is limited. Various parts of the Samsung tablets are distinct and noticable for users. The Supreme Court confirmed the judgement of the appeal Judge.

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International jurisdiction Dutch Court over civil and commercial claims

International jurisdiction Netherlands Court over civil and commercial matters (principal rule)

A Dutch attorney can file claims with the Dutch Courts based on property law, the law of obligations, the law of contracts, the law of tort or on intellectual property rights. The claim has to be brought before a Dutch court by filing a Writ of Summons at the Registry of the court.  In the  Writ of Summons the defendant is invited to appear in the Dutch Court on a specific day.

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The Dutch court has jurisdiction if the defendant has his domicile or habitual residence in the Netherlands (the ‘forum rei’ rule). The domicile and habitual residence of commercial partnerships and legal persons are the Municipality that is appointed as seat of the commercial partnership or legal person and the place where its head office is actually located, respectively.

International jurisdiction Dutch Court over civil and commercial matters (alternative rules)

The Duch Code of Civil Procedure offers alternative criteria for jurisdiction with regard to legal proceedings initiated by a Writ of Summons, regardless of the domicile or habitual residence of the defendant. These criteria independently create  jurisdiction with the Dutch court has jurisdiction. These rules determine legal claim is linked in such a way to the territory of the Netherlands that jurisdiction of the Dutch court is justified.

Filing a Claim with Dutch Court

The Dutch attorney can also file a claim with the Court in the Netherlands in matters concerning:

  • contractual obligations, that have been performed or must be performed in the Netherlands;
  • an individual employment agreement or an agency agreement if the work is or used to be performed in The Netherlands;
  • an individual employment contract, if the work is performed temporarily in The Netherlands, concerning rights of action with regard to conditions of employment and labour conditions referred to in Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services.
  • consumer contracs involving a consumer who has his domicile or habitual residence in the Netherlands and an opposite party who pursues commercial activities or his trade of profession (also) in the Netherlands;
  • obligations arisen from a tortious act, if the event that has caused the damage has taken place or may take place in the Netherlands;
  • real property rights in, as well as lease and farm lease agreements to immovable things located in the Netherlands (however, not over claims derived from a sale agreement with regard to immovable property in the Netherlands);
  • estates of a deceased natural person, if the last domicile or last habitual residence of the deceased was located in the Netherlands;
  • the validity, nullity or dissolution of commercial partnerships and legal persons established in the Netherlands;
  • legal claims and issues related to a bankruptcy, suspension of payment under a moratorium or the Debt Repayment Scheme for Natural Persons that has been proclaimed or granted in the Netherlands.

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Directors liability in the Netherlands

Directors of companies in the Netherlands can be held liable both in civil law and criminal law. Dutch law does not have the concept of disqualification.

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Civil liability pf Director Dutch Company

Each director has a duty towards the company to properly perform the duties assigned to him (section 2:9 Civil Code). That’s the general rule. There is only a failure if it can be established that the director has failed in the performance which could be reasonably expected under the specific circumstances. Failure of a director does not automatically lead to liability. Liability is only incurred in the case of serious culpability (ernstige verwijtbaarheid). Whether serious culpability is involved has to be determined on a case by case basis whereby all relevant circumstances have to be taken into account.

Joint Liability under Dutch Law

All directors are, in principle, jointly and severally liable for inlawful acts. An individual director may be discharged if he can prove that (i) he cannot be held responsible for the failure and (ii) he has not been – actively – negligent in preventing the consequences thereof.

Tort action againt board of Dutch Company

A director may be held liable in tort (onrechtmatige daad – section 6:162 Civil Code)) by a creditor on the grounds that he entered into a transaction on behalf of the legal entity, while at a time he knew or should have reasonably known that the company would not beable to meet the obligations, and would not have sufficient assets from which the debt could be recovered.

Exculpation of Dutch managing Director

It is not sufficient that there was a more than negligible risk that the legal entity would not be able to meet its obligations. The director should have anticipated that the risk would actually materialize. If the managing director has not taken an irresponsible risk when he entered into the transaction, the managing director cannot be held liable if in retrospect it appears that the company nevertheless does not fulfill its obligations and it was foreseeable from the start that the legal entity would not provide for recourse.

A managing director can also be held liable in tort if he has allowed or effectuated that the legal entity does not meet its obligations under an earlier commitment and consequently causes damage to the other party.

Director’s Liability in bankrupcy

Such claim in tort can also be brought by the receiver in bankruptcy, on behalf of the creditors of the company (even though the bankrupt company would not have had a claim against the director).

If the legal entity does not provide sufficient resources to pay all creditors in the case of bankruptcy of the legal entity, the directors shall be jointly and severally liable for the deficit in the bankruptcy if (a) it is apparent that the management has not discharged its duties properly and (b) it is likely that the bankruptcy was caused by the mismanagement of the board. This is referred to as manifestly improper performance of duties (kennelijk onbehoorlijke taakvervulling) (section 2:138/248 Civil Code).

Mismanagement in Dutch Company

Only manifestly improper performance of duties during the three years preceding the bankruptcy is taken into account. Manifestly improper performance of duties means that no reasonably acting entrepreneur would have acted – in equivalent circumstances and with the knowledge the director had (or should have had) at the time – similarly.

If improper performance of duties by the board is established, all managing directors are, in principle, jointly and severally liable. If mismanagement is established, the directors are jointly and severally liable for the entire deficit of the bankrupt estate (although the court can mitigate damages).

Faults in bookkeeping

If the management has failed to keep its books properly (section 2:10 Civil Code) or has failed to publish the annual accounts with the Chamber of Commerce (section 2:394 Civil Code), improper performance is (irrefutably) deemed to have occurred and improper performance is (refutably) presumed to have been an important cause of the bankruptcy. An individual director can exculpate himself if he can prove that other factors were an important cause of the bankruptcy. However, the burden of proof lies with the director.

Similar liability rules apply for supervising directors and factual directors.

Criminal liability of Netherlands Comapny

Under particular circumstances, (factual) directors can be prosecuted (section 51 Dutch Criminal Code). For example, section 1 of the Economic Offences Act lists a number of obligations under Corporate Law, the non-compliance of which constitutes a criminal offence.

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