Legal Environment

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In this page: Business Contract | Intellectual Property | Legal Framework of Business | International Dispute Resolution


Business Contract

General Observation
In English (common) law, there are 3 key elements to the creation of a contract: these are offer and acceptance, consideration and an intention to create legal relations. See an overview by following this link.
Law Applicable to the Contract
You must be particularly vigilant about the law applicable to the contract and the methods of conflict resolution. Indeed, the UK is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on International Contracts. Click here to visualize the list of signatory countries.
Advisable Incoterms
Language of Domestic Contract
English. It can be translated, but will then often include a clause stating that the English version will prevail for all interpretation purposes.

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
The UK Intellectual Property Office, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Government web page Intellectual property and your work offers useful tips on protecting intellectual property.
Regional Organisations
Since 1 February  2020, the United Kingdom has withdrawn from the European Union and has become a “third country”. The Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transition period ending on 31 December  2020. Since the end of the transition period, the EU rules in the field of European Union trade marks and Community designs, in particular Regulation (EU) 2017/10017 and Regulation (EC) No 6/20028, no longer apply to the United Kingdom. For more information, visit the website of EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).
Brexit will have no consequence on UK membership of the European Patent Organisation, nor on the effect of European patents in the UK. For more information, visit the website of EPO.
International Membership
Member of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Signatory to the Paris Convention For the Protection of Intellectual Property
Membership to the TRIPS agreement - Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

National Regulation and International Agreements

Type of property and law Validity International Agreements Signed
Patent Act
20 years Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Trademarks Act
10 years Trademark Law Treaty
Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks
Design Act
5 years  
Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988
70 years except for typographical arrangements, where it is 25 years. Berne convention For the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms
Rome ConventionFor the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations
WIPO Copyright Treaty
WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

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Legal Framework of Business

The information in this section is subject to change and regular updating during the UK's post-Brexit transition period. We will publish the updated information as soon as it becomes available.

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
Equal treatment is guaranteed under the law.
The Language of Justice
Recourse to an Interpreter
In case of penal action, an interpreter should be made available for individuals who do not speak or understand English sufficiently. Interpreters should be registered with the NRPSI (National Register of Public Service Interpreters).
Legal Similarities
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy. In the absence of a written constitution, the main source of the law in the country is the common law with early Roman and modern continental influences. Scotland has a separate legal system. The UK accepts compulsory ICJ (International Court of Justice) jurisdiction but with reservations.
As a former member of the European Union, the UK has conveyed into the British Law a considerable amount of the European legislation. Nevertheless starting January 31st 2020, the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the country will no more incorporate new EU legislation into its national law. For the detail on possible future changes in the company law and civil law, taking effect from 1 January 2021 following the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the end of the transition period please consult the European Commission's ‘BREXIT READINESS CHECKLIST’ FOR COMPANIES DOING BUSINESS WITH THE UK.

The Different Legal Codes

English Criminal Code Criminal Law Act of 1977
Checking National Laws Online
British Law - Community information site for citizens and small businesses
Other Useful Resources
Public Services
The Law Society International Division
Country Guides
LexMundi, A guide to doing business in the UK compiled by MMS

The Jurisdictions

House of Lords The House of Lords is the final court of appeal in all matters under English law, Welsh law and Northern Irish law.
Court of Appeal Criminal Division and Civil Division.
High Court Queen's Bench Division; Administrative Court; Family Division; Divisional Court; Chancery Division; Divisional Court.
Crown Court Trials of indictable offences, appeals from magistrates' courts, cases for sentences.
Magistrates' Courts Trials of summary offences, committals to the Crown Court, family proceedings courts and youth courts.
County Courts Majority of civil litigation subject to nature of the claim.
Tribunals Hear appeals from decisions on immigration, social security, child support, pensions, tax and lands.

Court Officials

They are high-level lawyers appointed by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of their competences and personal reputation.
Justices of the Peace from Magistrates' Courts)
Professionals such as teachers, entrepreneurs, who carry out their duties part-time, assisted by Clerks to the Justices who advise them on legal procedures.
Solicitors look after the legal preparation of the case, which includes the analysis of the facts and the identification of relevant documents. They advise their clients on applicable regulations and alternative modes of conflict resolution, prepare conclusions and liaise with the other party's solicitor. They are the client's main contact.
In recent years, the distinction between solicitors and barristers has been broken down and certain solicitors are now allowed to appear as advocates in higher courts, as long as they have been authorized to do so by the relevant authority.
Notaries Public
Notaries public undertake work for private individuals, and for commercial firms engaged in international trade.

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International Dispute Resolution

Arbitration Law
The main goals of the Arbitration Act 1996 were to provide a clear and accessible statement of the law; to limit judicial involvement in the arbitral process and to limit rights of appeal against arbitral awards.
To the extent that the Arbitration Act differs from the UNCITRAL Model Law, most of these differences can be opted out of by the parties.  They do not, therefore, significantly constrain party autonomy.  At a practical level, it is important for the parties to be aware of the flexibility of the Arbitration Act so that they are best positioned to craft the optimal arbitration procedure for the contract and subject matter at hand.
Conformity to International Commercial Arbitration Rules
Party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Party to the Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses.
Party to the Geneva Convention of the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Appointment of Arbitrators
The parties are free to agree on the procedure for appointing the arbitrator or arbitrators. See paragraph 16 (Part I) of the Arbitration Act 1996.
Arbitration Procedure
Within certain bounds, the parties are free to agree the arbitral process they choose and the evidence that will be used in the procedure.
Permanent Arbitration Bodies
The Academy of Experts (Sectors Covered: The Professional Body for Expert Witnesses.)
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIARB) (Sectors Covered: A recognized world leader in providing training and qualifications in Arbitration, Mediation and Adjudication.)
The London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) (Sectors Covered: Maritime arbitration)
FALCA (Sectors Covered: Fast and Low Cost Arbitration)
The Society of Construction Arbitrators (Sectors Covered: Construction Dispute Resolution)
 London Court of International Arbitration (Sectors Covered: International arbitration)
International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration (Sectors Covered: International commercial arbitration)
 Stock Exchange Panel on Takeovers and Mergers (Sectors Covered: Takeover bid disputes)

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Latest Update: July 2024