Legal Environment

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


Business Contract

General Observation
Contract is considered seriously in Belgium, as much as for other European countries.
Law Applicable to the Contract
Vienna Convention on international contracts
Advisable Incoterms
Ex-work or FOB
Language of Domestic Contract
French or Dutch
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
All foreign laws but only if specified on the contract only. Note that in most of the case, if there is any foreign law, it is Swiss law.

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI)
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
National law
20 years Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Trademark Law
10 years, renewable if the product is put on the market within 5 years Trademark Law Treaty
Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks
Belgian law
Maximum 25 years  
Belgian law
70 years from the death of the author 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
Beneluw law
5 years, can be renewed twice  

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
Foreign nationals in the country can expect, to a large extent, a free and fair trial from the judiciary. There have been reports of a certain degree of racial and ethnic intolerance. Corruption is limited in Belgium.
The Language of Justice
The language utilised depends on the city and region. It can be French, Flemish or German.
Recourse to an Interpreter
It is recommended to ask your embassy/consulate in order to get a list of interpreters recognised by Belgian Government.
Legal Similarities
The judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic Code, the Civil Code (in French) and the Constitution.
For further information, consult the Belgian law website

The Different Legal Codes

Accounting Law The Law of July 17, 1975, royal decrees and the recommendations of the Accounting Principles Committee as well as the Code des sociétés (Companies Code).
Contract and Property Law Civil Code
Customs Law Customs and Excises Code
Companies Law The Civil Code and bilateral agreements
Labour Law Labour Law
Checking National Laws Online
Federal Public Service of Justice (in Dutch)

The Jurisdictions

Court of Appeal Hears appeals against decisions of the Court of First Instance and the Commercial Court. There are five Courts of Appeal in Belgium.
Court of Assize It is the name of criminal courts. These courts seat in each of the ten provinces and in the judicial arrondissement of Brussels.

Court Officials

Avocat (Lawyer/Barrister)
The lawyer's first role is to inform his clients about their rights and obligations. Then he can represent them in court and make a speech for the defense.
Expert judiciaire (Legal expert)
A judge appoints a duly authorized professional who will review information in order to clarify certain elements of a case.
Greffier (Clerk of the Court)
All during the procedure, he will write down the exchanges, declarations and observations.
Huissier (Bailiff)
He is a legal officer responsible for serving legal process and for enforcing court decisions.
Juge (Judge)
He is the one who decides if the law has been broken or not, as well as the penalties which ensue.
Public Prosecutor
He is a magistrate who represents the Prosecution in the county court (tribunal de grande instance).

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International Dispute Resolution

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method.  The parties agree to submit their disagreement to an arbitral tribunal composed of one to three people. On the basis of the request of the parties, the tribunal will render a decision, an arbitral award that is obligatory. This award can be enforced if needed.
Arbitration Law
The Belgian judicial code.
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 Appointments Committee will take into account more particularly the availability, the qualifications and the ability of the arbitrator to conduct the arbitration. Where the parties have agreed to settle their dispute through a sole arbitrator, they may appoint him by mutual consent. When it has been agreed to appoint three arbitrators, each party shall nominate its arbitrator. More information on the website of Belgian Center for Mediation and Arbitration.
Arbitration Procedure
Complete procedures are available on the website of Belgian Center for Mediation and Arbitration.
Permanent Arbitration Bodies
Brussels Mediation Center

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Latest Update: July 2024