Legal Environment

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


Business Contract

General Observation
The role and responsibility of the vendor (including methods of quality control and packaging details) should be clearly mentioned.
Law Applicable to the Contract
The Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations, Rome 1980 (EVÜ) applies to contractual obligations involving a choice between the laws of different countries.
Advisable Incoterms
Choose CIF or FOB.
Language of Domestic Contract
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
The Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations, Rome 1980 (EVÜ) applies to contractual obligations involving a choice between the laws of different countries.

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
The national body responsible for the protection of intellectual property is the Austrian Patent Office.
Regional Organisations
For the protection of patents: the European Patent Office (EPO). To control trademarks, designs and models: the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
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 Law (Federal Law No. 259/1970), last amended in 2001.
20 years (maximum). Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Trademark Protection Law (Federal Law No. 260/1970), last amended by in 1999.
10 years (extendible). Trademark Law Treaty
Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks
Semiconductor Protection Right Law 1988 (Federal Law No. 372/88 on the Protection of Topographies of Microelectronic Semiconductor Products), last amended in 1996.
10 years (maximum)  
Federal Act on Copyright in Works of Literature and Act on Related Rights, April 1936, last amendment in 1998.
Generally 70 years after the death of the author of the work. 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
Industrial Models
Designs Law (Federal Law No. 497/1990, June 1990), last amended in 1992.
5 years ( extendible up to 25 years after every 5 years).  

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
Foreign nationals in Austria enjoy treatment at par with the locals from the country's judicial system, including commercial disputes.
The Language of Justice
The judicial language is German which is accepted nationwide, although some of the states also have their own additional official languages.
Recourse to an Interpreter
Legal Similarities
The Austrian laws are based on the constitution of 1920 (revised in 1929 and reinstated in 1945); originating from Roman laws and judicial reviews of legislative acts by the Constitutional Court.
Austria being a member of the European Union, the laws in the country need to comply with the conditions of the Community legislation. Austria accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

The Different Legal Codes

Public Law (Constitutional law) This law has the highest status in the Austrian legal hierarchy. It mainly consists of the fundamental principles mentioned in the Austrian Constitution. However, after Austria's entry into the EU on January 1 1995, the national constitution required a complete alteration. Austrian constitutional law was thus joined with EU law as the most fundamental source of law (Dual-constitution). As a result the EU law takes precedence over domestic Austrian law and the national constitution, but is subordinate to the fundamental principles of the constitution.
Private Law The fundamental principles of the Austrian Private Law originate from the Roman law. The law is divided into general private law applicable to all persons, and specialized forms of civil law, which is applicable only to certain categories such as commercial law for businessmen or employment law for employers and employees. The major part of what is considered general private law is regulated in a comprehensive private law code called the Allgemeine Buergerliche Gesetzbuch (ABGB).
Criminal Law It is a branch of public law that defines criminal acts and sets out the respective criminal penalties.   It is regulated by the Austrian Criminal Law (StGB). The law must, however, comply with the provisions of the constitutional laws which allocate the criminal justice to the courts.
Checking National Laws Online
Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria (RIS) 
Other Useful Resources
Austrian Parliament
Austrian Constitutional Court
Rechtsfreund, Law in Austria
Justline (in German), Laws online
Country Guides
Lex Mundi guide

The Jurisdictions

District Courts There are 140 district courts in the country which act as courts of first instance.
Regional or Land Courts There are 20 regional or Land Courts in Austria which act as courts of first instance in more important cases and as appeal courts vis-à-vis the district courts.
Courts of Appeals There are four courts of appeals which act as courts of second instance and as appeal courts vis-à-vis the regional courts.
Supreme Court There is only one supreme court which acts as court of third instance. It is the highest court of appeal for all civil and criminal matters.

Court Officials

Judges are civil servants appointed by the Federal President. Only Austrian nationals can be appointed as judges. For appointment as a judge, one should have the basic law degree, should have around four years of practicing experience in various courts and should also pass the ‘judicial office examination’.
Public prosecutors
Public prosecutors are also appointed by the Federal President. Only those who satisfy the requirements for appointment as a judge and who have practiced for at least one year as a judge at a court or as a public prosecutor can be appointed as a public prosecutor. A further requirement for being appointed is to be an Austrian national.

The criminal and civil responsibility of public prosecutors is regulated in the same way as in the case of the judges.
Registrars are specially trained court officials to whom the handling of specifically circumscribed business in civil matters at first instance has been transferred on the basis of the Austrian Federal Constitutional Act (Section 87(a) B-VG) and the Austrian Registrars Act (Rechtspflegergesetz). In this function, the registrars are subordinate only to the judge who is their respective line manager and are bound only by that judge’s instructions, which in practice are given extremely rarely.

For being appointed as a registrar, the relevant person must work in the court office for at least two years and must pass the court office examination intended for court office employees and as the specialist service examination.

Attorneys at law
No official appointment is required to practice as an attorney at law in Austria. Any person wishing to enter the profession of attorney at law must spend at least nine months at court as a legal trainee (court practice) and three years at the office of an Austrian attorney at law as a candidate attorney at law. In total, it is necessary to prove five years’ legal professional work and that the attorney at law examination has been passed. The attorney at law examination can be taken after practical employment for three years, of which at least nine months are spent at a court and at least two years at the office of an attorney at law.

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International Dispute Resolution

Arbitration courts in Austria offer swift and efficient low-cost settlement of civil- and trade law disputes.
Disputes arising out of or in connection with a contract may only be resolved by arbitration if the parties by prior written agreement have agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration. This is also in accordance with the ICC Rules of Arbitration and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce Rules of Arbitration.
Arbitration Law
Austrian Arbitration Act -2005 (based on UNCITRAL Model Law on International Arbitration).
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 law does not permit an even number of arbitrators. However if the arbitrating parties agreed on an even number of arbitrators the arbitrators have to appoint a presiding person.

In case the parties fail to agree on the number of arbitrators three arbitrators will be appointed. The defendant and plaintiff parties each nominate one arbitrator, and the chairman is selected by these two arbitrators.

Arbitration Procedure
It depends on the procedure laid in the contract/agreement between the two parties.

Arbitral awards are enforceable just like other court judgments. Only in certain special cases is an arbitral award subject to attack in courts of law.

Permanent Arbitration Bodies
ICC International Court of Arbitration. (Sectors Covered: General)

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Latest Update: February 2024