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Commercial

Family buy-out – capital reduction?

Shares in a private company are unlikely to be readily saleable. Indeed, there are often restrictions on sale. The end result is that family members can inherit shares which may have value on paper, but produce very little income if the company does not pay significant and regular dividends.

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Letter of credit – location

The Supreme Court has held that the ‘location’ of a debt due under a letter of credit is the place of residence of the debtor – not where the debt is due to be paid.

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Inventions – employees

Prior to 2005, it was necessary for an employee/inventor to prove that the patent (not just the invention) was of ‘outstanding benefit’ to the employer in order to be able to claim compensation. But, since 2005 employees can claim if the patented invention is of ‘outstanding benefit’ to the employer.

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IP – threats

Businesses and individuals have been given new protection against groundless threats to bring legal action for infringing IP rights (patent, trade mark or design).

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Unquoted shares – valuation

A recent CA decision gives useful guidance on the valuation on unquoted minority shares.

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Trade secrets – employment

These days many small companies prefer to rely upon the law of ‘trade secrets’ rather than go to the expense and complexity of patents and trade marks (unless an item is clearly patentable).  

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EC competition – new joint ventures

The ECJ has held that the creation of a joint venture only requires competition filing and clearance from the EC if it will be a ‘fully functioning’ commercial entity. This is an important change. A JV will only be ‘full function’ if it is a fully functioning market operation (eg it conducts its own commercial policy; it operates independently with its own management running its day-to-day operations; it carries out activities that are more than merely one specific function for the parents of the JV; it is not bound by sales and purchase agreements to its parents).  

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Administration – statutory moratorium

There are three ways in which an insolvency administrator can be appointed: (i) by the court, (ii) by the holder of a qualifying floating charge, or (iii) by the company (or its directors). Note that as between a floating charge and the company, it is the floating charge holder who has priority in making an appointment of an administrator. Accordingly, if a company or its director wants to appoint an administrator they have to give five business days’ written notice of this ‘intention’ to any floating charge holder. That notice of intention then allows the floating charge holder the chance to exercise their right before the company or its directors.

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Debt – winding up

A company’s liquidator can potentially recover any of the company’s property that is transferred after the date on which a winding-up petition is issued. Section 127 IA 1986 makes any disposition of property (eg money) void if it is done after the issue of the winding-up petition.

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Exclusion clause – ‘business common sense’

Ove Arup gave advice on a development site, including advice on asbestos contamination. After purchase, substantial asbestos was found and the developer sued Ove Arup. They, in turn, relied upon an exclusion clause which limited liability for pollution and contamination to £5m. Liability for asbestos was specifically excluded.

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