New Irish Commercial Court Meets Expectations 

January, 2006 - Liam Kennedy Anne Bateman

The new Irish Commercial Court is living up to expectations by providing a fast and effective means of resolving commercial disputes. A&L Goodbody recently secured for a full hearing within two days of a case being accepted by the Court. The matter involved an arbitrator's referral of a point of law. The speed as well as the terms of decision were crucial in protecting the client's interest. A&L Goodbody also acted for the first applicant in intellectual property proceedings in the Commercial Court. The case concerns the intellectual property rights in a certain internationally renowned singer-songwriter's work. A jurisdiction hearing is pending in the case. Meanwhile, in another first, A&L Goodbody successfully applied to have the first Unregistered Community Design Right proceedings brought before the Court. On 8 September the proceedings were transferred to the Commercial List and a trial is anticipated later this year Another example of the range of cases which can be brought before the Court is a challenge to legislation regulating the marketing and sale of tobacco products. A&L Goodbody represents a group including leading Irish and European tobacco companies challenging Irish legislation banning tobacco advertising on constitutional, European Convention on Human Rights and EU law grounds. The legislation was enacted on 11 March 2004. Complicated pleadings were quickly exchanged and the case was scheduled for trial in October 2004. That trial date has been vacated (and the implementation of the legislation stayed) pending the State's appeal of a preliminary ruling limiting the evidence required at trial. These and other cases show the impact of the Commercial Court has since it started work in January 2004. It aimed to resolve commercial cases effectively, efficiently and quickly. Once a case enters the commercial list, it faces a rigorous pre-trial procedure to narrow the issues and get it to trial. (In a pre-trial application in the tobacco advertising litigation the State sought leave to introduce wide-ranging factual and expert evidence. A&L Goodbody and their clients successfully opposed this, arguing that such issues were not relevant and would greatly lengthen and complicate the proceedings. The Supreme Court will now adjudicate on whether the Commercial Court was correct to refuse to allow wide ranging evidence to be adduced). The Court's track record from its first months of operation is impressive. All cases that initially came before it are reported to have either settled after close of pleadings, or to have been disposed of by the Court well ahead of the ordinary timeframe. Some cases were decided within weeks of their transfer to the Court. This is partly due to the Court's ability to manage the cases, and penalize defaulting parties. Procedures resemble those of the English Commercial Court, but with important differences. For example parties are not compelled to mediate although the Court can adjourn cases to facilitate alternative dispute resolution. The Court cannot fine lawyers for any delays. The Court's jurisdiction is mainly in relation to cases with at least €1 million at stake. Intellectual property and passing off cases can be considered irrespective of their financial threshold. The Court can accept other cases. Commercial Court litigants have to work harder and incur costs more quickly than in traditional litigation. Failure to meet deadlines is given short shrift. The court dishes out "on the spot" fines. Commercial Court litigants need to be ready to meet the more exacting timetables and pleading requirements but the reward is that the dispute should be resolved far more quickly and effectively than in other Courts. The early days of the Commercial Court suggests that it is living up to the expectation that it will provide a fast and effective means of resolving commercial disputes.



WSG Member: Please login to add your comment.