Greenberg Traurig Amsterdam Office Advised Amundi Real Estate on its Acquisition of INK Hotel Amsterdam, MGallery by Sofitel

Posted in Announcements, real estate

AMSTERDAM – Feb. 19, 2019 – Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP advised Amundi Real Estate on the acquisition of INK Hotel Amsterdam, located in the heart of Amsterdam.

INK Hotel Amsterdam, MGallery by Sofitel, which Principal purchased in 2012 in a sale-and-leaseback agreement with Accor Hotel, it was sold to Amundi Real Estate’s OPCI fund (a French real estate investment scheme) in December 2018.

To read the full press release, click here.

Greenberg Traurig Amsterdam and ULI Netherlands host the First Annual Netherlands Real Estate Leaders Roundtable

Posted in Events, real estate

AMSTERDAM – Feb. 11, 2019 – Greenberg Traurig LLP’s Amsterdam office hosted the first annual Netherlands Real Estate Leaders Roundtable, in collaboration with Urban Land Institute (ULI) Netherlands. The event, which was held on 25th January 2019 at De Bazel (home of the Amsterdam City Archives and once the headquarters of the Netherlands Trading Company) has been hailed a great success with key decision-makers attending including a wide range of international and local investors, developers, asset managers, and government officials.

Moderated by Eric Rosedale, Greenberg Traurig’s Head of International Real Estate Development, the roundtable provided a special opportunity to share practical information, trends, and ideas about the Dutch real estate investment market.

To read the full press release, click here.

Brexit Brinkmanship

Posted in Brexit

It is now less than two months until 29 March 2019, the date set for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. At this late stage, the terms of the UK’s withdrawal have still not been settled, and the Brexit issue remains clouded in uncertainty.

As a result of a vote in the UK Parliament 29 January, the UK will now seek to renegotiate one of the terms of the withdrawal agreement agreed in draft with the EU at the end of 2018. This term is the “Irish backstop”, the dual purpose of which is to preserve an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit and to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s post-Brexit borders. The EU’s initial reaction to the vote has been to indicate that it sees no reason to renegotiate. Without amendment to this term, however, the UK’s withdrawal agreement as a whole is very unlikely to receive the parliamentary approval required for it to become binding on the EU and UK.

Key points in light of these developments:

  • A no-deal Brexit on 29 March is still possible.
  • An extension to the 29 March Brexit date is also still possible.
  • Businesses should prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
  • The withdrawal agreement is not the final EU/UK agreement.

To read the full GT Alert, click here.

Thumbs Up for Privacy Shield Implementation, but Ombudsman Must be Appointed by February 28, 2019

Posted in data protection, English Language, EU, European Union Law, GDPR, privacy

The European Commission published its report on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield on Dec. 19.

The report shows that the United States “continues to ensure an adequate level of protection” for personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield from the EU to participating companies in the U.S., noting that the steps taken by U.S. authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Commission in last year’s report have “improved the functioning of the framework”. In addition, the report states that the Federal Trade Commission has demonstrated a more proactive approach to enforcement by monitoring the principles of the Privacy Shield, including by issuing subpoenas to request information from participating companies.

The European Commission states, however, that it expects the U.S. government to identify a nominee to fill the Ombudsperson position on a permanent basis by 28 February 2019 at the latest. Currently, there is only an acting Ombudsperson. If the position is not filled by that date, the Commission indicates that it “will consider taking appropriate measures, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.”

To view the press release and full text of the report, click here.

Netherlands Commercial Court Approved by Dutch Senate

Posted in English Language, EU, international litigation, litigation, Netherlands Commercial Court

On 11 December 2018 the Dutch Senate approved the bill for the establishment of the Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC). The NCC is a separate chamber of the District Court of Amsterdam, specializing in complex international commercial disputes. Proceedings before the NCC will be conducted in English, and judgments will be rendered in English. The NCC offers internationally operating companies the opportunity to conduct proceedings in the Netherlands before a specialized Dutch Court in the English language.

With the NCC, the Dutch Judiciary aims to meet the needs of internationally operating companies with cross-border commercial disputes. A change in legislation was needed to allow a Dutch court to render a decision in English. The approval of the bill by the Dutch Senate is the last step in the legislative process, and paves the way for the NCC to open its doors in 2019. The official open date for the NCC is not yet known.

Continue reading.

CJEU Renders Judgment: Taste is Not Protected by Copyright

Posted in Copyright, English Language, EU, Intellectual Property Litigation

In August 2018 we published a blog about a case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) concerning the possibility of copyright on taste of a food product. The special advisor of the CJEU, the Advocate General, advised that taste should not be protected by copyright.

The main reason for this opinion was that taste cannot be objectively identified as a copyright-protected work. To establish whether a work can be protected by copyright, the work should be clear, precise, intelligible, and durable. Taste, according to the Advocate General, does not have such characteristics for the copyright to be established.

The CJEU’s recently rendered final judgment is consistent with the Advocate General’s opinion.

The CJEU first determines whether taste of a food product is eligible for copyright protection under the applicable European copyright directive. The CJEU holds that taste of a food product can be protected by copyright, but only if two cumulative conditions are satisfied.

  1. The subject matter at stake “must be original in the sense that it is the author’s own intellectual creation” (par. 36 of the judgment). This condition aims to exclude subject matter for which protection is requested by one party, but it has been created by another.
  2. “The subject matter protected by copyright must be expressed in a manner which makes it identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity, even though that expression is not necessarily in permanent form” (par. 40 of the judgment). This condition seeks to provide clarity to all parties involved as to what precisely is protected, and rules out subjective elements in determining the copyright protection of a work.

In light of the second condition, the CJEU rules that taste cannot be sufficiently identified. According to the CJEU, the taste of a food product is identified based on taste sensations and experiences. These sensations and experiences are subjective and variable, as they depend on multiple factors such as age, food preferences, and consumption habits, as well as on the environment or context in which the product is consumed.

On the basis of these findings the CJEU concludes that the taste of a food product cannot be classified as a protectable work under the relevant European copyright directive.

Hoe ver reikt de informatieplicht van de franchisegever in de precontractuele fase?

Posted in Competition Law, contracts, Corporate Law

Een franchiseovereenkomst is een samenwerkingsovereenkomst waarbij de franchisegever en de franchisenemer afspreken dat de franchisenemer tegen vergoeding een licentie verkrijgt om de franchiseformule (naam, stijl, producten en/of diensten) van de franchisegever voor zijn eigen winkel te gebruiken. Het staat de franchisegever en -nemer vrij om de franchiseovereenkomst naar eigen inzicht op te stellen. Alvorens een franchiseovereenkomst aan te gaan, zullen zij daarover natuurlijk onderhandelen. De periode voorafgaand aan het sluiten van de overeenkomst heet de precontractuele fase.

In zijn arrest van 21 september 2018 heeft de Hoge Raad zich uitgelaten over de informatieplicht van de franchisegever in de precontractuele fase. In deze zaak speelt het volgende. Eiseres heeft jarenlang op franchisebasis een C1000 supermarkt geëxploiteerd. In 2011 wordt C1000 overgenomen door Jumbo. De Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit verplicht Jumbo om een aantal vestigingen, waaronder die van eiseres, af te stoten.

Eiseres treedt vervolgens in onderhandeling met Albert Heijn (“AH”). Met het oog op het sluiten van een mogelijke franchiseovereenkomst met eiseres, heeft AH onderzoek gedaan naar het omzetpotentieel van eiseres als AH-supermarkt. In dat kader heeft AH aan eiseres een Lange Termijn Prognose (“LTP”) verstrekt. In de LTP staat onder meer de te verwachten gemiddelde weekomzet voor de komende drie jaar van eiseres als AH-supermarkt. Eiseres sluit vervolgens een franchiseovereenkomst met AH. Na ombouw tot AH-supermarkt wordt de geprognotiseerde weekomzet niet gehaald. De weekomzet van eiseres is zelfs aanzienlijk lager dan onder de C1000 formule.

Eiseres vordert vervolgens een verklaring voor recht bij de rechtbank, dat zij bij het aangaan van de franchiseovereenkomst heeft gedwaald. Eiseres beroept zich voorts op de Europese Erecode inzake Franchising (“Erecode”) en stelt dat de in deze Erecode neergelegde afspraken de franchisegever (AH) verplichten om in de precontractuele fase alle informatie en overige gegevens te verstrekken die de franchisenemer nodig heeft om over het sluiten van de franchiseovereenkomst te kunnen beslissen.

De vorderingen van eiseres worden door de rechtbank toegewezen, maar vervolgens afgewezen door het hof. Eiseres gaat vervolgens in cassatie. De Hoge Raad verwerpt het beroep van eiseres en oordeelt dat het hof voldoende heeft gemotiveerd waarom de LTP van AH deugdelijk was. AH heeft bij het opstellen van de LTP diverse, specifiek voor de locatie van eiseres, relevante omstandigheden in acht genomen. Voorts heeft eiseres volgens de Hoge Raad onvoldoende gemotiveerd waarom de door AH voor de LTP gehanteerde rekenmethodes onjuist, dan wel niet reëel waren.

De Hoge Raad oordeelt voorts dat de in de Erecode neergelegde afspraken niet kwalificeren als in Nederland levende rechtsovertuigingen (artikel 3:12 BW). Dit betekent dat op franchisegevers niet de plicht rust om in de precontractuele fase alle informatie en overige gegevens aan de franchisenemer te verstrekken. Opgemerkt zij dat franchisegevers zich bij de totstandkoming van de Erecode beriepen op het normerend effect van de Erecode. Het arrest van de Hoge Raad verschaft duidelijkheid op dit punt en zet een streep door deze redenering door te oordelen dat in de Erecode neergelegde afspraken niet kwalificeren als in Nederland levende rechtsovertuigingen.

Wetgeving

Er bestaat momenteel geen specifieke wetgeving voor franchiseovereenkomsten. Dit betekent dat een franchiseovereenkomst enkel aan het algemene contractenrecht dient te voldoen. Vanuit de praktijk is er echter vraag naar een wettelijke regeling. In mei 2018 hebben staatssecretaris Keijzer (Economische Zaken en Klimaat) en minister Dekker (Rechtsbescherming) aangekondigd dat een nieuw wetsvoorstel zal worden ingediend om de positie van de franchisenemer te versterken. Het is tot op heden onbekend wanneer het veld over het conceptwetsvoorstel wordt geconsulteerd.

Energy Label C Obligation for All Office Buildings in the Netherlands in 2023 (With Few Exceptions)

Posted in Dutch Property Law, Dutch Real Estate Law, energy label, English Language, governing law, property law, real estate

Introduction

Beginning January 2023, energy labels of the major part of office buildings in the Netherlands will have to be at least in category C, because of an amendment to the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012 (Bouwbesluit 2012), published 2 November 2018. This generally means that owners of office buildings with energy labels from D to G (or without any energy label) should quickly implement energy-saving measures to comply with this obligation.

Background

Since 1 January 2008, energy labels for nonresidential buildings (e.g., office buildings, schools, hospitals) have been mandatory when selling, letting, or transferring such buildings. A similar obligation exists for residential buildings in the Netherlands.

An energy label demonstrates the energy performance of a building. It also includes a standard of which energy-saving measures need to be taken to improve energy performance. The lower the energy label, the more energy-saving measures may be required to obtain a better energy label and to improve the energy performance of a building. The label categories range from A to G, with G being the lowest in terms of energy performance and having the most energy-saving measures needed to obtain a higher energy label.

At present, having an energy label in place is mandatory regardless of the category. Starting in 2023, however, stricter regulations will apply to office buildings concerning energy labels. These stricter regulations will be implemented in the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012.

New Requirements for 2023

Starting 1 January 2023, office buildings must have an energy label in category C or higher. The use of office buildings with an energy label below C will be prohibited as of that date. Exceptions will apply in the following circumstances:

  • the office building is part of a (larger) building and the total usable area for office functions is less than 50 percent of the total usable surface area of that building;
  • the total usable area for office functions and ancillary functions in the office building or the building in which the office building is a part is less than 100 square metres;
  • an office building that is mentioned in Article 2.2 Energy Performance Buildings Decree (Besluit energieprestatie gebouwen). Important exceptions based on this article 2.2 are:
    • an office building that is a national monument;
    • an office building that is only used for a maximum of two years.

Office space owners who can demonstrate that, before 1 January 2023, they have taken all measures needed to realize an energy label in category C with an earn-back-period of up to 10 years, can get by with an energy label lower than category C. The application of this provision and especially the application of the earn-back-period are not clearly explained in the amendment to the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012. It is, moreover, unclear how the effect of this provision will be enforced by the relevant authorities.

Consequences of the Energy Label C Obligation

The abovementioned amendments follow from the Energy Agreement (het Energieakkoord) for sustainable growth of 2013. This Energy Agreement aims to, among other things, limit CO2 emissions and save energy consumption in the Netherlands.

In practice we see that office buildings with energy label D, E, or F could, generally speaking, achieve a label C without major renovations (e.g., by lighting or heating measures). For office buildings with an energy label G, more drastic measures may be necessary.

Tenancy

A tenant is not responsible for compliance with the energy label C obligation with respect to the authorities. However, contractual stipulations in the lease agreement may require the tenant to be responsible for or cooperate with taking energy saving measures (e.g., in the case of a shell lease).

(Office) building tenants should inform or remind their landlords of the energy label obligation in a timely manner, as it will be prohibited to use noncompliant office buildings starting 1 January 2023. Furthermore, the execution of energy-saving measures could temporarily interfere with the use and occupation of an office building. Tenants should plan the execution of any measures with the owner/landlord. In addition, owners should communicate with their tenants about the planned energy-saving measures and how to prevent nuisance for the tenant as much as possible.

Sanctions

Starting 1 January 2023, it will be prohibited to use an office building that does not have an energy label C and is not exempted from this obligation. Violations of the energy label-obligation may result in administrative enforcement actions or criminal enforcement actions. This could lead to the imposition of an order subject to a penalty (last onder dwangsom), an administrative enforcement order (last onder bestuursdwang), or administrative fines (bestuursrechtelijke boete).

For the Future

The Energy Agreement aims for an energy label A requirement for the use of office buildings in 2030. Further legislation will likely follow to achieve this goal. Owners of office buildings should take this into account when investing in measures to upgrade their energy label.

Nederlands rulingbeleid wordt aangepast

Posted in Dutch Tax Law

Eén van de pijlers van het Nederlandse “vestigingsklimaat” is van oudsher ons “rulingbeleid”: belastingbetalers kunnen onder bepaalde omstandigheden zekerheid vooraf verkrijgen over hun Nederlandse fiscale positie. Een rulingproces duurt relatief kort, zeker vergeleken met de ons omringende landen. Een Nederlandse ruling, zoals een Advance Tax Ruling (ATR) of een Advance Pricing Agreement (APA), geeft een helder en betrouwbaar uitgangspunt voor de Nederlandse fiscale positie voor de komende jaren.

Nederland staat al jaren onder (inter-)nationale politieke druk om zijn belastingregime aan te scherpen. Ons rulingbeleid kreeg in 2015 bijzondere aandacht, toen de Europese Commissie kritiek uitte op Nederland naar aanleiding van veronderstelde staatssteun door middel van een zogenaamde “belastingdeal”. Sindsdien is het uitgangspunt gemeengoed geworden dat het Nederlandse belastingregime slechts nog ondernemingen zou moeten faciliteren als deze operationeel actief zijn op Nederlandse bodem.

Afgelopen donderdag, 22 november 2018, heeft dit uitgangspunt ook zijn weerslag gekregen in het Nederlandse rulingbeleid. Voor rulings met een internationaal karakter (“Rulings”) heeft de staatssecretaris van Financiën namelijk (onder meer) de volgende maatregelen aangekondigd:

  1. Alle Rulings zullen in de toekomst worden gepubliceerd in geanonimiseerde en samengevatte vorm.
  2. De Rulings zullen worden afgegeven door een kleine groep specialisten, het College Internationale Fiscale Zekerheid.
  3. Belastingplichtigen die een Ruling vragen dienen al jaren te voldoen aan een lijst met substance-eisen. Eerder dit jaar was sprake van een aanscherping van de bestaande lijst per 1 januari 2019, met een minimum aan loonkosten van EUR 100.000 en de aanwezigheid van een huurovereenkomst voor kantoorruimte van tenminste 24 maanden. Nu wordt afscheid genomen van de bestaande lijst en voorgenomen uitbreiding daarvan, en wordt een nieuw vereiste geïntroduceerd van ‘economische nexus’ met Nederland.
  4. Indien het doorslaggevende motief van de belastingplichtige bestaat uit het besparen van Nederlandse of buitenlandse belasting, zal geen Ruling worden gegeven.

Het nieuwe vereiste van economische nexus wordt door de staatssecretaris uitgelegd als het drijven van bedrijfseconomische operationele activiteiten die daadwerkelijk voor rekening en risico van de Nederlandse vennootschap worden uitgeoefend, waarbij voldoende personeel in Nederland beschikbaar moet zijn om die activiteiten uit te voeren. De aankondiging laat nog veel ruimte over voor interpretatie, en de staatssecretaris kondigt aan dat verdere details bekend zullen worden gemaakt in een nader beleidsbesluit. Uiteindelijk wil de staatssecretaris de wijzigingen in werking laten treden per 1 juli 2019.

Duidelijk is dat het minder gemakkelijk zal worden om een Ruling te krijgen. Het vereiste van voldoende economische nexus zal in theorie strenger uitwerken dan de huidige lijst met substance vereisten, al moeten we afwachten hoe dit nieuwe vereiste in de praktijk zal worden gehanteerd. Met betrekking tot het publiceren van een samenvatting van elke Ruling kan men zich afvragen in hoeverre dit voornemen botst met de geheimhoudingsplicht van de fiscus. In de praktijk zal een en ander afhangen van de mate van anonimisering, waarbij niet alleen namen moeten wegvallen maar ook andere typerende aspecten zouden moeten worden weggelaten.

Brexit Consequences for Governing Law and Jurisdiction Clauses

Posted in Brexit, choice of law, contracts, Corporate Law, English Language, EU, European Union Law, governing law, jurisdiction, Uncategorized

Parties who do cross-border business often declare English law applicable in commercial contracts, accompanied by a jurisdiction clause making the English courts (exclusively) competent to hear claims arising out of the business relationship. In light of Brexit, the question arises what the position of decisions given by the English courts will be in the EU, and vice versa, post-Brexit. The draft withdrawal agreement published on 14 November 2018 does not offer a permanent solution. Therefore, the impact of Brexit on UK court decisions is still uncertain and could hold unexpected and unwanted consequences for parties bound by an exclusive jurisdiction clause.

Governing Law

English law is often chosen by parties to govern a cross-border commercial contract, even when parties have no connection to the UK. English law is generally considered comparatively stable, predictable, and as having an emphasis on the text of the contractual arrangements between parties. English law provides a lot of freedom to contracting parties and generally adheres to contractual obligations. There is a limited scope for public policy or similar principles to interfere with contractual obligations.

The main factors that make English law an attractive choice for contracting parties, therefore, have little to do with the UK’s membership in the EU or the influence of EU law. Most of the important contractual issues, such as offer, acceptance, applicability, and implication of general terms and conditions, breach, and damages are derived from substantive English law, and are for the most part not affected by EU law and a Brexit. However, a choice of law clause for English law currently means English law including the applicable EU law. After Brexit, EU law will no longer automatically apply, which can in some circumstances lead to a different outcome based solely on English substantive law.

Recognition and Enforcement of UK Court Decisions

Like governing law clauses, jurisdiction clauses for English courts are commonly incorporated into contracts between commercial parties who are located in different countries. English courts have a reputation for being reliable, sophisticated and, most importantly, commercially orientated. However, proceedings before English courts are generally perceived as expensive.

Currently, decisions from English courts are automatically recognized and can be enforced in other EU member states based on Regulation (EU) 1215/2012 (Brussels Recast Regulation). If a Brexit is ultimately avoided, the Brussels Recast Regulation will continue to apply. However, if the UK leaves the European Union, the UK will in principle no longer be subject to the Brussels Recast Regulation.

On 14 November 2018, the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Draft Withdrawal Agreement) was published. Title VI of the separation provisions (part three) of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement contains provisions on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. Article 67 states that in the United Kingdom, as well as in the EU in situations involving the United Kingdom, the provisions of the Brussels Recast Regulation regarding jurisdiction and recognition and enforcement of decisions shall continue to apply for legal proceedings instituted before the end of the transition period. The transition period is currently set to end on 31 December 2020, but can be extended. However, the fate of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement remains uncertain, as it still needs the required majority vote in the UK Parliament to be finalized.

Without a permanent deal on this subject, decisions by English courts rendered in proceedings instituted after the transition period will only be enforceable in other EU countries under the rules each individual country applies for recognition and enforcement of non-EU court decisions. In general, this will mean that decisions from UK courts will not be automatically recognized and enforceable in other EU member states but will be subject to a stricter regime for recognition and potentially time-consuming proceedings. Furthermore, court decisions from EU member states will no longer be automatically recognized and enforceable in the UK.

Possible Solutions

To counter this, the UK and the EU could negotiate a permanent deal that involves the UK acceding to a convention on enforceability of court decisions. In this regard, there are several options. In theory, the EU and the UK could agree that the Brussels Recast Regulation will continue to apply to the UK indefinitely after the transition period. The UK could also join a convention to which the EU has already acceded. The most probable option would be the Lugano Convention of 2007, which also applies between the EU, Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland. This convention allows for enforcement on broadly the same terms as the Brussels Recast Regulation. Another possibility for the UK would be to join the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements. This convention, however, applies only in case of an exclusive jurisdiction clause in a contract.

Conclusion

The exact arrangements under which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union remain uncertain. Parties involved in cross-border business who use contracts governed by English law and with an exclusive jurisdiction clause for the English courts should be aware of potential issues when it comes to recognition and enforcement of English court decisions in other EU member states after the transition period, and potentially change their contract clauses accordingly.

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