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Monday, July 18, 2011

International Arbitration Series: What is Arbitration?

“When will mankind be convinced and agree to settle their difficulties by arbitration?”

– Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin may be pleased to know that arbitration has become a leading method of resolving disputes, especially in the international context. Generally, arbitration is a creation of contract. Two parties decide that they will submit their disputes to the binding decision of a third party, rather than deal with the expense and time of pursuing restitution through a court. The risk of this is the decision of the arbitrator is final, and the parties must accept the decision. International arbitration has developed as an important tool to allow parties from different countries, cultures, and legal structures to come to an agreement.

Arbitration is different from mediation and conciliation, although they all make up what is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. ADR is increasingly seen as an efficient way of avoiding the traditional legal system while still receiving a fair result. Different from arbitration, mediation and conciliation usually involve a facilitated negotiation between two parties that is aimed at producing a consensual settlement. The parties are negotiating with each other through an intermediary, and the theory is that both parties will come to an agreement about how to settle their dispute. With arbitration the parties don’t negotiate or have a say in the final decision; the solution of the arbitrator is a final, binding determination of the situation.

While arbitrators usually must be certified and credential to practice, what that actually means is left up to the individual jurisdictions. A standard practice is for an arbitrator to have at minimum a college degree and preferably a graduate degree. After passing a set amount of courses the fledgling arbitrator usually is required to intern or shadow an established arbitrator for a period of time. After this requirement is met, the new arbitrator is free to handle their own cases. Although this seems like relatively few requirements to make binding decisions on complex, international commercial issues, the parties will usually have a choice about who actually arbitrates the case, including veto power over someone that is not qualified for the situation.

Arbitration has become an important tool for many commercial transactions. Over the next week we will be exploring some of the ins and outs of this method of dispute resolution in an international context.

This is the first post in what will be an examination of International Arbitration. Check back here often for the rest of the series.

(c) picture: zirconicusso at

H-1B Visa-Kontingent noch nicht ausgeschöpft

Die amerikanische Einwanderungsbehörde USCIS gab letzte Woche bekannt, dass weiterhin H-1B Visaanträge für das Steuerjahr 2012 (Oktober 2011 - September 2012) eingereicht werden können.

Die seit dem 1. April laufende Frist zur Einreichung der Anträge läuft solange, bis die Obergrenzen von 65.000 Anträgen für ein H-1B Visum bzw. 20.000 Anträgen für das „H-1B Masters Exemptions“ Programm erreicht sind.

Das H-1B Visum ist ein Arbeitsvisum, dass sich an Personen richtet, die einen dem amerikanischem „bachelor degree“ entsprechenden Hochschulabschluss vorweisen können. Des Weiteren wird eine schriftliche Stellenzusage von einem US-Arbeitgeber vorrausgesetzt.

Aktuell sind ca. 19.000 Anträge für das H-1B Visum bei der USCIS eingeangen. Auch für das „H-1B Master’s Exemption“ Programm, welches sich an Antragsteller richtet, die mindestens einen US amerikanischen Magistergrad erworben haben, werden noch Anträge entgegengenommen. Hier sind bisher 12.200 Anträge für das Steuerjahr 2012 engereicht worden.

Die USCIS veröffentlicht in regelmässigen Abständen auf ihrer Homepage aktuelle Zahlen und weitere nützliche Informationen zu dem H-1B Visum. Weitere Immigration Law News finden Sie natürlich auch auf unserer Webseite.

(c) Picture
: Salvatore Vuono –

Friday, July 15, 2011

National Basketball Association Locks Out Players

Their respective sports are different in many ways, even down to the shape of the ball, but professional athletes from two of the major sports in the United States will be doing the same thing this summer. Well, not doing anything actually, as the National Basketball Association has followed the National Football League in locking out its players and putting the next season in jeopardy. On July 1st the 30 teams that make up the NBA closed their offices and locked the practice facilities, effectively saying that it is cheaper for them to close up shop (at least temporarily) than it is to continue operations under the current agreement with the players’ union.

Unlike the lockout in the NFL, where every team is making money and the dispute is more over how those profits should be divided, the NBA lockout is happening because more than 2/3 of the teams are losing money every year. Under the current agreement the players receive close to 57% of the total revenue, while the owners receive the remainder. The owners are looking for something much closer to a 50/50 split, and the imposition of a hard salary cap to help limit salaries.

The NBA Player’s Union is unlikely to follow their counterparts in the NFL and de-certify as a union. There may be several reasons for this, but it most likely comes down to the strategy that the main negotiators are taking in each conflict. The NFL Player’s Union de-certified, meaning it was no longer a union at all and therefore was not eligible for collective bargaining, and decided to take on the owners through the U.S. court system by relying on anti-trust claims as a strategy to break the lockout. The NBA players have thus far upheld their union status. This allows them to bargain collectively with the league and team owners, and is a good indication that they would rather negotiate their way to a conclusion rather than resorting to a court.

The main negotiators for each side, NBA Union Chief Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern, have been in this situation before. They were each in their respective positions 13 years ago when the NBA and the players were at a similar impasse, and were eventually able to work out an agreement. With the league coming off one of the best years in memory for fans and players alike, there are many that hope they can achieve a similar level of success this time around.

(c) Picture: Salvatore Vuono -

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Should Obese Kids be Placed in Foster Care?

Under certain circumstances, American government welfare officials can put children in foster care to avoid serious health effects if their parents do not care about the medical treatment for the child. But are parents considered to be neglectful or abusive, if their kids are obese?

According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by David Ludwig, an obesity doctor at Children's Hospital Boston, and by lawyer Lindsey Murtagh, a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health, the answer is yes. Children who are extremely obese and in dangerously poor health should be placed in temporary foster care to protect children suffering obesity-related health problems.

It is being argued in the article, that a removal from the home may be justifiable from a legal standpoint if the obesity causes medical problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes and the parents fail to provide a healthy diet or a sufficient activity, because in such cases they breach their parental obligations. A doctor is required to report children when they are for example severely underweight, so why not also when they severely overweight, the authors commented.

Although intervention seems to help in some cases children to loose weight, many experts oppose this controversial measure. They refer to many possible provisions that can be done before taking youngsters away from their parents. In most cases, authorities do not understand the challenges families may face in trying to control their kids' weight, they said. They also point to the damages that might be caused by tearing parents and children apart.

We will keep you posted on how this issue develops.

(c) Picture: Grant Cochrane -

Texas “Loser Pays” Lawsuit Reform Signed Into Law

We previously reported on our blog about Texas' aim to follow the English Rule that requires the loser of a civil suit to compensate the winner for his or her attorney's fees. At the end of May, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the Texas "Loser Pays" bill into law, after both Texas Houses adopted the ‘Loser Pays’ lawsuit reform.

Under the new law, a plaintiff must pay the winning party’s legal fees if the complaint is found to be groundless. The law creates expedited civil actions for cases less than $100.000 and allows judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits early in the process. It is now on Texas Supreme Court to define and to adopt rules for early dismissal of lawsuits that have no basis in law or fact.

Although the new law is not the groundbreaking “Loser Pays” system that some believed, it should result in fewer frivolous lawsuits, lower litigation costs, and release more capacity for legitimate claims. The reactions before and after signing of the bill were and are very controversial and especially the question whether the bill is good for small businesses are assessed differently.

Supporters point out the new bill will help to create jobs, still allow legitimate cases to proceed but protect defendants from meritless cases. And, if Texas "Loser Pays" law leads to fewer tort lawsuits overall, small business owners should see a drop in those numbers. Some trial lawyer groups oppose the bill, claiming it would give corporations the upper hand in lawsuits, especially in situations where a dispute arises between a small business owner and a company that has more resources. The law might also prevent individuals who want to file a lawsuit, because people would not risk paying the defendant's legal fees.

The Texas "Loser Pays" law will go into effect on September 1, 2011.

(c) Picture: Texas Legislature Online

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Patent Reform Bill Makes Its Way through Congress

The long awaited patent reform legislation has been slowly making its way through Congress. The Senate is expected to reconcile the version that it passed back in March with the version that passed the House of Representatives on June 23, 2011. Although it should not be too difficult for the two bills to be reconciled and then sent to the President, the issue of the debt ceiling has been taking up all of Congress’s time and may push the reconciliation of the bills over to the next session of Congress.

Known as the “America Invents Act”, the proposed legislation changes several important things about patent law in the United States. Most significantly it would change the U.S. to a “first to file” system, rather than a “first to invent” system. Currently, the rightful owner of the invention is the first person to create the subject of the patent. Understandably, this can cause problems of proof and sometimes leads to litigation between competitors who file very similar patent applications. The “first to file” system theoretically removes this problem because it should be easy to determine who filed their application with the Patent and Trade Office first. Several large companies are supporting the change to “first to file”, and this is more consistent with most patent systems in the rest of the world, but small businesses and individual inventors are arguing that patent filing can be expensive and time consuming, and without the resources to file immediately and often they will be left at a disadvantage compared to larger corporations.

Another change proposed in the American Invents Act would affect who can file lawsuits under the false marking statute. Although the false marking statute has enjoyed over 100 years without substantive change, several recent court decisions have greatly increased the awards for successful plaintiffs, which has in turn caused a dramatic rise in the number of lawsuits filed. False marking is nearly unique in the United States, in that anyone can file a claim, regardless of actual injury. The new bill would limit the right to file false marking claims to individuals and businesses who have suffered an actual competitive injury.

Many other issues are set to be changed with the passage of the bill, including the allocation of Patent and Trademark Office fees, and the denial of state court jurisdiction over claims that involve patents, plant variety protection, and copyrights.

Image (c): United States Patent and Trademark Office

Monday, July 11, 2011

Apple Insider bekennt sich schuldig

Im Prozess gegen den ehemaligen Manager eines Zulieferunternehmens von Apple hat der Angeklagte gestanden, neueste Entwicklungen des Konzernes gegen Bezahlung ausgeplaudert zu haben. Dies bestätigte Bundesstaatsanwalt Peet Bahrara am späten Dienstagabend in Manhatten.

Der 39-jährige arbeitete bei dem wichtigen Apple Zulieferer Flextronics und erhielt dadurch regelmässig Einblicke in kommende Neuheiten des Apple Konzerns. So wusste er bereits vor dem Erscheinen des iPhone 4, dass dieses eine zweite Kamera für Videotelefonieren besitzt.

Diese Informationen soll der Angeklagte an kriminelle Börsenspekulanten gegen Bezahlung preisgegeben haben, sodass diese durch den erlangten Wissensvorsprung abschätzen konnten, wie sich der Kurs von Apple Aktien entwickelte. So verzeichneten Spekulanten im Zeitraum von Oktober 2009 bis heute, in dem die Aktie von $180 USD auf rund $350 USD kletterte, teils erhebliche Gewinne durch diesen illegalen Insiderhandel.

Dem Angeklagten drohen nun bis zu 30 Jahre Haft plus eine Geldstrafe von mehr als fünf Millionen US-Dollar. Das Gericht wird am Freitag über den 39-jährigen entscheiden, das Strafmaß jedoch nicht vor 2013 verkünden. Die Ermittlungsbehörden erhoffen sich durch Kooperation mit dem Angeklagten weitere wichtige Informationen zu erlangen.

(c) Picture: Ambro -

Graue Haare als Kündigungsgrund?

Eine amerikanische Immobilienmaklerin hat gegen ihren ehemaligen Arbeitgeber Klage wegen Diskriminierung eingereicht. Der Vorwurf: Sie sei wegen ihrer grauen Haare gefeuert worden.

Die 52-jährige Sandra Rawline arbeitete sich in der Immobilienfirma Capital Title von der Empfangsdame hoch bis zur Bereichsleiterin. Zweimal wurde sie dabei als herrausragende Mitarbeiterin geehrt. Als sie jedoch nach sechsjähriger Unternehmenszugehörigkeit mit ihrer Firma umziehen sollte, erhielt sie von ihrem Chef die Anweisung, sich modernere Kostüme zuzulegen und ihre grauen Haare zu färben. Dabei bot er ihr gar seine persönliche Hilfe an.

Nachdem sich Rawline der Verjüngungskur verwehrte, wurde sie binnen einer Woche von ihren Aufgaben entbunden und durch eine 10 Jahre jüngere Kollegin ersetzt. Mittlerweile arbeitet Rowline für eine andere Firma als Kundenbetreuerin und verdient dabei deutlich weniger als in ihrer alten Position.

Rowlines ehemaliger Arbeitgeber wies jegliche Vorwürfe von sich. Die Kündigung sei auf die Unzufriedenheit eines Kunden zurückzuführen, so Konzernchef Bill Shaddock zum Houston Chronicle. Dieser verweigere die weitere Zusammenarbeit mit Rowline und das habe nichts mit ihrem Alter zu tun, schließlich würde der Kunde weiterhin von drei 64-jährigen Arbeitnehmern betreut.

Das Gericht hat nun zu entscheiden, ob es sich hier tatsächlich um eine Diskriminierung handelt.

(c) Picture: Ambro -

Thursday, July 07, 2011

"Kitty" and "Miffy" Settle Out Of Court

The legal battle between “Hello Kitty” owner Sanrio and "Miffy" copyright manager Mercis finally ended with a settlement out of court. The parties decided to donate the 150 000 € settlement to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and Cathy will disappear as a friend of Kitty.

The Dutch firm Mercis sued against the Japanese Firm Sanario in November 2010 because their rabbit character Cathy looked too much like the Dutch rabbit character Miffy, which was created by Dick Bruna in 1955. Cathy appereared two years after "Hello Kitty" in 1976 with no x for a moth while Miffy makes do with one.

A court in Amsterdam recently ruled that Sanario has to stop any production and marketing of Cathy goods in the court’s Benelux jurisdiction. The remarkable resemblance of Cathy to Miffy infringes Mercis' copyright and trademark right, the court ruled. In response to the court's order, Sanrio filed a suit demanding a suspension of Miffy’s trademark.

Following the March 2011 earthquake both parties negotiated directly with each other. Their negotiations resulted in a settlement. Sanrio did not concede it had violated Mr. Bruna’s copyright in any way, but it did agree not to manufacture any new products featuring the Cathy rabbit character.

Through the end of “Kitty’s” and “Cathy's” friendship, this court case is solved.

(c) Picture: News on Japan

Bank of America erzielt Rekordvergleich

Bank of America zahlt in dem wohl teuersten Vergleich der jemals in der Finanzbranche geschlossen worden ist 8,5 Mrd. USD (5,9 Mrd. Euro) an eine Gruppe von Investoren, die in der Finanzkrise mit Hypothekenpapieren sehr viel Geld verloren haben.

Die milliardenschwere Entschädigung soll Rechtstreitigkeiten mit Käufern von Hypothekenpapieren beenden, die zwischen 2004 und 2008 von dem Immobilienfinanzierer Countrywide gebündelt und veräußert worden sind. Nachdem Bank of America 2008, mitten in der Finanzkrise, Countrywide aufgekauft hatte, brach der Immobilienmarkt in den USA zusammen, so dass die Investoren auf nahezu wertlosen Wertpapieren festsaßen. Countrywide wird hierbei vorgeworfen, dass die Kreditnehmer weniger zuverlässig seien als versprochen. Hinzu kommt, dass die Bank of America nach der Übernahme nicht hart genug gegen säumige Schuldner vorgegangen sei, z.B. durch Zwangsräumungen.

Der Vergleich mit den Investoren, zu denen auch die Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) und die Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB) gehören, muss noch gerichtlich abgesegnet werden.

Bank of America hat somit noch immer unter den Spätfolgen der Finanzkrise zu leiden. Bereits Anfang des Jahres musste die Bank 2,8 Milliarden Dollar an die Immobilienfinanzierer Fannie Mae und Freddie Mac zahlen. Des Weiteren will die Bank zusätzlich eine Rückstellung in Höhe von 5,5 Milliarden Dollar für möglicherweise noch folgende Streitfälle bilden. Der ohnehin schon magere Gewinn der Bank dürfte somit komplett verloren gehen.

(c) Picture: Bank of America

U.S. and Mexico Sign Trucking Agreement

Officials from the United States and Mexico signed an agreement this past Wednesday that will open up each country’s highways to trucks from its neighbor. The agreement represents the overdue implementation of a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was signed nearly two decades ago.

The original NAFTA agreement called for Mexican trucks to have access to highways in border states by 1995, which would be expanded to all U.S. highways by January 2000. In contrast, Canadian trucks have no limits or restrictions on where they can travel in the U.S. Despite the requirements of NAFTA, Mexican trucks have been mostly restricted to a 25 mile from the border buffer zone. Mexico has reacted to this limitation by imposing trade tariffs on numerous U.S. goods. They have agreed to immediately cut those tariffs in half, and to eliminate them all together once the first Mexican hauler begins traveling on U.S. roads. This is expected to be sometime in August.

Many farmers are praising the legislation and expect to see a big jump in demand from Mexico for American farm products, especially meat and fruit. However, everyone was not happy about the agreement.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa condemned it, saying it “lowers wages and robs jobs from hardworking American truck drivers and warehouse workers.” In addition to the concern about jobs, the safety of Mexican trucks and the ability of their drivers had held up the agreement for a long time.

The Trade department hopes those fears will be assuaged by the implementation of strict safety requirements for the trucks and their drivers. Mexican trucks will be required to carry electronic monitoring devices to ensure they make only cross-border, and not domestic, runs and to make sure they are in compliance with U.S. hours of service laws. Mexican truck drivers wanting to operate in the U.S. must also pass English-language proficiency, drug, and safety tests.

(c) Picture:

Better Late than Never: Michigan Man Pays 35 Year Old Parking Ticket

The Orlando Florida police department had a good laugh this past week when they received the payment of $1 for a parking ticket that had been issued November 7, 1975. Stanley Baker, who now lives in Pentwater, MI, found the ticket in a book that he had bought at an Orlando garage sale back in 1995. The ticket was more than 35 years overdue, and Mr. Baker included a note reading, “Better late than never!”

The payment was sent inside the original envelope that accompanied the ticket when it was issued. It was delivered to what is now a police department auditorium, but what was a traffic court back in 1975. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for at least one parking violator) the records of Orlando’s parking violations from 1975 have already been destroyed, so we will probably never know who actually received the ticket. If the scofflaw could be located perhaps the city should ask for the rest of its money; $1 in 1975 is the equivalent of $4.20 in today’s money.

(c) Picture:

Friday, July 01, 2011

Labor Court in Berlin finds SONY Germany Guilty of Sex Discrimination

On Tuesday, a labor court in Berlin found Sony Music Entertainment Germany guilty of sexual discrimination for promoting a man over a woman who was expecting a child.

The women worked in the area of international marketing for Sony Music Entertainment, a joint venture at the time between Germany's Bertelsmann and the Japanese Sony label. She and two male colleagues were in the running for the job as a manager. After one of her male colleagues got the promotion, she sued against Sony in 2005. When she asked for the reason of the decision, the Sony management told her it was related to her family situation and that she should be pleased she was getting a baby.

The court in Berlin twice denied her claims because a sexual discrimination could not be proven. Finally, the court granted the woman's appeal and decided Sony had failed to prove that there had been no sexual discrimination by denying her the promotion. The court has allowed an appeal of its decision to the Federal Labor Court in Erfurt.

For more Labor Law updates, please visit our website.

(c) Picture: Sony