The Oslo District Court recently ruled in favour of Netfonds Bank AS/Netfonds Livsforsikring AS and ordered the state to pay NKr55 million in damages for failing to comply with its obligations under the EEA Agreement. The case concerned the government's practice of denying licensing to financial institutions which have ownership positions that exceed 25% of their share capital. If it stands, the ruling should result in changes to both administrative practice and the new Financial Institutions Act 2015.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case in which an employee had challenged the lawfulness of a warning issued by their employer. Prior to this case, Norwegian lawyers had generally been of the view that warnings were part of an employer's right of management and that the courts would not try cases challenging such warnings as they have no actual consequence.
The Supreme Court recently concluded that time spent travelling on an employer's orders constitutes working time. This conclusion is in line with a recent European Free Trade Association Court advisory opinion and has ended a four-year legal battle. The judgment will have a broad impact on the Norwegian labour market, as it raises the level of protection available for employees.
A recent European Free Trade Association Court decision found that travel time in itself constitutes working time if the travel is ordered by the employer. Some employers have argued that the inclusion of travel time in the concept of working time may lead to inexpedient results. However, the court did not agree with this argument. Including necessary travel time in the concept of working time is inevitable in order to protect the safety and health of workers.
Zero-hour contracts are particularly controversial in Norway, which is generally known for its high level of employee protection. For example, in early 2017 a district court held that a formal arrangement under which a staffing agency's full-time employees had not received salary payments between assignments was illegal. Further, the government recently issued a discussion document outlining its proposal to amend the Working Environment Act, which is intended to target zero-hour contracts.
The Labour Court rules on matters concerning the establishment, termination and interpretation of collective agreements, as well as on the individual consequences of a breach of a contractual obligation agreed in such agreements. A recent Supreme Court case questioned the Labour Court's jurisdiction to declare an employee's termination invalid, as the collective agreement did not explicitly mention the consequences of a breach of contractual obligations.
Operators and non-operating petroleum licensees on the Norwegian Continental Shelf must establish emergency preparedness and implement measures to deal with any risks to their petroleum activities. Traditionally, this emergency preparedness planning has been directed towards conventional risks, such as non-deliberate accidents and emergencies resulting from human mistakes, technical errors or weather conditions. However, cybersecurity is also becoming a major concern for the oil and gas industry.
An increased number of corporate transactions and mergers have been observed in the oil and gas sector on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) in recent years. Several oil majors and traditional utilities and downstream companies have reduced their presence and broad portfolio sales and swaps of NCS licences have become increasingly common. These changes in trends are highly relevant for the government, which aims to maintain a high level of activity on the NCS.
In 2016 the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announced that in all future corporate transfers subject to ministry approval it would consider requiring security from the seller establishing a secondary liability for future decommissioning costs. The ministry will require any seller of a licensee or of a licensee's parent company to provide an unlimited parent company guarantee. However, questions have been raised about the robustness of the security achieved by the guarantee.
Following the recovery and stabilisation of oil prices, an increasing number of oil companies on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) are looking for new ways to advance developments by cooperating with contractors. Some companies are looking for a stronger commitment from their suppliers and have introduced a cooperation scheme whereby the parties share a greater portion of risk for profit or loss. However, a number of challenges may arise from such contractual structures with regard to NCS projects.
The Borgarting Court of Appeal recently rendered its judgment in a case of major importance for the upstream Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) industry, natural gas buyers in Europe and the Norwegian government. If the judgment becomes final and binding, it will benefit the European gas supply. However, it may be a rude awakening for institutional investors in NCS infrastructure.
Under Norwegian patent law, trials necessary for the completion of an invention have been exempted from inclusion in the prior art even if they were performed in a manner that did not enable the inventor to restrict access to a limited group of people. Consequently, inventions that could have been observed by third parties during a trial prior to the filing of a patent application have been patented. However, a recent Oslo District Court decision may be the beginning of the end for the Nordic trial exemption.
In 2017 the Ministry of Justice issued a consultation memorandum regarding various changes to the IP laws. Among the proposed changes was the new rule regarding reversal of the burden of proof if an allegedly infringed patent is for a process used to obtain a product. Although the ultimate fate of this proposal remains to be seen, it is likely that when enforcing such a patent in future, defendants will bear the burden of proof to show that the patented process is not being used.
Appeals of Norwegian Patent Office (NIPO) decisions used to be handled by a separate NIPO appeals division. However, in 2013 the Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights (KFIR) replaced this division. The motivation for this change was to increase legal certainty through independent review and efficient, trustworthy and user-friendly prosecution of appeals. Now that the KFIR has been active for four years, it is timely to take a closer look at the extent to which these purposes are being fulfilled.
One risk of doing business, particularly for innovative technology companies, is the possible existence of conflicting third-party rights. At the very least, a patent infringement lawsuit can create uncertainty with respect to a company's ability to perform, while the worst case scenario includes injunctions, damages and possible bankruptcy. While numerous options for handling a threat of this kind exist in Norway, going directly to the courts may be particularly advantageous.
Patents and information security have always been connected and, as such, a company cannot have a well-implemented IP rights strategy if it does not consider information security. By approaching information security as a tool to protect intellectual property, companies are better placed to implement the correct measures and contingency plans and secure and extract value from their intellectual property more efficiently.
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has set aside a Court of Appeal decision which concluded that the Norwegian courts have jurisdiction under the Lugano Convention in a direct action concerning a ship collision in the Singapore Strait. The decision provides welcome clarification to liability insurers across Europe, as it sets out that the Lugano Convention is a self-contained and exclusive code governing matters relating to insurance.
In 2014 the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority commenced an audit of the Norwegian International Ship Register. Subsequently, the EFTA Surveillance Authority opened a case against Norway for a possible breach of the European Economic Area Agreement. The case concerned a geographical trade limitation applicable to ships flying the flag of the Norwegian International Ship Register.
A recent Agder Court of Appeal decision regarding remuneration for towage of the vessel Kvitnos underscores that where commercial terms have been discussed, a party wishing to claim a salvage award should expressly reserve its rights to do so. The case also illustrates that oral agreements may give rise to disputes when parties have divergent impressions of what has been agreed, especially in distressed situations where time is of the essence and information is scarce.
In some transactions, a non-Norwegian company may wish to register its ship with the Norwegian International Ship Register. This can be done only if the ship is managed by a shipping company that has its head office in Norway. This requirement has a bearing on the contractual structures and financing schemes that can be put in place and also raises issues concerning enforcement.
The Supreme Court recently clarified a number of unsettled issues that will have an impact on other wreck removal cases, including whether vessel owners can use their right to limit liability as a defence against a wreck removal order. Among other things, the decision has clarified the highly disputed interpretation of the relationship between owners' duty to take action and their right to limit liability.