Austria, Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH updates

Arbitration & ADR

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Can eye rolling be a reason to challenge an arbitrator?
  • Austria
  • 24 December 2020

The Supreme Court recently dealt with the challenge of an arbitrator on the grounds that he had rolled his eyes during the pleading of a party's representative. Said arbitrator did not explicitly contest the accusation of having rolled his eyes. Nonetheless, he claimed to be able to objectively give a legal assessment of the facts of the case. This decision adds to the case law on the impartiality and independence of arbitrators, particularly with respect to an allegation of bias based on non-verbal reactions.

Supreme Court scrutinises admissibility of videoconference hearings
  • Austria
  • 29 October 2020

The Supreme Court recently determined the admissibility of conducting an arbitral hearing by means of a videoconference in the context of challenge proceedings. The court held that even where one party opposes, ordering a remote hearing in arbitration is admissible and does not constitute a reason to challenge the arbitral tribunal. This decision must be regarded as a precedential landmark decision as it appears to be the first decision of any supreme court worldwide to tackle this issue.

Supreme Court specifies reasoning standards for awards
  • Austria
  • 08 October 2020

Under longstanding Supreme Court case law, defective reasoning did not previously constitute a severe enough violation of procedural public policy to set aside an award. However, in recent years, the court has reversed this trend and repeatedly held that non-adherence to certain reasoning standards in arbitral awards can be a ground to set aside an award. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has provided further guidance on the required reasoning standards for awards.

Supreme Court scrutinises decision awarding costs to losing party
  • Austria
  • 16 July 2020

The Supreme Court recently considered whether a final arbitral award on the reimbursement of costs violated Austrian public policy. The claimant had ultimately succeeded in the arbitration conducted under the rules of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce. Nevertheless, the cost decision ordered it to reimburse the respondent's costs. The Supreme Court dismissed the claimant's request to set aside the cost decision.

Supreme Court takes strict stance on conflict of interest
  • Austria
  • 16 January 2020

The Supreme Court recently considered whether the fact that an arbitrator and a party counsel in one arbitration acted as co-counsel in another unrelated arbitration cast doubt on the arbitrator's independence and impartiality and thus disqualified him from acting as arbitrator in the arbitration under review. In its decision, the court correctly acknowledged the reality of the Austrian arbitration scene, which results in frequent contact between practitioners.


Employment & Immigration

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
New legal framework for working from home
  • Austria
  • 03 March 2021

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government commissioned the so-called 'social partners' (ie, the Chamber of Commerce representing employers and labour unions acting on behalf of employees) to negotiate and present a bill on working from home that Parliament can pass into law as the new standard on the matter. The new framework will cover various issues – from contractual provisions and co-determination by works councils to recommendations on occupational safety.

Competitive actions by employees through intermediaries: imputation of liability and restrictive covenants
  • Austria
  • 04 November 2020

Under Section 7 of the Employment Act, employees cannot, while employed and without their employer's consent, operate a commercial business or conclude commercial transactions in their employer's line of business. In a recent case, the Supreme Court had to decide whether the statutory prohibition also covers such competitive actions by employees through intermediaries or whether only the employees themselves have the standing to be sued by their employer.

Supreme Court rules on compensation for illegal GPS tracking
  • Austria
  • 16 September 2020

The Supreme Court recently ruled for the first time on the issue of whether GPS tracking without an employee's consent warrants compensation for immaterial damage. Employers that use GPS tracking systems or similar control measures to monitor their staff should ensure that they agree the system's introduction with the works council or have each affected employee expressly consent to such a measure if no works council has been elected.

Supreme Court rules on formal requirements for dismissal challenge
  • Austria
  • 22 July 2020

The Supreme Court recently clarified the legal implications of one particular scenario of dismissal challenges: if a works council expressly objects to an employee's dismissal (as opposed to expressly consents or fails to make a statement), the right to challenge the dismissal rests with the works council, but only if the employee, within one week of such objection, requests the works council to act accordingly and file a lawsuit.

Continued remuneration during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Austria
  • 13 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employers to use various methods to support employees and maintain business performance. Old and new legal remedies provide for continued payment of salaries (and in some cases also corresponding grants to employers) if performance of work is impossible. This article outlines the routes that employers and employees can take where normal working is impossible, such as sick leave and care leave to look after sick children.


Intellectual Property

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Refill products infringe trademark
  • Austria
  • 19 April 2021

The Supreme Court recently held that selling refill products for a dispenser that is manufactured by another party without indicating that the refill product is not produced by the dispenser's manufacturer constitutes trademark infringement. The decision clarifies that parties must label refill products to prevent the relevant public (ie, the users of the refill product) thinking that the manufacturer of the refill product is also the manufacturer of the dispenser.

Flashlight decision illuminates compensation guidelines for unlawful use of IP rights
  • Austria
  • 22 April 2019

The Supreme Court recently had to decide whether the infringer of a registered Community design had to hand over the entire net profit or just a share of profit earned due to its use of an infringed design. The decision has great practical importance, as it gives IP rights holders clear guidelines regarding what to expect when claiming compensation for an unlawful use of their rights.

Dispenser for free newspapers – work of art?
  • Austria
  • 17 December 2018

The Supreme Court recently set out clear principles regarding the protection of a work of visual art under the Copyright Act where technical functions played a role. In its decision, the court explained that the assessment as to whether a (visual) piece of work is actually protected by copyright must be assessed by the court as a legal issue only. There is no room to consider the opinion of experts or any other third parties.

Exhaustion of trademark rights and burden of proof
  • Austria
  • 03 September 2018

The Supreme Court recently clarified the circumstances in which the burden of proof regarding the exhaustion of trademark rights shifts from the defendant to the trademark owner. It made clear that unless the defendant can prove a concrete risk of partitioning markets, it is up to the defendant to prove that the trademark rights relied on by the plaintiff are exhausted. This should be borne in mind when raising this defence.

Selective distribution systems and exhaustion of trademark rights
  • Austria
  • 04 June 2018

The Supreme Court recently affirmed once more that the exemptions to the principle of exhaustion of trademark rights must be construed narrowly. In its decision, the court made clear that once trademark rights are exhausted, resellers may use not only word marks, but also figurative marks without any limitations when advertising or reselling original products.


Real Estate

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
COVID-19 and commercial leases – new court decisions
  • Austria
  • 26 March 2021

To date, there have been three COVID-19-related lockdowns in Austria. During each of these periods, the customer area of shops had to be closed to the public, except for certain essential retail stores. Restaurants could offer takeaway and delivery services only and hotels were shut subject to certain exceptions. This situation has created significant uncertainty regarding tenants' right to claim a COVID-19-related rent reduction. The Austrian courts recently issued two new decisions on this matter.

COVID-19 and commercial leases – one year on
  • Austria
  • 12 March 2021

Two lower court decisions have confirmed tenants' right to claim a COVID-19-related rent reduction in general. However, both decisions must be read carefully and leave many questions unanswered, particularly in cases where shops made or could have made limited use of their premises during the national lockdowns by offering online delivery or click and collect services. In addition, state aid may affect rent reductions. This uncertainty has led to many mutual agreements in the market.

COVID-19 measures may entitle tenants to rent reductions
  • Austria
  • 03 April 2020

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the government has ordered all shops and service providers, except those providing certain vital services, to close to customers from 17 March 2020 until 13 April 2020. The closure of shops may entitle tenants to reduced rent and ancillary costs. However, it does not entitle tenants to terminate their lease for cause. This article sets out guidance for affected tenants and landlords.

Supreme Court redefines location surcharge in rent control leases
  • Austria
  • 18 October 2019

In early 2019 the Supreme Court passed three decisions confirming and clarifying its 2017 decision which had limited landlords' right to request a location surcharge for rent-controlled apartments in desirable neighbourhoods. Based on the court's judgment, approximately 100,000 apartments no longer qualify for the location surcharge. However, the court's vague criteria for determining whether a neighbourhood is considered above or below average leave scope to include additional indicators.

Vienna Building Code: new provision renders short-term letting illegal
  • Austria
  • 31 May 2019

A new provision in the Vienna Building Code recently entered into force, rendering short-term letting – including through rental services such as Airbnb – illegal in large areas of Vienna. Further, under the new provision, all parts of residential zone buildings that were being used for residential purposes when the provision entered into force – or were built thereafter – may be used only for residential purposes. That said, the new provision may be unconstitutional.


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