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It has been over a year since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation became mandatory across Europe, marking a seismic shift in the way that companies collect, process, and handle personal data. Countries across the European Union and beyond have adapted their national laws to meet the requirements of the GDPR – with many introducing local derogations as permitted by the GDPR.

Earlier this year, CEE Legal Matters reported that Herbst Kinsky Rechtsanwalte had advised Marinomed Biotech AG on its February 1, 2019 debut on the Vienna Stock Exchance, with Weber & Co. advising Erste Group Bank AG (as sole global coordinator) and Goetzpartners Securities Ltd (as co-lead manager) on the IPO. Marinomed’s was the first successful IPO in Austria since BAWAG’s in 2017.

Emmanuel Kaufman has a unique profile: An Argentinian lawyer and commercial and international investment arbitration specialist who has spent the last 12 years in two of the leading law firms in Austria. He has spent the last three and a half years as a partner at Knoetzl, where he focuses on complex arbitration proceedings in the construction, telecommunications, IT, gaming, and soft-beverages industries.

There are two interesting developments on the Austrian legal market: First, Legal Tech and Digitalization initiatives are on the rise. Second, the Top 20 law firms in Austria have increased their revenue last year, and the legal business is flourishing.

Under Austrian law, incorrect land register entries may trigger public liability. But the Austrian Supreme Court recently held that such incorrect entries only create public liability claims for of a certain group of people, thereby potentially increasing the risk management costs of mortgage-backed loans.

How do law firms in Austria promote themselves to current and prospective employees? A series of conversations with several leading firms revealed more than expected.

The Supreme Court of Cassation in Italy has recently rendered a decision that products containing Cannabidiol (CBD) shall be prohibited from being marketed on the Italian market, even if they contain less than 0.2% of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The sale of such products had previously been permitted based on an amendment to the law regulating hemp production that removed the requirement to obtain a permit for “cannabis light.” This led to a “cannabis light boom.” The change was triggered based on the opinion of the Highest Italian Sanitary Council that even such “cannabis light” products could conceivably endanger human health. Following the Supreme Court of Cassation’s ruling, only products specified as medicinal products or certain agricultural varieties may be sold.

In a recent case involving parallel-imported agrochemical products, the District Court of The Hague ruled that non-compliance with the requirements laid down by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) for parallel import of relabelled products displaying the original right-holder’s trademark constitutes trademark infringement, particularly if the right-holder is not properly notified of the parallel import and is not offered a sample of the relabelled product on request. This decision shows that the requirements for parallel import are applied strictly by the courts and have a broad scope (not limited to pharmaceutical products), allowing the mark-holder to exercise control over the resale, re-labelling, and re-packaging of its original products within the EU.

A specific form of cooperation was introduced in Austria in 2018 and will become effective on January 1, 2019: Upon the taxpayer’s request, an enterprise may opt for a “horizontal monitoring” procedure. This new law was introduced after a pilot project in which internationally renowned enterprises such as Red Bull, Shell Austria, and Infineon Technologies participated (although whether these enterprises will also participate in the new “horizontal monitoring” procedure is not yet known).

On October 29, 2018, leading Austrian law firms Dorda, Eisenberger & Herzog, Herbst Kinsky, PHH, Schoenherr, SCWP Schindhelm, and Wolf Theiss announced their joint launch of the “Legal Tech Hub Vienna”: a non-profit forum for LegalTech companies, start-ups, and other legal market participants to identify innovation potential and work together to implement technological tools appearing ever-more-rapidly on the legal market.

No individual, no business, and no country is immune from the threat of cybercrime. The increasingly successful and complex economies of CEE countries are no exception to this rule. In fact, for both historical and political reasons, CEE is at particular peril.

While globalization and digitalization have increased the risk of violations that affect thousands of consumers, several EU member states — including Austria — do not yet offer class action lawsuits. The EU Commission has therefore proposed a draft directive to allow representative actions for the protection of collective interests of consumers as part of its “New Deal for Consumers.”

On July 9, 2018, the German and Austrian competition authorities published joint guidelines regarding the transaction value thresholds of their respective merger regimes.

In the past, interest escalation clauses in loan agreements in Austria commonly had variable interest rates, based on a reference interest rate such as EURIBOR or LIBOR and an appropriate interest mark-up. When reference interest rates started to fall below zero, the question whether banks had to pass on negative interest rates to their borrowers in case of loan agreements where no floor had been set became the subject of great discussion. In addition, loan agreements in which a “zero floor” for reference interest rates had been implemented were contested as well.

The widespread perception remains that the real estate market in CEE is undervalued and continues to offer exciting opportunities for investors. It would seem this is with good reason and early signs suggest that this year we may approach record levels of activity in the sector.

A new buzzword has reached the Real Estate world and its service providers, including the legal community: “PropTech.” PropTech – or “Property Technology” – is simply shorthand for various IT applications that are specifically designed to address the needs of the real estate industry.

With its National Data Protection Amendment Act 2018 (“DSG 2018”) enacted well before the May 25th 2018 deadline, Austria is considered to be one of the EU leaders regarding the implementation of the GDPR. To be precise, the DSG 2018 was implemented in May, 2017, shortly before Austria’s national elections took place. The consequence of Austria’s attempt to play a pioneering role is that the DSG 2018 was rushed, and thus, at least in some parts, extremely difficult to read – and it fails to take advantage of the majority of the permitted GDPR derogations.

On January 4, 2018 CEE Legal Matters reported that Schoenherr had advised BUWOG AG and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had advised Vonovia SE on Vonovia’s voluntary public takeover bid of BUWOG. The takeover offer placed the enterprise value of BUWOG at around EUR 5.2 billion. We reached out to several of the individuals involved in the deal for information: Christian Herbst, Partner, Schoenherr and Thomas Zottl, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 

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