The beginning of the new year coincided in Italy with coming into force of a new modification of the provisions regulating the territorial competence of the courts having specialized sections for handling lawsuits concerning as a rule intellectual and industrial property.
It is well known that these specialized sections were established in the year 2003 in the Courts of Bari, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Turin, Trieste and Venice, and in March 2012 the competence of these sections was extended to all disputes concerning enterprises, adding other sections for each capital city of regions not comprised in the above list, with the exception of the Aosta valley, and with an additional section in Brescia for Lombardy, thus increasing the number of said specialized sections from 12 to 21.
After twenty months only, the now outgone Letta government decided to modify again the situation, with the intended purpose of enhancing foreign investments and strengthening the reliability of the Italian judicial system, but actually generating a complex situation of treatment disparity even causing doubts of unconstitutionality.
Indeed in the Law Decree 23 December 2013 No. 145 “Urgent measures to start the plan Destination Italy” the following Article 10 was introduced, reciting as follows:
Court for the enterprises with head office abroad
1. To Article 4 of the Law Decree 27 June 2003 No. 168 (the law instituting the original specialized sections) the following amendment is introduced (omissis)
1. bis – For the disputes where one party, even in case of several defendants according to the civil procedural code, is a company established under any form, having the head office abroad, even if having a branch office with stable representation in the national territory, which should be handled by the judiciary offices hereinafter listed, the following sections are competent without possibility of derogation:
1) the specialized section of Bari for the districts of Bari, Lecce, Taranto, Potenza;
2) the specialized section of Cagliari for the districts of Cagliari and Sassari;
3) the specialized section of Catania for the districts of Caltanissetta, Catania, Catanzaro, Messina, Palermo, Reggio Calabria;
4) the specialized section of Genoa for the districts of Bologna, Genoa;
5) the specialized section of Milan for the districts of Brescia, Milan;
6) the specialized section of Naples for the districts of Campobasso, Naples, Salerno;
7) the specialized section of Rome for the districts of Ancona, Florence, L’Aquila, Perugia, Rome;
8) the specialized section of Turin for the districts of Turin;
9) the specialized section of Venice for the districts of Trento, Bolzano, Trieste, Venice.
2. The provisions of this article are applicable to the actions started from the 60th day after coming into force of the present decree (namely as from 22 February 2014).
In few words, the judicial disputes in which foreign persons are involved, either as plaintiff or defendant, must now be handled exclusively in the specialized sections of Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Rome, Turin and Venice, thus drastically reducing the number of sections accessible to foreign persons from 21 to 9, even less than the original 12 sections, excluding very important and experienced courts like Bologna and Florence, two regions very active in the international set.
One can easily imagine that this real revolution will cause significant dissatisfaction not only in the foreign subjects, but also in the domestic enterprises having commercial ties or relations with them, as well as big problems in the practical applicability of this norm, that could lead these disputes to stay, with a result exactly opposite to the proclaimed one.