Cousins claims minor victory as Swiss court agrees to limit scope of next skirmish with Swatch Group

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  People walk by a Swatch store in Times Square on September 12, 2011 in New York City. Watchmaker Swatch Group announced Monday that it has terminated its partnership with Tiffany & Co. The companies' partnership, which goes back to late 2007, was ended as Swatch accused the jeweler of trying to delay a joint venture between the two companies.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 12: People walk by a Swatch store in Times Square on September 12, 2011 in New York City. Watchmaker Swatch Group announced Monday that it has terminated its partnership with Tiffany & Co. The companies’ partnership, which goes back to late 2007, was ended as Swatch accused the jeweler of trying to delay a joint venture between the two companies. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Anthony Cousins, managing director of watch parts specialist Cousins Materials House, has issued an update on legal proceedings between his company and Swatch Group.

The dispute, which dates back over two years, concerns a parts embargo issued by Swatch Group that prevents Cousins distributing its parts to independent watch repair shops in the UK.

The case is being viewed with interest by the entire servicing and support industry in the UK, which wants to be able to perform routine repairs and servicing for its Swiss watch customers.

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The aim of Cousins is to overturn the embargo, and hopes to have the case heard in a UK court.

Swatch Group, which told WatchPro today that it will not comment on ongoing legal issues, is petitioning for the challenge to the embargo to be heard by a Swiss court.

In a January 4 2017 update, Mr Cousins told WatchPro: “When our Swiss lawyers studied the claim Swatch made, they formed an opinion that Swiss law does not allow such a case to be dragged to Switzerland, and that the real reasons Swatch had made the claim were to try and intimidate us, to drain our resources, and to delay things for as long as possible. We are optimistic that the Bern Court will take a very dim view of such legal tactics.”

Effectively, Swatch Group is demanding that Cousins proves that the embargo is illegal under international law, and would prefer those arguments to be heard in Switzerland.

Cousins sees the issue differently, and insists that the embargo is illegal unless Swatch Group can persuade a British court otherwise.

In technical arguments, Cousins is trying to limit the scope of the case in the Swiss court in Bern to the issue of whether it can be heard there at all, or whether it should be heard in Britain.

Swatch Group is arguing that Bern hear the entire merits of the case against the embargo in a single court case.

The latest legal ruling from Bern, according to Cousins, is that it will consider separating the issue of which court should hear the full case for and against the embargo, an outcome that Mr Cousins welcomes.

 

“The practical upshot of all this is that we will get a much quicker decision from the Swiss court on where the full case will be held. If our points of procedural law win the day, then ultimately the case will return to the English courts where it will be considerably easier to argue a matter of English and EU law. If the Swiss Court does not agree with our arguments, then we will have the more difficult option of arguing the matter in a foreign language some 600 miles away from home,” Mr Cousins says.

Cousins believes that the giant Swatch Group hopes to outgun and outlast the British company, but Mr Cousins says he has no intention of buckling.

“What Swatch should by now have learned from all this, is that whatever legal tactics they employ, Cousins resolve remains as strong as ever when it comes to obtaining a ruling that their parts embargo breaches English and EU competition law. We continue do everything we can to support our trade customers in their efforts to provide the end consumer with quality services at a fair price,” he concludes.

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