Trade and distribution in Germany
Baker McKenzie provides a broad range of trade and distribution law advice to a number of well-known national and international companies including Amazon, Daimler and Esprit. The team of three partners led by Ulf Wauschkuhn frequently drafts distribution agreements and structures distribution channels. Another focus is handling sales antitrust compliance projects. Katharina Spenner is particularly experienced in the field of sports equipment. She advised Amer Sports on contract and distribution law matters relating to the Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Mavic, Enve and Suunto brands. Johannes Teichmann focuses on the automotive sector and counts MAN Truck & Bus among his clients. On the contentious side, a highlight was representing Novartis Pharma in distribution disputes.
CMS’ strength lies in commercial agent and authorised dealer matters as well as in advising on framework supply agreements and selective distribution systems. The group is also experienced in distribution antitrust law and is well versed in assisting with matters touching upon IP and trade mark law. Gerald Gräfe recently advised a German car manufacturer on the development of an area-wide charging infrastructure; the instruction included advice on entering into distribution agreements, the drafting of a framework purchase agreement for components as well as negotiations with more than 50 suppliers. Another highlight in the automotive sector was assisting Chinese car manufacturer Geely with the digital distribution of vehicles; practice head Robert Budde led advice on this matter. The group also represents Italian brand eyewear manufacturer and long-term client Safilo and its German sales subsidiary against claims arising from the termination of the license agreement with Gucci.
The team at Hogan Lovells International LLP stands out for its combination of expertise in commercial and distribution law as well as its regulatory know-how; an area of particular expertise is the automotive sector. Practice head Patrick Ayad advised an automobile manufacturer on three different projects relating to innovative distribution models and the market launch of new products in the areas of parts distribution, electromobility and shared services. The group also assisted Hyundai Motor Europe with purchasing and distribution issues, including the revision of model contract documentation for dealers and service partners, distribution antitrust support and representation in distribution litigation. Other areas of focus are the consumer goods, food and life sciences sectors, where Thomas Salomon usually takes the lead. Florian Unseld and Arne Thiermann joined the partnership.
Noerr’s core areas of expertise include advising on questions of distributor and commercial agency law, as well as the development of distribution systems, often in the franchise segment. Karsten Metzlaff is regarded as an expert in the last-mentioned area and also advises on matters touching upon antitrust law. He assisted CleverShuttle with franchising licences for ride-sharing passenger transport. Other highlights include assisting Audi Business Innovations with the establishment and introduction of a Europe-wide online car rental platform and advising on distribution issues for Boehringer Ingelheim’s veterinary medicine division, which included the drafting of cross-border supply contracts. Practice head Karl Rauser, automotive expert Albin Ströbl and Tom Billing, who counts Kieser Training, HeyCar and OBI among his clients, are other names to note.
‘Reliable and practice-oriented advice’, ‘quick responses’ and ‘a very good feel for the industry’ define Taylor Wessing’s trade and distribution practice. The group, which is led by Martin Rothermel, acts for numerous well-known companies including Condé Nast Verlag, Fresenius, Galeria Kaufhof and Leoni on the full range of trade and distribution law matters. Peter Hofbauer counts Suzuki as a core client: during the research period, he handled cooperation agreements, revised dealer and logistics agreements and represented the client in various litigation proceedings. Heiko Franke’s Düsseldorf team assisted clothing company Hanesbrands with reviewing distribution agreements. The group was recently strengthened by the addition of Volker Herrmann, who joined from Squire Patton Boggs. The number of partners was further increased by the promotion of Jan Andresen and Michael Kieffer.
The ‘reactive’ team at Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH ‘thinks outside the box’ and ‘always takes economic aspects into account’. The group has expertise in the automotive sector, an area in which it frequently acts for car manufacturers on matters touching upon competition law. It also further expanded its reach in the textile industry and now counts Olymp Benzer, Vaude Sport and Schöffel Sportbekleidung as clients. Anne Caroline Wegner advised various printing press dealers on competition and distribution law matters regarding an exclusive distribution agreement with a printing press manufacturer. One of Steffen Gaber’s highlights was assisting Gemeinnützige Werkstätten und Wohnstätten with the product launch and the establishment of a national and international dealer network for eBikes.
Osborne Clarke’s work mostly relates to digital distribution issues, where it uses its expertise in the areas of data protection, IP and antitrust law. It advises on selective distribution systems for numerous brand manufacturers including Dyson, Samsonite and Tupperware. Uwe Brossette assisted @MyHome Lingerie Styling with building a new distribution system that combines online and home party distribution and practice head Carsten Dau, who is recognised for his ‘strong expertise’ and ‘an eye for detail’, advised an automotive manufacturer on drafting importer and service agreements for car distribution. One of Daniel Stein’s main clients is Bose: he recently acted on the revision of standard dealer agreements as part of a selective distribution system and represented the client in litigation.
Clients particularly value DLA Piper’s ‘good business acumen, high industry knowledge and balanced price-performance ratio’. The team works in close cooperation with the corporate and M&A teams. For Domino’s Pizza, for example, the group revised franchise agreements as part of the acquisition of the Hallo Pizza group and assisted BASF with chemicals supply contracts relating to the planned acquisition of Solvay. The team, which is led by Thilo von Bodungen, was bolstered by the arrival of counsel Enno Ahlenstiel from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Michael Holzhäuser left for Ashurst LLP and Thomas Jansen is now part of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek.
Gleiss Lutz covers a broad range of issues, including the design and development of purchasing and distribution structures, the drafting of distribution agreements, the enforcement and defence of claims in contractual, liability and commercial disputes, and the development of compliance systems. One of the practice’s main strengths is handling matters touching upon a broad range of legal areas: antitrust law, IP, IT and data protection are among its strengths. Eric Wagner, Ulrich Denzel and Ingo Brinker are recommended.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s expertise consists of advisory capacities in distribution, corporate, IP and IT law. Rolf Trittmann is particularly visible in the automotive sector, where he leads representation of various group companies of a German car manufacturer in a dispute over distribution rights in Iran; he also acts for an international car manufacturer in a dispute resulting from the termination of the contractual relationship with an Egyptian distribution partner. The group also advised a global insurance company on data protection issues concerning the restructuring of the distribution network by brokers and agents and assisted a trading company with all data protection aspects regarding the renewal of franchise agreements.
Friedrich Graf von Westphalen & Partner
Friedrich Graf von Westphalen & Partner’s has broad expertise in commercial and distribution law and the team convinces with ‘the highest level of expertise, efficient working methods, reliability and rapid implementation of decisions’. The main area of focus of Sven Köhnen and Stefan Zipse’s Cologne-based practice continues to be the automotive industry: the KIA dealer association and the contractual partner associations for Hyundai and Volvo trucks are among the core clients in this area. The Freiburg office concentrates on advising on international distribution structures and contracts in the fields of medical technology, pharmaceuticals and mechanical engineering. Following the arrival of Stephan Dittl in October 2017, the firm is now also active in Frankfurt on contentious distribution law matters. Christian Genzow now works as of counsel.
Graf von Westphalen
With its flagship insurance distribution law advice, the ‘well-coordinated team’ at Graf von Westphalen advises on distribution contract matters and on issues touching upon both distribution and data protection law. It regularly acts for well-known insurers in litigation proceedings. The ‘versatile range of advisory services’ is rounded off by expertise in commercial agent, authorised dealer, franchise and motor vehicle distribution law, with the firm specialising in the motorhome and caravan sector in particular. Practice head and key contact Raimond Emde, stands out for his ‘versatility, quick response and business acumen’.
Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek
Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek provides ‘tailor-made solutions’ and convinces with ‘strong expertise’ and ‘a fair price-performance ratio’. Under the lead of Reinhard Siegert, the group advises on trade and distribution law as well as instructions touching upon distribution antitrust law. Highlights included advising Swedish fitness and sportswear manufacturer Casall on entering into various distribution agreements, and assisting US automotive component manufacturer Anchor Fluid Power with distribution contract negotiations with a German manufacturer. Martin Imhof led advice on both matters. Thomas Jansen joined the team from DLA Piper.
The three-partner practice at Bird & Bird focuses on the drafting of trade and distribution agreements and the representation of clients from the automotive, energy, insurance and telecoms industries in litigation. Christian Kessel advised Dayco Products on standard contracts with a major German OEM, and led the out-of-court representation in a product liability case. He also advised Cooper Standard on a threatened delivery stop by a tier 2 supplier. Other key names are Matthias Spilker, who is particularly experienced in product liability cases, and Fabian Niemann.
Under the leadership of Alexander Hübner, Haver & Mailänder Rechtsanwälte Partnerschaft mbB primarily advises manufacturers from the automotive, medical device, mechanical engineering and textile industries on distribution agreements and questions of distribution antitrust law. Clients include Focus Products, Krause & Mauser and Remondis. On the contentious side, the group is well versed in defending against commercial agent settlement claims. Ulrich Schnelle assisted Amann & Söhne with the drafting of worldwide distribution agreements for industrial sewing threads, while Kai Graf von der Recke advised a food manufacturer on the termination of a contractual relationship with a US distributor and on the conclusion of a new contractual relationship.
Orth Kluth Rechtsanwälte
Orth Kluth Rechtsanwälte is known for acting on commercial agency and distribution agreements, while it also has expertise in franchising. Other areas of focus are the structuring of distribution structures, often with an international component, as well as the representation of clients in commercial agent disputes. The core team includes practice head Kai-Michael König, Christiane Hoffbauer and senior associate Bastian Mehle.
SKW Schwarz Rechtsanwälte has ‘a very well-positioned team’ that is experienced in all questions of trade and distribution law, including litigation. The focus areas are the drafting of distribution contracts and the termination of commercial agent and authorised dealer contracts, in particular in the automotive, food and medical device industries. In the period under review, Oliver Korte, who is regarded as ‘an absolute expert in his field’, advised an automotive supplier on distribution antitrust issues, and defended against an authorised dealer’s claims for damages. The ‘highly professional and reliable’ Jürgen Sparr advised a window manufacturer on a distribution agreement and a compensation claim.