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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Germany/Italy: BMW in claim for infringement of wheel design

This blog post from Dr Meyer-Dulheuer & Partners tells us that BMW have become embroiled in legal proceedings over a design for a wheel. Specifically, they have an EU Registered Design for the wheel, and an Italian company named Acacia has made wheels allegedly to the design. Acacia supply their products under the "Wheels Spare Parts" brand, which gives a pretty clear indication of how they hope to avoid a successful claim that they have infringed. Good luck to them, in light of the Round and Metal case in the UK. Of course the courts of another Member State might differ - and the history of EU design law tells us that continental countries don't necessarily share the UK's views on spare parts.

So far, the dispute has been focused on forum. Acacia applied to the Italian courts for a declaration of non-infringement, and the matter eventually found its way to Luxembourg where the Court of Justice held that the courts of the defendant's country were the right venue for the dispute. The matter is complicated by the fact that the so-called "repair clause" (the EU equivalent of the UK's "must-match" exemption) has been adopted in Italian but not in German law, so (between Germany and Italy) Acacia's defence could only work in its home country. Acacia's apparent hope that BMW's response to the Italian proceedings would give the court jurisdiction didn't work either - although parties to foreign proceedings must always take great care when faced with the need to take a step that could be regarded as accepting jurisdiction.

So now it seems that we can await, with great interest, the judgment on the substantive claim from the German court.

Here is the Judgement of the Court (Second Chamber) from 13 July 2017.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Volkswagen offers free telematics service to new and current company car drivers

Fleet News reports this development from VW. The service (which seems to be based on a mobile phone app) is aimed at fleet operators. It enables drivers (and presumably their employers) to monitor fuel consumption and driving style, and (here's the legally interesting thing) offers the possibility of linking to authorised repairers. Provided it's optional, the latter should be OK: it will be handy for operators, no doubt, and they are likely to be locked in to service contracts anyway. It's when such links tie consumers to the network that it gets worrying, both from the competition angle and as a data protection issue.

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

VW offers trade-ins up to 10,000 euros in diesel clean-up

Reuters reports that VW is offering up to €10,000 off the price of a new car to encourage owners to trade in older diesel cars. Manufacturers had promised German government officials last week that they would modify software in more than 5 million diesel-powered cars, hoping to avoid a ban on diesel vehicles - several major German cities are talking about banning diesels, and with federal elections due next month the issue is urgent.

The discounts offered by VW vary (as you might expect) across the range, and cover several brands within the group. For the core VW brand, the rebate will be between €2,000 and €10,000: for Audi, €3,000 to €10,000, and for Porsche, €5,000, according to Reuters. BMW, Daimler and Ford have also announced incentives.

The VW offer will run to the end of the year, and additional incentives to go for hybrid, electric or natural gas models are also available.

BMW is also extending to the UK a similar scheme it launched recently in Germany. Details from BMW here.

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The proposed joint acquisition of the financial activities of Opel and Vauxhall by Groupe PSA and BNP Paribas is approved by the European antitrust authorities | Media Groupe PSA

From the PSA press release:

Today, the European Commission approved the proposed acquisition by Groupe PSA and BNP Paribas of the captive companies of Opel/Vauxhall.
This proposed deal to jointly acquire the captive financing companies of Opel/Vauxhall and to build a strategic long-term partnership around the Opel and Vauxhall brands was announced on 6 March 2017, as part of the acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall by Groupe PSA. .
 These activities will benefit from the combined expertise of Banque PSA Finance and BNP Paribas Personal Finance in automotive financing, to better serve dealers and Opel and Vauxhall customers and support the development of the two brands.
 This operation is also subject to the approval of the European banking authorities, whose decision is expected in the second half of the year.
 "An important milestone was reached today for the teams already mobilized on this project for several months”, explains Laurent David, Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas Personal Finance. “Teams are now concentrating on fulfilling the remaining conditions necessary to close this deal, which is expected to be achieved before the end of the year", indicated, Rémy Bayle, Chief Executive Officer of Banque PSA Finance."
The Commission has also released the story, in its daily news bulletin and in French, here. You'll have to scroll down to find it. More information from the Commission's register of competition cases under number M.8460.

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