(by Francesca Maculan and Silvia Laitila)

Provisions that entered into force on 22 February 2014 have established exclusive jurisdiction for 11 Specialized IP Divisions in disputes involving companies whose registered office is abroad.

The new rules were introduced by the Decree “Destinazione Italia” (D.L. 145/2013), converted into Law No. 9 of 2014. Article 10 of the Decree amended articles 1 paragraph 1-bis and 4 of Legislative Decree No. 168/2003, and established exclusive jurisdiction for the IP divisions of the courts of Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Rome, Turin, Venice, Trento and Bolzano. The above mentioned venues are the sole competent courts when a party involved is a company whose registered office is abroad and the controversy falls within the jurisdiction of these divisions, namely: intellectual property, antitrust, company law and public contracts.

It is specified in the regulation that the situation does not change whether the company in question is plaintiff or defendant or whether it has an additional office in Italian territory; in these cases the division identified by the Decree will be exclusively competent. Article 10 specifies that the exclusive jurisdiction also applies in joint cases against multiple defendants and involving related matters.

The purpose of the new regulation is to concentrate the disputes involving foreign companies in the few courts that are more easily reached from abroad and to offer the more specific training of specialized judges. The ultimate goal is to attract investment, trying to minimise the difficulties and costs that foreign companies often face in lawsuits related to their activity in Italian territory.

However, on closer inspection, it does not appear so obvious that such legislative choice would always help foreign companies. For example, if a foreign company with a branch in Bologna intended to bring a suit in the field of intellectual property, it would be obliged to turn to the specialized IP division of the Court of Genoa, which is in charge of the territory of Bologna according to article 10. Transfer to a different city could cause the company additional costs (moreover, in the cities in the example, the connections to Genoa are generally worse than those to Bologna, both at a national and international level).

This is a link to article 10 of LD 145/2013, where specialized divisions in charge of each territory are listed.