El Comercio – Contractual unforeseeability resulting from the pandemic

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DATE: 12-06-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS

-Ramón Paz y Miño
-Mateo Zavala

MEDIA: El Comercio

Novedades Jurídicas, the legal supplement of El Comercio, publishes an article by our Senior Associate Ramón Paz y Miño and our Associate Mateo Zavala in which they explain the contractual unforeseenness arising from the health crisis caused by Covid-19. In the “new normality”, the dispute resolution clauses incorporated in contracts will be triggered in the absence of agreements and, therefore, ordinary justice or arbitration will be used.

“In recent decades, the theory of unforeseeability – which is an ideal mechanism for facing adverse effects in the execution of contracts – has acquired greater importance and relevance in the legal world, with the exception of Ecuador, where little or nothing has been said on the matter,” our lawyers put into context in their article.

As they point out, contractual unforeseenness is incorporated in several legislations, such as in Argentina and Colombia, where the objective is to preserve the survival of a contract legally entered into by the parties and where compliance has been affected by external factors beyond their control, which could not be foreseen during the contract negotiation stage.

“In addition to ensuring the full force of the contract, the theory of unforeseeability seeks to ensure fairness in the contractual relationship and to avoid excessive costs for one of the parties, which could affect the performance of the obligations”, explain the authors of the article.

The current situation suggests that the theory of contractual unforeseeability will be used in more than one case in Ecuador. The absence of an express rule that regulates it does not prevent its application, which will make it possible to use reasonability criteria for contractual relations due to events that generate an imbalance between the contracting parties. “This does not mean that the validity of legal security is ignored, much less the reliability and effectiveness of the system, but seeking other solutions will ensure that the performance is fair,” add Paz y Miño y Zavala.

If you want to read the full article, click here

Aula Magna – The Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Office (or SENADI according to its Spanish acronym) rejected ex-officio the registration of a mark because it considered that it was applied for in order to perpetrate an act of bad faith

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DATE: 13-05-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Katherine González

MEDIA: Aula Magna

Through Resolution No. SENADI_2019_RS_19814, the Ecuadorian IP Office rejected the application to register the mark KRUSELINGS in Class 28, for being similar to a globally well-known mark. Therefore, it was considered that the registration was sought in bad faith so as to mislead consumers. 

A mark is any sign capable of identifying goods or services in the market. For the purposes of registration, the community and national legislation establish a series of grounds for irregistrability that must be reviewed by the intellectual property offices, in order to avoid the acceptance for registration of signs that do not comply with the minimum requirements of a mark or that affect the rights of third parties.

One of the most well-known grounds for refusal which tends to be the most common ground for denying a mark at the Ecuadorian IP Office and in general at the IP Offices around the world is when a mark is similar to a prior application or registered mark[1]. However, another of the grounds to deny a mark is when it has been applied for to mislead consumers or to perpetrate an act of unfair competition or in bad faith according to the articles 135 and 137 of the Decision 486 of the Andean Community and the article 362 of the National IP Law.

The KRUSELINGS Case:

An Ecuadorian natural person applied for the mark KRUSELINGS in March 2019, covering “games, toys; gymnastic and sporting articles not contained in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees” in Class 28.

The mentioned application was not opposed by third parties. However, when issuing its decision, the Ecuadorian IP Office considered that the applied-for mark was confusingly similar with a mark well-known globally, and therefore that the application fell within the grounds for refusal since consumers would be deceived, in addition to establishing that it was an application made in bad faith.

Within its decision, the authority made it clear that despite there not being a prior application or registration similar to KRUSELINGS in Ecuador, the relevant grounds are directed at protecting the general interest, particularly consumers.

These types of decisions are aligned with global trends in the protection of intellectual property, most notably in trademarks. In particular, a Board Resolution of the International Trademark Association[2] (INTA) has established indicators to help trademark authorities determine whether a trademark application has been made in bad faith, from which we cite the two most relevant to the current case:

  • If the mark has been applied-for primarily to appropriate a trademark well-known in other jurisdictions or to disrupt the business of a competitor;
  • If the trademark was applied for with the intention of creating confusion regarding the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the goods or services of the applicant;

In the mentioned resolution, INTA arrived at the conclusion that “the possibility of arguing and demonstrating bad faith should be used as a tool to defeat the piracy of trademarks and other clear cases of misappropriation of trademarks”.

The decision in the case of KRUSELINGS signals progress in the protection of intellectual property in Ecuador, since arguing bad faith previously, at least in opposition proceedings, was almost always rejected or ignored, leading in many cases to the acceptance of the registration of marks that infringed the rights of third parties, under the sole pretext that the mark was not registered or applied for in Ecuador.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here.


[1] Article 136 section a), Decision 486 of the Andean Community
[2] Board resolution: September 22, 2009

Aula Magna – Does Covid-19 pandemic constitute force majeure that justifies the termination of individual employment contract?

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DATE: 03-06-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Alisson Vera

MEDIA: Aula Magna

Coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic shocked the world. All countries are reacting with various measures to mitigate the multiple consequences being generated in all scopes.

After health concerns, the economic impact is a great concern, since in addition to the closing of companies and the consequent fall in the economy, the loss of jobs will condemn a significant part of the workforce to unemployment.

The International Labor Organization ILO, in its publication “COVID-19 and the world of work: Implications and Responses[1]”, provided a preliminary assessment of the possible impact of Covid-19 on the world of work and proposed a set of measures to mitigate these repercussions. There is no doubt that this situation affects workers and employers worldwide, since there are sectors in which there is no production nor incomes, but they still have expenses (rent, suppliers, payroll, social security, etc.). Therefore, dialogue is the best tool to achieve an agreement.

On March 16, 2020, the State of Exception was decreed in Ecuador to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Among other measures, the closing of certain sectors and social isolation were ordered. Priority and strategic industries such as health, food, basic services, telecommunications, among others are the only ones authorized to provide services in person.

Due to this situation, the Ministry of Labor, in order to comply with the restrictions ordered by the authority and maintain jobs in the country, has issued several agreements that encouraged companies to implement, to the extend possible: emergency teleworking, modifying workday, establishing vacation time, implementing the temporary suspension of work, and has even opened the possibility for employers and workers to reach agreements, taking into consideration the economic situation of the company, as long as their labor rights are not infringed.

Despite the efforts of the labor authorities, it is not possible to apply temporary measures to maintain employment contracts in all scenarios, and there are cases in which employers find it necessary to terminate employment contracts due to the effects of the Covid-19.

In this regard, section 6 of article 169 of the Labor Code, which contains the grounds for terminating the employment relationship, provides:

“Art. 169.- Causes for the termination of the individual contract.- The individual employment contract ends:… 6) By unforeseen circumstances or force majeure that makes the work impossible, such as fire, earthquake, storm, explosion, plagues of the field, war and, in general, any other extraordinary event that the contractors could not foresee or that they anticipated, they could not avoid;… (I did the underlining.) ”

Despite the fact that, on a doctrinal level, there is a difference between unforeseen circumstances and force majeure, since the term “unforeseen circumstances” should be reserved for the acts of nature, while “force majeure” refers to the events caused by man, most legal and treaty systems agree that the effects are the same. Ecuadorian regulations do not distinguish between those two[2]. Thus, the definition of force majeure is the same as that of unforeseen circumstances and is contemplated in article 30 of the Civil Code that establishes: “(…) It is called force majeure or unforeseen circumstances, the unforeseen event that it is not possible to resist.” Its effect is the exoneration of the debtor’s responsibilities[3].

Therefore, it is important to identify the fact that constitutes force majeure, since based on this, the analysis of the effects it may have on the employment relationship will be carried out. On the other hand, for force majeure to apply, as an exemption from labor responsibility, the doctrine and jurisprudence[4] establish that the following elements are necessary:

  1. Non-imputable: The constitutive act of force majeure cannot, nor should it be attributable to the party that alleges it; that is, for an event to be considered force majeure, the employer cannot have caused it, whether through fault, fraud or negligence.
  2. Unpredictability: that the fact could not have been foreseen within the ordinary calculations; and that, although it has been foreseen, it is inevitable.

In this regard, the Supreme Court of Justice – today the National Court of Justice – has said:

 “There is no doubt that the background of the closing of the company’s activities was due to the fault of the employer, for the lack of payment to the treasury. Therefore, there is no logical and legal basis for the closing of the company due to force majeure, since the situation of force majeure defined in Article 30 of the Civil Code is not presented in the case, because the closing situation of the company was foreseeable by virtue of the delay of the payments before the State. Judicial Gazette. CIII year. Series XVII. No. 8. Page 2533; Quito, May 29, 2001. ((I did the underlining.)”

In this case, the elements detailed above are not configured, since the supposed fact of force majeure; that is, the closing of the establishment was attributable to the employer for not complying with a legal obligation. Likewise, the employer could foresee the closing of the establishment, since it was one of the sanctions provided by law as a consequence of its acts.

  1. Irresistibility: “that could not have been avoided” as expressed by Coustasse[5], refers to the conduct of those who invoke the force majeure in the face of the event itself, and consists of the mechanisms used to mitigate the unforeseen event tending to avoid its harmful effects.
  2. Causation: that the damages caused are a consequence of the unforeseen event that is constituted as a unforeseen circumstance and not of another factor.
  3. Impossibility to work. – For Alberto G Spota[6]: “The unforeseen circumstance means the legal or physical impossibility of executing the due provision (…)”. This element must be configured with irresistibility, since the impossibility of rendering the service must be linked to the impossibility to overcome the harmful effects of force majeure or unforeseen circumstance alleged.

For this analysis, it is necessary to consider that, to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on industries, the Labor Code contemplates figures such as the temporary suspension of work activities – maintaining the payment of workers’ compensation – and cease of activities by the employer. Therefore, the impossibility to work as a cause to end the employment relation should not be temporary, since, if it were temporary, it could be facing a suspension of activities or possible cease of activities by the employer and not to a termination of the employment relation.

The termination of the employment relation, under this cause, does not constitute untimely dismissal, since the dismissal is the termination of the employment relation by unilateral decision of the employer. In this  case, the breakdown of the relation occurs due to the damaging effects of force majeure – events beyond the control of the employer. In this sense, Dr. Marcucci[7] states that the effect of the unforeseen circumstance and force majeure “(…) when they are actually proven in the labor field cause the contract to cease due to the absolute impossibility of continuing to provide the service and without any of the parties taking responsibility for it. Both are victims of force majeure (…) But neither of the two contractors is guilty of the misfortune of their former counterpart, nor therefore is forced to compensate (…) ”

Therefore, although the Covid-19 pandemic, by its nature meets the requirements of being non-imputable and unpredictable, its application as a cause for termination of the employment relation, and therefore, the exemption from the payment of compensation, cannot be applied in a generalized way based on the sole existence of the pandemic (Covid-19), because despite the fact that many industries reflect losses and liquidity problems, as a consequence of Covid-19, this does not necessarily mean that work is permanently impossible or that the effects have the necessary weight for the termination of the employment relation. It is imperative to carefully analyze the harmful effects of each case, to verify if the other three elements – irresistibility, causation and impossibility to work– are configured to justify the Termination of the employment relation for this cause: “force majeure or unforeseen circumstances make impossible to work”.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here


[1] Published March 18, 2020 .- https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_739158.pdf
[3] This effect has been contextualized by the Supreme Court of Justice, today the National Court of Justice: Judicial Gazette. CVIII year. Series XVIII, No. 4. Page 1434. (Quito, February 22, 2007); Judicial Gazette. CIV year. Series XVII. No. 11. Page 3395. (Quito, November 12, 2002); Trial N ° 228-2007-Ex Third Civil, Mercantile and Family Division. (Quito, November 5, 2009.
[4] National Court of Justice, Specialized Labor Division, Trial No. 0027-2018. (Quito, May 14, 2019); National Court of Justice, Specialized Labor Division, Trial No. 0026-2018. (Quito, February 4, 2019); National Court of Justice, Specialized Labor Chamber, Trial No. 1948-2015. (Quito, June 22, 2017)
[5] El Caso Fortuito ante el Derecho Civil, 1958  p. 114
[6] Instituciones del Derecho Civil, Contratos, volumen III, 1975, p. 538
[7] Panorama Contextualizado del Derecho Laboral Sustancial Colombiano, Marcucci Cesar, 2005, p.120

Aula Magna – Termination of employment contract due to work harassment

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DATE: 08-05-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Edmundo Ramos

MEDIO: Aula Magna

In November 2017, the concept of “workplace harassment” was incorporated into the Labor Code as a cause for “Visto Bueno” (termination with fair cause) for employer and the worker.

The Labor Code defines workplace harassment as “all behavior that violates the dignity of the person, repeatedly and potentially harmful, committed in the workplace or at any time against one of the parties in the employment relationship or among workers, which may result in the person affected being impaired, mistreated, humiliated, or that threatens or damages their employment situation. ”

Two elements of the definition stand out: (i) the law aims to regulate this type of action even outside the company’s facilities and outside working hours; and, (ii) regarding events that occur between workers, without necessarily one of them being the employer’s representative.

The law reform is inconsistent, since it forces employer to take responsibility for events beyond his control and outside his scope, allowing the employment relationship to be terminated – prior authorities approval´s – due to interpersonal relationships between workers that could happened in their free time.

Based on this, below an analysis of a “Visto Bueno” process when it is requested by the employer against a workers.

Article 172.8 of the Labor Code transcribed below includes workplace harassment among the grounds for the employer to terminate the employment contract, prior approval of “Visto Bueno”:

“For committing workplace harassment, either individually or in coordination with other individuals, towards a colleague, the employer or towards a subordinate in the company.

Prior to the request for approval of “Visto Bueno”, a conciliation chaired by the competent authority will be opened, in which besides the interested party, the representatives of the workers and the employer or whoever represents him will be heard.”

According to this, workplace harassment can occur: (i) when one or more workers harass the employer or workers who represent the employer (e.g. managers, chief, directors, etc.); or, (ii) when one or more workers harass any of their coworkers.

In the first scenario, the employer knows the harassment event directly, since it is the victim of the harassment. In the second scenario, the harassment occurs without the employer necessarily being aware of the event or only knowing about it when the harassed worker (s) communicates it, either directly to the employer or by filing a complaint to the labor authority (Ministry of Labor).

According to the transcribed article, the approval process could only be initiated, prior a conciliation proceeding between the parties, which implies that it will only be possible to initiate the “Visto Bueno” proceeding when it has not been possible for the parties to reach a conciliation or that the harassment persists despite the conciliation.

Consequently, the “Visto Bueno” could only be filed once the conciliation proceeding is finished, either in the workplace itself or before the labor authority (prior employee´s complaint).

In any “Visto Bueno” proceeding, the employer has a period of 30 days, from the moment the harassment event occurred, until the worker is legally notified with the “Visto Bueno” request, except for those violations considered as a “lack of probity” (honesty), in which case that period begins when the employer becomes aware of the workplace harassment event.

The foregoing implies that the employer has approximately 22 days to initiate a “Visto Bueno” proceeding, considering that notice to worker takes approximately 5 business days from the day the request is filed.

Additionally, as the law requires prior conciliation before filing the “Visto Bueno” request, it is very likely that this will take more than 30 days between the harassment event and the notification of the request, in which case the action would have expired.

In conclusion, the chances of obtaining a “Visto Bueno” against a worker for workplace harassment are very low. For the termination of an employment contract due to workplace harassment to be applicable in practice, a legal reform or a National Court ruling with mandatory effect will be necessary. It must determine that the 30 days to filed the “Visto Bueno” request should begin when the employer becomes aware of the workplace harassment event.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here

LexLatin – BASIC ASPECTS OF CANNABIS IN ECUADOR: CONSIDERATIONS FROM AN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND REGULATORY PERSPECTIVE

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DATE: 19-05-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Francisco Gallegos

MEDIA: LexLatin

In Ecuador, the use of cannabis is punishable, except in the case of personal consumption of quantities less than those established by the relevant law. At the end of last year, non-psychoactive and hemp cannabis were excluded from substances classed as subject to control, as will be explained further on, decriminalizing their use for medical or therapeutic ends (the exclusion thereby not extending to cannabis for recreational use).

Among the permitted uses are the possession of products that contain or are derived from cannabis for therapeutic, palliative or medicinal use, or whose use has medicinal objectives. In the same way, the law provides for the investigation, production, cultivation, distribution and sale of the substance, provided that the relevant government permits and approval are obtained and in accordance with the relevant requirements.

The reform will enter into force from June 21, 2020 and has as its overriding aim the elimination of punishments, excluding from control the possession of products for medicinal or therapeutic use that contain a non-psychoactive active ingredient or hemp (CBD), understood as the cannabis plant or any part thereof whose dry weight delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is less than 1%, provided that there is a diagnosis of suffering from an illness or pain that merits its use. In relation to THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the psychotropic effect, this continues to be a controlled substance, if not found within the aforementioned parameters.

From a regulatory point of view, the National Agrarian Authority must issue the regulations relating to the importation, cultivation, planting, harvesting, selling, industrialisation and even exportation of non-psychoactive cannabis or hemp, within 120 days of the law entering into force. The regulation and control of the planting, cultivation and harvest will be the responsibility of the National Health Authority. To date there is no specific detail as to the relevant powers.

At this moment in time, according to the relevant decisions handed down by the Andean Community on the matter, the only CBD products eligible for marketing authorizations are cosmetic products for topical use, provided that they are contained within the international lists of ingredients that may be used within cosmetics and complying with the corresponding restrictions and conditions of use. Human consumption goods are not permitted. One must await the issuance of regulations from the competent authorities.

Moreover, it will be necessary to consider the final text of the Health Law that will also contain provisions as to the regulation of medical and therapeutic use cannabis and its derivatives. The draft law is currently awaiting its second reading.

From an intellectual property perspective, it is worth remembering that the relevant law does not specifically consider use of the word cannabis in the registration of a trademark; however, it is very important to keep in mind that Article 134 of Decision 486 of the Andean Community in its final section provides that the nature of the good or service to which a mark relates, will in no circumstances be an obstacle to registration.

This might mean that granting or refusal of an application for a trademark that includes the term “cannabis”, any derivative of or expression that refers to cannabis in the mark itself or within its coverage comes down simply to the individual criteria of the responsible IP Office examiner, given that, being a restricted product, it could lead to objections. To date there are differing opinions, without any clear position on the matter. In any event, the number of accepted cannabis trademark applications is much higher than those which have received official objections or oppositions from third parties.

Nevertheless, there are both cases of granted cannabis trademark applications, as well as applications which have received official objections. Therefore, it is very important to take care with the wording of the applied-for goods or services, with the aim of reducing the possibility of receiving an official objection. In the same way, it will be very important to consider the mark’s word elements as well as the elements making up the graphical part of the label, keeping in mind the absolute grounds for refusal as provided for by Article 135 section p) of Decision 486, corresponding to Article 360 section 18 of the Knowledge, Creativity and Innovation Law, also known as the Ingenuity Law, which provides for the refusal of marks contrary to law, morals, public order or decency.

At the start of this year, the Ecuadorian IP Office or SENADI as it is known locally according to its Spanish acronym, had processed a limited number of trademark applications and even fewer patent applications. It is reckoned, since there are no exact official figures, that a high proportion of such trademark applications have been accepted, in contrast with the patent applications whose application process is significantly longer.

It is important to point out that various associations of producers of hemp and its derivatives have been formed, as well as groups that lobby for the therapeutic use of cannabis in Ecuador, even some that have the support of the Public Defender’s Office, as an alternative means for those that suffer from catastrophic or chronic illnesses, such as palliative care against pain, epilepsy and other oncological or brain impairment problems.

CorralRosales has actively participated in various international forums about the different opportunities and challenges brought about by the use of cannabis for therapeutic and medicinal aims. The firm has also provided legal and regulatory advice for what is a nascent industry in Latin America.

If you want to read this article (in spanish), click here

Idealex – COVID-19 and international trade

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DATE: 15-05-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Andrea Moya

MEDIA: Idealex

The world is facing a health, human and economic crisis without precedent. The measures taken to reduce the effects of the pandemic, such as isolations and social distancing, have direct impacts on the supply and demand. The suspension of commercial and productive activities generates a global recession and higher unemployment.

In 2019, the global economy recorded its worst performance since 2009, with a grow rate of 2.5% and with global GDP grow projections for 2020 revised downwards. In 2019, the volume of world trade goods fell by 0.4% against 2018 and it is projected that in 2020 it would contract even more. COVID-19 appeared in this scenario.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), COVID-19 is affecting the region for the following reasons:

  1. The decline in the economic activity of the region’s main trading partners.
  2. The drop in commodity prices.
  3. The interruption of global value chains.
  4. Lower demand for tourism services.
  5. Greater risk aversion and worsening global financial conditions.

According with ECLAC, the value of Latin America and the Caribbean exports will fall at least 10.7% by 2020 due to lower prices by 8.2% and volume in 2.5%.

table-international-trade-andrea-moya-01

In the case of Ecuador, given that its main commercial partners China and the United States are the countries with the most infections, it is foreseeable that the value of non-oil exports reduces. This fact added to the fall of the oil prices will generate a significant fall on the value of Ecuadorian exports.

Under these circumstances, the country’s trade policy must facilitate a prompt answer to this crisis. The reduction of non-tariff barriers to import and exports, especial procedures for the release and clearance of goods, simplified mechanisms for the reimbursement of taxes and payment facilities for taxes on foreign trade are measures that would allow companies to overcome the challenges derived from the pandemic.

The Ecuadorian Customs Authority has made and efficient work in order to facilitate foreign trade operations during the state of emergency, it has maintained its services in all customs districts through electronic channels, it has implements specific procedures for the inspection of goods and it has suspended the terms applicable for the abandonment of good through the duration of the emergency.

However, the following measures are needed urgently:

  1. The Law for Simplification and Tax Progressivity issued on December 31, 2019 amended the Production, Commerce and Investment Code adding article 157.1. This article establishes a simplified procedure for reimbursing any taxes applicable to foreign trade (drawback). The amount of the reimbursement is equal to a percentage of the FOB value of the export and must be done automatically after the export customs forms are definitive. This process must be put into place in an effective and immediate manner.
  2. The Law for Tax Equity establishes that the foreign exchange tax (ISD) paid on the import of raw materials, capital goods and other goods to be incorporated in production processes may be regarded as tax credit for the payment of the importer’s income tax within the following five years. The importer is able to request a reimbursement of the foreign exchange tax that has not been credited against its income tax. However, the reimbursement request procedure is slow and bureaucratic. It is necessary to adopt simplified reimbursement processes that are effective and resolved on a timely manner.
  3. Article 116 of the Production, Commerce and Investment Code establishes that the importers are able to request payment facilities on foreign trade taxes derived from the import of capital goods. This benefit must by applicable to the payment of foreign trade taxes on the import of raw material and similar goods.
  4. The third general provision of the Law for the Development of Production, Investment Attraction, Employment Generation and Fiscal Stability establishes that the investment incentives included in such law will be applicable for 24 months, this deadline expires in August 21, 2020. The President is able to extend this deadline for 24 additional months. It is importer to extend this deadline in order to stimulate local and foreign investment which may generate employment. It is also important to simplify the processes needed to access certain benefits such as the exemption of tariffs and foreign exchange tax on the import of raw material and capital goods needed for the development of investment projects.

These measures will contribute to protect the cash flow of the taxpayers which is a fundamental issue in order to keep companies’ operating and avoid, to the extent possible, its closure and the subsequent loss of jobs and default with its creditors.

This crisis has worsened the country’s fragile economy, particularly for the fiscal imbalance that has been occurring for several years, and the lack of contingency funds to be injected in an economic recession. The alternative is not the “deglobalization”, but an international cooperation policy that allows each country to develop its best capacities. Ecuador urgently requires structural changes in the labor and tax areas, along with a clear foreign trade policy.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here


Table’s source: Special Report COVID-19 issued by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) – https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/45351/1/S2000263_en.pdf

Latin Lawyer – Ecuador adopts expedited merger protocol amid covid-19 woes

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DATE: 29-04-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS

-Xavier Rosales

MEDIA: Latin Lawyer

The prestigious international publication “Latin Lawyer” has published an article on the new accelerated merger protocol approved by the Ecuadorian antitrust authority as a measure to fight against the effects of Covid-19 in the country. To deal with this issue, the entity had the expert opinion of our Partner Xavier Rosales.

“It was something that had been expected for a long time, and it is positive for the development of companies,” says our Partner in the text, who believes that the head of the antitrust authority, Danilo Sylva Pazmiño, has a more open approach than previous ones, which facilitates the authorization process for non-problematic transactions.

As explained in the text, the Superintendency of Control of Market Power (SCPM) approved on April 20th a draft resolution that creates expedited reviews for certain transactions that require notification prior to the merger. According to local professionals, COVID-19 has caused widespread delays in the agency’s ability to examine and investigate certain transactions.

This new protocol will ensure that an agreement can be approved within 40 days. The authority will have 15 days to send its conclusions to its decision-making body that will have 25 days to issue a final decision. Previously, the authority had 50 days to send its conclusions to the First Instance Resolution Commission (CRPI), and the decision-making body 60 to issue a decision – with the possibility of requesting another 60 days if the merger is very complex.

This accelerated merger system will be available for holding companies that do not directly or indirectly do business in Ecuador, companies merging with a combined market share of less than 30% in all relevant markets, and dealings with companies in bankruptcy that have a credible defense.

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Gestión Digital – COVID-19 and the limits of antitrust law

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DATE: 28-04-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Ana Samudio

The main objective of antitrust law is to ensure the existence of an equal playing field so that competitors have the same opportunity to offer goods and services to consumers in every relevant market. This initial budget necessarily implies the ban of agreements between competitors – any express or implicit agreement that reduces uncertainty about the behavior of a competitor – and the abuse of market power.

Within the framework of necessary and urgent measures to confront the world health crisis derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, several competition authorities have seen the need to relax – and even suspend – the sanctioning regime applicable to agreements between competitors, allowing exceptionally that these take place when temporary cooperation is necessary to guarantee the fair provision of essential goods and services during the crisis.

The first such announcement was from the Norwegian competition authority, which allowed, over a three-month period, coordination of itineraries between two local airlines to ensure the availability of the service. This announcement was quickly followed by regulators in Germany, England and the Netherlands, who relaxed the control regime for agreements between competitors aimed at guaranteeing the provision of goods and services; allowing competitors: (i) the exchange of information regarding availability, (ii) the cooperation necessary to keep the establishments open, (iii) the sharing of logistics of warehouses and transport; and (iv) the assignment / exchange of personnel to meet demand.

On its part, the European Competition Network (ECN), which groups the European Union’s competition authorities, issued a joint statement determining that, under current circumstances, reasonable cooperation between competitors would not constitute a restriction of competition in the terms of the community regulation and / or creates efficiencies in the production and distribution of goods and services that overweight the restriction that they could generate; and defined channels of attention to resolve doubts that operators may have about the legitimacy / illegitimacy of an intended cooperation, in light of these exceptional circumstances.

Likewise, the authorities in charge of the control and judgment of competition matters in the United States of America -Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission- have created an expedited procedure -with duration of seven (7) calendar days- for the analysis and authorization of cooperation between competitors. The entire process is carried out online, for which operators interested in cooperating must provide information that demonstrates the relation with the crisis, necessity, and reasonability of the cooperation, under the protection of the crisis unleashed by the pandemic.

In Colombia, an exceptional regulation was created by which the Logistics and Transportation Center, created as an independent entity from the competition authority, has the mission of evaluating and approving agreements between competitors that are intended to generate efficiencies in the logistics and cargo transportation market which would be deemed illegal at any other time.

Along with these measures that make the system applicable to agreements between competitors more flexible, several authorities have stressed the importance of guaranteeing the provision, at fair and competitive prices, of products considered essential to protect the health and life of consumers (such as respirators, masks and disinfectant products), while warning that the operators that abusing their market power to affect this guarantee will merit a swift and hefty sanction. Along these lines, the Superintendence of Control of Market Power in Ecuador has issued two warrants to producers and sellers of these goods, reminding them that, according to the Organic Law of Regulation and Control of Market Power, they cannot take advantage of the emergency to increase their profit margins through unjustified price increases and will remain vigilant and implement the necessary control actions to preserve consumer rights and free competition.

In the first of the warrants, the Superintendent of Control of Market Power stated, that “Any variation in prices must obey the dynamics of the market and the individual and independent decisions of economic agents and not to anti-competitive agreements or union recommendations.” This assertion -which a priori would be contrary to the affirmative actions taken by competition authorities from other jurisdictions that were explained above- applies to the anticompetitive price-fixing agreements and not to the fair temporary cooperation between competitors aimed to benefit the consumers and tends to guarantee the supply  in this delicate estate of emergency, under the exemption to the prohibition provided in article 12 of the Organic Law of Regulation and Control of Market Power, which in the present state of affairs would justify cooperation between competitors when the following conditions are met simultaneously:

  1. Consumers or users be allowed to participate equally in their advantages: The purpose of cooperation would be to guarantee the provision of goods and services during the state of emergency, with which this condition would be fulfilled.
  2. That they do not impose restrictions that are not indispensable for the achievement of those objectives: Any intended cooperation must be strictly limited to measures required to meet the objective.
  3. That they do not grant economic operators the possibility of eliminating competition with respect to a substantial part of the products or services contemplated: The terms of the cooperation must not constitute barriers of entry or permanence of other competitors in the market.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here

Gestión Digital – Implications of the Declaration of Sanitary Emergency and State of Emergency in the Administration of Justice

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DETAILS

DATE: 15-04-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-Mateo Zavala

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the Ministry of Public Health declared a State of Sanitary Emergency due to the outbreak of coronavirus—or COVID-19—to prevent a potential massive contagion among the population.

Despite having declared a State of Sanitary Emergency, the Judiciary Council and the National Court of Justice did not make any immediate pronouncements, which meant that activities in all Judicial Branch offices continued as normal.

On March 16, 2020, the Judiciary Council, through Resolution 028-2020, restricted public service in judicial offices, with the exception of judicial units with jurisdiction over: flagrante delicto, criminal, violence against women and the family unit, traffic, juvenile offenders, multi-competent units and penitentiary guarantees.

In turn, The National Court of Justice, through Resolution 04-2020, ordered on the same date the suspension of terms and deadlines in all judicial proceedings, except for flagrant crimes while the State of Sanitary Emergency continues; this is, until May 10, 2020.

Can a person go to court if constitutional rights not limited by the declaration are violated during the State of Emergency?

Note that declaring a State of Emergency, as set out in article 165 of the Constitution, only limits freedom of movement and freedom of association and assembly rights. Therefore, if during the State of Emergency any right other than those mentioned above is violated, citizens may initiate the actions set forth in the Constitution before the criminal judges on duty by meeting the requirements established in the Organic Law on Jurisdictional Guarantees and Constitutional Control, and in the decisions issued by the Constitutional Court.

The Constitution and the Organic Law on Jurisdictional Guarantees and Constitutional Control foresee the following actions in case of constitutional rights’ violation:

i) Precautionary measures action, which can be requested independently or in conjunction with another constitutional action for the protection of rights, will depend on whether the claim is to stop the violation of a right or to avoid the violation thereof; ii) Protective action; iii) Habeas Corpus action; iv) Access to public information action; and v) Habeas Data action.

Knowledge and resolution of these actions, in accordance with article 86 numerals 1 and 2 of the Constitution, pertains to any judge of the Republic, given that the aforementioned norm establishes that all judges of Ecuadorian territory are competent to hear and solve constitutional cases. Thus, if there is a violation of constitutional rights that are not restricted under the State of Emergency, it is possible to approach any of the flagrante delicto units to request cessation of the violation.

Do court servers perform teleworking? What happens to the hearings and other proceedings scheduled for the dates when the judicial offices are not open to the public?

Even though the Judiciary Council has taken several actions for the use of technological means in the administration of justice, such as electronic notifications, it decided to suspend public service for judges and courts and did not opt for teleworking for judicial—non-administrative— officials.

Previously scheduled proceedings and hearings, on dates when the State of Sanitary Emergency continues, will be rescheduled according to the availability of each judicial unit. The Judiciary Council did not deem it appropriate to carry out the proceedings and hearings via telematic means, although this is permitted by law.

If the health emergency continues beyond the initially established period, it would be highly convenient for the Judiciary Council to arrange for hearings and other proceedings to be conducted electronically, in order to alleviate the impact of the situation on the administration of justice. It is worth noting that some proceedings are scheduled for 2022, which reveals the overload in courts and tribunals.

If you want to read this article (in spanish), click here

ASIPI – Interview with María Cecilia Romoleroux

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DETAILS

DATE: 14-03-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS: 

-María Cecilia Romoleroux

María Cecilia Rpmoleroux, Co-chair Host Committee, Quito

  1. The XXII ASIPI Workshops and Board of Directors will be held in November 2020. Its organization is always an interesting job for the Organizing Committee that you Co-Chair. Tell us how the work has been divided.

Paul and I have made a very good team, and the truth is that we have not divided the work; instead we are cooperating in all fields. The support of ASIPI’s young associates has been very valuable.

  1. What has been the most difficult in the organization of the Conference?

Agreeing with so many people is always complicated, but we have already achieved an agreement on everything. Quito is an easy city to show, since there is so much to see. The “Law Offices” event may always be the one that needs the most agreements, but the collaboration of Johana Aguirre and her team in this event has been invaluable.

  1. What does Quito have that differentiates it from other host cities?

Quito is a Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the best-preserved historical center in the region, making it a city that already offers a lot by itself. Now if you add to this the enthusiasm we have to show Quito during ASIPI, just try to picture the difference.

  1. Why should ASIPI members attend?

ASIPI is the most important Intellectual Property conference in the region, and if you add to this the fact of being able to know Quito, the first cultural heritage of America! And also to go to the Galapagos Islands, the result is an event that you cannot miss.

  1. We know that you are the first Ecuadorian to sit on the INTA board of directors, as well as the first Ecuadorian to be part of the Programming Committee of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI). How did you achieve that honor? If a young associate asks you for advice on pursuing a similar career, what would you say?

I have indeed had the pleasure of having several positions of relevance, being one of my favorites Co-Chairing the “Quito 2020” Host Committee. My advice would be that these positions are only achieved by showing work and dedication to your own ideals and to each association. There are many “bumps” along the way but the key to success is to keep on going ignoring them, since they are only “bumps”.

If you want to read the full interview in Spanish (on page 14), click here