Industry News, August 2017

Cousins UK Material House Makes Progress in Swiss Court

A Swiss court in Berne has ruled that a Negative Declaratory Action (NDA) suit filed against Cousins Material House Ltd by the Swatch Group is inadmissible under Swiss Law and the case has been dismissed. The suit was brought against Cousins UK after the parts supplier had sent a legally required “Letter Before Action” to the Swatch Group warning them of a pending anti-competition lawsuit in the English High Court, unless they restored supply of spare parts within three weeks to independent distributors. The legal grounds for the lawsuit against the Swatch Group were stated as a “breach of a range of laws and trade agreements.” The NDA was an attempt by the Swatch Group to receive an early ruling from a Swiss court that their parts restrictions were not violating any British or European laws, ideally keeping the issue out of the English courts.

The conflict originated back in 2015 when the Swatch Group announced that it would cease the supply of spare parts for all subsidiary brands to independent distributors on January 1, 2016. The impact this would have on the independent repair trade prompted Cousins UK to work with the British Watch and Clock Makers Guild to set up an Industry Action Fund to help pay the legal fees of court proceedings against the Swatch Group.

This ruling does not mean that the Swatch Group must reopen the supply of spare parts to independent distributors, only that Cousins has the legal right to file their lawsuit against the Swatch Group in the High Court. The Swatch Group has until the end of August to decide whether they will file an appeal of the court’s decision. If an appeal is not filed or it is denied, Cousins will inevitably file the originally intended lawsuit. Managing Director Anthony Cousins has assured through public statements that they are “staying in this fight until it is won.”

Sources:
www.cousinsuk.com/page/news
www.watchpro.com/breaking-news-swiss-court-rules-swatch-favour-cousins
www.watchpro.com/cousins-versus-swatch-group-dispute-gets-first-hearing-in-swiss-court

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

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