Legal Environment

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


Business Contract

General Observation
All contracts, irrespective of their format and language in which they are drafted, are valid and will produce an obligation and lawsuit, as soon as their existence is accepted by one of the methods provided for by the Civil Code.
Law Applicable to the Contract
Civil Code, articles 1475 and what follows
Advisable Incoterms
CIF or CFR. Since Spanish transporters have particularly competitive prices, some customers work in EXW.
Language of Domestic Contract
Spanish or co-official regional languages: Catalan, Basque, Galician.
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
That of the non-Spanish party.

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
Oficina Espanola de Patentes y Marcas for patents and trademark registrations.
Intellectual Property Central Registry
The competencies related to intellectual property were transferred to the Autonomous Communities which have their own registry, in coordination with the Intellectual Property Central Registry.
Regional Organisations
OEB, European Patent's Office,
EUIPO European Union Intellectual Property Office
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
« Ley de patentes » (11/1986 of March 20)
20 years
« Ley de marcas » (17/2001 of December 7)
10 year protection, renewable by 10 year periods. Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks
« Ley de protección Jurídica del Diseño Industrial » 20/2003 of July 7)
5 year protection, renewable for 5 year periods, up to 25 years maximum.  
Royal Legislative Order 1/1995 of April 12
lifetime of the author plus 70 years after his death. WIPO Copyright Treaty
Industrial Models
Royal Law-Order of July 26, 1929
20 years  

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
Foreign nationals can expect an impartial proceeding in judicial matters.
The Language of Justice
Recourse to an Interpreter
Possible but only those selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Legal Similarities
Spanish laws' foundations are in the 1978 Constitution, then in the Community Directives from 1986. The judicial system of the county is based on a civil right system with regional variations. Spain accepts the mandatory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with reservations.

The Different Legal Codes

Penal Code Law 10/1995, of November 23
Contracts and ownership law Civil Code of 1889
Customs law European Customs Code,
Customs Laws (in Spanish)
Commercial Law Commercial Law of 1885
Company law Commercial Law of 1885,
Law 2/1995 on Limited Liability Companies,
Law 12/2015 on Cooperatives ,
Order on Public Limited Companies,
Law on Unfair Competition
Labor law Constitution of 1978,
Law 8/1980 of March 10 on Workers' Status
Law 31/1995 of November 8 on Prevention of Work-Related Risks
Law 11/1985 of August 2 on Freedom of Association
Consumer rights Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007 on Consumer Protection
Checking National Laws Online
1978 Constitution in English
Other Useful Resources
BOE, Spanish Official bulletin
Todalaley, Official bulletins of autonomous communities and provinces
Country Guides
Country Guide Lexmundi

The Jurisdictions

Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court)
Higher legal body.
Audiencia nacional (National Court) Appellate court, Higher Criminal Court, Higher court for contentious administrative affairs (terrorism, falsification of money and organized crimes).
Tribunales superiores de Justicia (Higher Courts of Justice) Regional Supreme Courts
Audiencias provinciales (Provincial Courts) Civil (Magistrates' Court) and criminal (inquiry, penal, minors, prison follow-up) affairs
Juzgados de Primera Instancia e Instrucción (Magistrate's and initial inquiry courts) "Flagrante delicto" and Registry Office.
Juzgados de lo Mercantil (Commercial courts) Litigations related to business law.
Juzgados de lo Penal (Penal courts) Cases for which imprisonment is less than 5 years and other punishments are less than 10 years.
Juzgados de lo Contencioso-Administrativo (Administrative courts)
Disputes related to the operations of Administration, authorizing house searches.
Juzgados de lo Social (Labor Courts) Disputes related to work or social security.
Juzgados de Vigilancia Penitenciaria (Imprisonment Execution Courts) Imprisonment application (except for minors)
Juzgados de Menores (Juvenile Courts) Offences committed by minors between 14 and 18 years and in certain cases, majors between 18 and 21 years.
Juzgados de Violencia sobre la Mujer (Courts for handling crimes against women) Apart from what their name indicates, these are family courts in a broad sense.
Juzgados de Paz (Justices of peace) The justices of these courts are not professionals but are major citizens, enjoying civic rights and having a clean criminal record. They handle "neighborhood" problems, animal protection, etc.
Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Court) Judge of the constitutional nature of the legislative texts voted by the State or the Regions. Handles all the jurisdiction conflicts between the state and the Autonomous Communities.
Tribunal de Cuentas (Audit Office) Monitoring the economic and financial activity of the state. Each Autonomous Community has a similar regional court.

Court Officials

Prosecutor (tax)
Defends the interests of the company according to the laws.
Lawyer (abogado)
Prepares the case file to defend his client.
Attorney (procurador)
Works with the lawyer. Represents his client before the court. Stands in for the person subject to trial when he cannot come to the court.
Judge (juez)
Decides if there has been a violation or not as well as the sanctions.

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International Dispute Resolution

Arbitration is making progress in the conflict resolution method as an alternative to the legal route thanks to its reduced cost and duration (maximum 6 months) compared to the Courts. Arbitration is not used for industrial or labor disputes and for all cases for which there is already a court ruling.
Arbitration Law
Law 60/2003 of December 23 on 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 parties can freely fix the number of arbitrators (always an odd number). Each arbitration entity proposes lists from which the arbitrators are appointed. The arbitrators are mostly lawyers.
Arbitration Procedure
The procedure can vary from one Arbitration Court to another. In general:
- An application must be filed with the Arbitration body for the case and place. This arbitration body has 15 days to respond.
2 types of arbitration: equitably (according to the arbitrator's knowledge) or in legal terms (according to the laws in force, arbitrators have to practicing lawyers).

- An arbitration body (college) is then formed with a President appointed by the administration and minimum one arbitrator is assign to each party.

- The body (College) then summons the parties for a hearing in order to present their grievances and the proofs.
It then pronounces its sentence. In the event of agreement during the course of arbitration, the College ratifies it by a sentence equivalent to the agreement.
- The recourses possible against an arbitration sentence are the Cancellation Recourse (filed within 2 months at the Departmental Court of Justice) or Revision Recourse which follows the same course as the firm legal sentences.
Permanent Arbitration Bodies
Spanish arbitration court (Sectors Covered: commercial)
Civil and Commercial Arbitration Court (Sectors Covered: Civil and Commercial Law)
Arbitration and Mediation Community Association (Sectors Covered: contracts, defense of companies and professionals)
Juntas arbitrales
(Sectors Covered: Consumer court)

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Latest Update: April 2024