Franchisors must typically consider the extent of concept protection if franchisees which have left the franchise system reuse the concept in a largely unchanged fashion or if third-party competitors (outside the franchise system) copy the concept's main features. A recent decision concerning a fast-food restaurant franchise reinforces the IP protection of gastronomic concepts against competitors' inadmissible imitations.
Case law from the highest German courts on franchise law matters is rare, which makes a recent Federal Court of Justice decision on the subject of bogus self-employment of franchisees – a perennial issue for franchise law practitioners – even more noteworthy. The case concerned claims for payment under a licence agreement and the question of whether the licence agreement was void due to the franchisee's bogus self-employment.
The Munich Regional Court I recently established a new precedent for competition restriction, which is prohibited in franchising systems under the Act against Restraints on Competition. The court found references to "participating restaurants" in a franchisor's TV advertising insufficient and in violation of the price maintenance prohibition. This decision deserves special attention as it relates to advertising with non-binding price recommendations, which is common among franchisors.
A recent Hamburg Regional Court decision is generally understood to have solidified the first franchise-related court judgment on bad faith regarding mediation clauses rendered by the Saarbruecken Higher Regional Court in 2015. However, at second glance, the Hamburg judgment provides a different reasoning for bad faith regarding a mediation objection and might therefore serve as a new application of bad faith in future franchise-related court proceedings regarding mediation clauses.
The Bochum Regional Court recently looked at whether a franchisee's contractual obligation to operate a business can be enforced by way of an interim injunction. To grant an interim injunction to enforce the obligation to keep the business open, it must be demonstrated that the franchisor faces serious losses at least equivalent to a threat to its survival or to drawbacks that cannot later be remedied.
Tenants in Germany are generally well protected against rent increases in existing tenancies and high rent increases are uncommon; however, a major exception is when flats or houses are modernised. New legislation aims to offer tenants improved protection against abusive practices when modernisation work is announced and carried out and prevent them from being disproportionately burdened by rent hikes due to modernisation.
Federal Court of Justice case law suggests that the parties to a real estate purchase contract can in principle immediately change its content without having to comply with notarial form requirements after the notarial certification of the real estate purchase contract containing the conveyance has been concluded. The court's recent decision in this regard is to be welcomed in the interests of the continuity of its case law and in view of the lower courts' increasingly inconsistent case law in the past.
The Ministers of Finance of the Federal States recently agreed on new real estate transfer tax (RETT) rules for share deals. According to official press releases, a fundamental RETT reform that had been previously discussed was not agreed. Rather, the agreement consists of new RETT rules regarding share deals with a lower threshold, longer holding periods and aligning the rules that are applicable to corporations with those that already apply to partnerships.
Transaction structures involving special purpose vehicles, whose main assets after completion of the purchase process consist only of the purchased real estate, are often chosen in Germany. Such structures are used in particular to shield from liability, so that third-party access to the special purpose vehicle's assets is limited. They are also used to facilitate a sale without incurring real property transfer tax for the exit.