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Reproduced with the permission of the Uniform Law Review / Revue de Droit Uniforme (2001-1) 203-215

Applying the CISG in a Truly Uniform Manner:
Tribunale di Vigevano (Italy), 12 July 2000

Franco Ferrari [*]

I.  Autonomous interpretation of the CISG
II.  Interpreting the CISG in the light of foreign case law
III.  Uniform interpretation and application of the CISG by the courts prior to Vigevano
IV.  The importance of the Tribunale di Vigevano decision
V.  Exclusion of the CISG
VI.  Timely notice of non-conformity
VII.  Specificity of the notice of non-conformity
VIII.  Burden of proof under the CISG
IX.  Conclusion

I. - AUTONOMOUS INTERPRETATION OF THE CISG

It is common knowledge [1] that in order to create legal uniformity, it is not sufficient merely to create and enact uniform laws or uniform law Conventions,[2] because

"even when outward uniformity is achieved [. . .], uniform application of the agreed rules is by no means guaranteed, as in practice different countries almost inevitably come to put different interpretations upon the same enacted words." [3]

The drafters of the most recent international uniform commercial law Conventions were aware of this, as evidenced by the fact that they inserted into these Conventions provisions designed to reduce the danger of diverging interpretations.[4] This is also true as far as the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods,[5] hereinafter CISG,[6] is concerned. [page 203]

According to Article 7(1),[7] in interpreting the CISG,

"regard is to be had to its international character and to the need to promote uniformity in its application."

According to many of the legal writers who have dealt with the issue of interpretation of the CISG,[8] this means that in interpreting it one should always take into consideration that it is a result of international unification efforts,[9] i.e. that, unlike domestic statutes, it was not elaborated with any particular legal system or language in mind.[10] Thus, it has been suggested that it is necessary to read the CISG not through the lenses of domestic law,[11] but rather in an autonomous manner,[12] which is why in interpreting the CISG one should not resort to the meaning generally attached to certain expressions within the ambit of a particular legal system.[13] This is also true in those cases where the expressions adopted in the various original versions of the CISG correspond to expressions to which a particular meaning is attached in [page 204] specific legal systems,[14] provided that the legislative history does not show that an expression was chosen because a particular meaning attached to it.[15]

What has been said thus far is true for the criteria to be used in the interpretation process as well. The CISG is not to be interpreted on the basis of "domestic" interpretative criteria, since this would be detrimental to the goal pursued, i.e. the unification of (sales) law, since in different legal systems different interpretative criteria are used.[16]

Various authors have, however, pointed out that in order to create uniform law, it is not sufficient to interpret uniform law instruments "autonomously".[17] This becomes even more evident if one considers that there are instances where more than one "autonomous" interpretation of one and the same concept is plausible. In these instances, despite an "autonomous" interpretation, uniformity will not be guaranteed; according to some legal scholars, uniformity would in these cases merely amount to a "random occurrence".[18]

II. - INTERPRETING THE CISG IN THE LIGHT OF FOREIGN CASE LAW

The drafters of the CISG were aware that while an "autonomous" interpretation would certainly promote uniformity, it would not necessarily guarantee it. This is why they provided not only for the obligation to "have regard to the Convention's international character," but also for the obligation to have regard "to the need to promote uniformity in its application." [19] This comes as no surprise, given the close link between these two kinds of obligation:[20] They both tend to promote uniformity and are both based upon the knowledge that the elaboration of a uniform law instrument does not per se create uniformity.[21]

From this obligation to have regard to the need to promote uniformity in the CISG's application legal scholars have deduced that

"whoever has to apply the Convention, must make efforts to adopt solutions which are tenable on an international level, i.e. solutions which can be taken into consideration in other Contracting States as well." [22] [page 205]

The more the various concepts are interpreted "autonomously", the more this result is capable of being achieved.[23]

On the other hand, both American [24] and foreign [25] legal writers have interpreted the aforementioned obligation to mean that in applying the CISG, courts must take into account relevant decisions of other States.[26]

Resorting to foreign case law undoubtedly promotes the uniform application of the CISG. However, requiring interpreters to consider foreign decisions can create practical difficulties, for two main reasons.[27] On the one hand, foreign case law is not readily available, i.e. it cannot easily be retrieved. On the other hand, foreign case law is often written in a language unknown to the interpreter.[28]

In order to overcome these obstacles, various steps have been undertaken.[29] UNCITRAL, for instance, following a decision taken on the occasion of its twenty-first session,[30] publishes "CLOUT" ("Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts"),[31] a collection of abstracts of court decisions from [page 206] all over the world dealing with UNCITRAL texts, among others the CISG.[32]

In addition, the Centre for Comparative and Foreign Law Studies in Rome has developed UNILEX, a collection of case law and an international bibliography on the CISG,[33] which aims at promoting knowledge of foreign case law.[34]

Finally, one must mention the efforts undertaken by various universities which have created Internet sites through which it is possible to retrieve - at no cost - foreign court decisions, primarily French,[35] German [36] and American.[37]

It may be wondered, however, whether knowledge of foreign case law is sufficient to solve all the substantive issues. In my opinion, this question must be answered in the negative.[38] Knowledge of foreign case law does not per se suffice to guarantee uniformity, just as knowledge of domestic case law does not avoid all interpretative problems within a particular legal jurisdiction. If knowledge of foreign case law were actually sufficient to create uniformity in applying the CISG, taken to an extreme this would mean that the first position taken on a specific issue by any court would shape all the successive case law. This can hardly be true, all the less so because, in the majority view, foreign case law has persuasive value only.[39]

III. - UNIFORM INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION OF THE CISG BY THE COURTS PRIOR TOVIGEVANO

It goes without saying that courts, too, are obliged to have regard to the CISG's international character in interpreting it. Some courts have indeed referred to this obligation - for instance, a Swiss court decision [40] stating that in interpreting the CISG,

"one has to have particular regard to its international character (Article 7(1)). The starting point of any interpretation must be the Convention itself, not domestic law";

likewise one Italian tribunal.[41] A similar view was taken by a German court which emphasised the need to have regard to the Convention's international character.[42] Reference to the need to [page 207] avoid interpreting the CISG in the light of domestic law may be found in some US cases as well. In one such case, the court stated that

"although the CISG is similar to the UCC with respect to certain provisions, [. . .] it would be inappropriate to apply the UCC case law in construing contracts under the CISG." [43]

A very similar statement was recently made by the German Supreme Court in respect of the possibility of applying German case law regarding the Commercial Code to the CISG.[44]

It must be pointed out, however, that not only are the courts bound to interpret the CISG "autonomously", they must also have regard to the need to promote uniformity in its application by taking foreign case law into account. Nevertheless, few court decisions have so far referred to foreign case law.[45] In one Italian case,[46] two foreign court decisions - a German [47] and a Swiss one [48] - were referred to analytically to decide whether a notice of non-conformity given to the seller 23 days after a delivery of sports clothes which turned out to be larger than agreed was timely or not. This issue was also dealt with by a more recent Italian decision [49] in which the court analysed a Swiss court decision.[50] In another case, a French court [51] quoted a German court decision [52] without, however, examining it at all.

IV. - THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRIBUNALE DI VIGEVANO DECISION

Bearing in mind the foregoing, the importance of the Tribunale di Vigevano decision is self-evident. When dealing with some of the typical issues raised by the CISG, such as party autonomy, notice of non-conformity and burden of proof, the court referred to some 40 foreign court decisions and arbitral awards.[53] In other words, the court has, more than any other court before it, taken into account the need to have regard to foreign case law in order to promote uniformity. It doing so, however, it was fully aware that foreign case law is not binding. This is evident from the decision itself. Indeed, the court expressly states that foreign case law, [page 208]

"albeit non-binding, as suggested by a few legal writers, must nevertheless be taken into account in order to guarantee and promote a uniform application of the Vienna Sales Convention."[54]

The court correctly [55] rejected the minority view which attributes binding force to foreign case law and goes so far as to ask for the creation of a "supranational stare decisis".[56] As to this latter suggestion, this fails to take into account the rigid hierarchical structure of the court system presupposed by the "stare decisis" doctrine and which is lacking on an international level.[57]

The Tribunale di Vigevano decision is, however, noteworthy not only because of the large number of foreign cases quoted and the statement that foreign case law merely has persuasive value, but also because, next to the decisions published in law reviews, the decisions quoted by the court included those published in the UNILEX database and in two of the online databases referred to above.[58]

V. - EXCLUSION OF THE CISG

One of the issues touched upon by the court relates to the possibility open to the parties to exclude the CISG,[59] which has led several authors to label the CISG as a "dispositive" Convention.[60] After affirming that the CISG applied to the case at hand by virtue of Article 1(1)(a), the court expressly stated that the parties had not taken advantage of the possibility of excluding the CISG. Unlike other courts, however, the Tribunale di Vigevano did not confine itself to emphasising the fact that the parties had not excluded the CISG. Rather, it seized the [page 209] opportunity to deal more in detail with the issue of implicit exclusion which it considered admissible, along with many [61] - but not all [62] - courts and legal writers.[63]

In its decision, the court mainly deals with the (rather practical) issue of whether the CISG must be considered as having been excluded where the parties plead on the sole basis of a particular domestic law (in the case at hand, Italian law), even though all the CISG's applicability criteria were in fact met. The court correctly [64] stated that the mere fact of the parties arguing on the sole basis of a given domestic law need not necessarily be taken to mean that they have excluded the CISG. Indeed, in order for it to have the effect of excluding the CISG, the parties must be seen to have been aware of its applicability in the first place. If they were not so aware, the courts must apply the CISG. This appears to be the prevailing view today in legal writing [65] as well as in case law. One German court,[66] for instance, adopted this view when it stated that the parties arguing on the sole basis of a domestic law may be regarded as having excluded the CISG when

"their pleadings are shown to correspond to an agreement by the parties to exclude the Convention." [67] [page 210]

If their

"conduct during the proceedings is not based upon a conscious choice of a domestic sales law, but rather on the erroneous opinion that this law would anyway be applicable," [68]

the CISG would have to be applied by virtue of the principle of iura novit curia, as expressly stated by the Tribunale di Vigevano.

VI. - TIMELY NOTICE OF NON-CONFORMITY

After having stated that the CISG was applicable, the court dealt with the issue of non-conformity - more specifically, with the issue of whether the buyer had lost its right to rely on lack of conformity due to inadequate notice.

As pointed out by the Tribunale di Vigevano, a notice is inadequate when it is not made within a reasonable period of time after the non-conformity was or should have been discovered. The starting point of the court's discussion of the timeliness of the notice was the statement that the reference to "reasonable time" must be regarded as a "general clause" [69] obliging the courts to have regard to all the circumstances of a specific case.[70] One such circumstance, as expressly stated by the Tribunale di Vigevano as well as - previously - by a German [71] and Dutch court,[72] quoted by the Vigevano court, is the nature of the goods. Thus, where the goods are perishable, notice of non-conformity must be given within a shorter period of time than when durable, non perishable goods are involved.[73]

The court also stated that, among the circumstances to be taken into account, one must consider party autonomy. Since the CISG provisions dealing with the issue of conformity (Articles 35-44) are not mandatory,[74] the parties may freely agree upon a period of time within which notice must be given.[75] Since, in the case at hand, the parties had not agreed on a specific period of time, nor were the goods perishable, the court rightly stated that it could measure the timeliness of the notice more liberally. Nevertheless, since in the case at hand the notice was given four months after the defects had been discovered, it could not be considered timely.[76] In order to reinforce this conclusion, the Tribunale di Vigevano referred to several [page 211] foreign court decisions according to which notice given three,[77] or even two [78] months after the discovery of the defects must be considered late.[79]

VII. - SPECIFICITY OF THE NOTICE OF NON-CONFORMITY

In order to bar the loss of the right to rely on lack of conformity it is not sufficient, however, for the buyer to notify the seller in time. According to Article 39(1) CISG, the notice must also have a specific content. It need not, however, have a specific form, as was expressly stated by the Tribunale di Vigevano.[80] This specificity requirement was introduced in order to give the seller the opportunity to decide how to react to the buyer's claim (by examining the goods himself, by repairing the goods or by delivering substitute goods).[81] In the case at hand, the court correctly stated that the notice was not specific enough. Although this requirement should not be overemphasised,[82] a notice which merely refers to the fact that "the goods caused problems" cannot be considered a proper notice. Indeed, such a generic notice, not unlike similar ones where reference is solely made to the fact that the goods are "defective in all parts",[83] that they "do not conform to contract specifications" [84] and that they are the outcome of "poor workmanship",[85] etc.,[86] does not put the seller in a position to decide what steps to take.

What has been said in the last two chapters would without any doubt suffice in itself to deny buyer the right to rely on lack of conformity, all the more so since, as pointed out by the Tribunale di Vigevano, he can rely neither on Article 40 (according to which lack of proper notice is of no consequence where the seller was aware, or could not have been unaware, of the lack of conformity and did not notify the buyer) nor on Article 44 (according to which the buyer retains at least some rights if he has a reasonable excuse for not giving proper notice), both of which provisions are intended to mitigate the harshness of the consequences of lack of proper notice. But the court had a further reason for dismissing buyer's claim that was linked to the burden of proof. [page 212]

VIII. - BURDEN OF PROOF UNDER THE CISG

There is disagreement among legal scholars as to whether the issue of burden of proof is a matter governed by the CISG.[87] According to some, this issue is not dealt with by the Convention so that, except for some exceptional cases,[88] recourse must be had to domestic law.[89] This point of view has also been espoused by a number of courts.[90] There is, however, no agreement among those legal writers as to how to determine the applicable domestic law. Whereas some legal writers take the view that one should always resort to the lex fori,[91] others propose to resort to the domestic law made applicable by virtue of the private international law rules of the forum.[92]

The prevailing view, however, appears to be that the issue of burden of proof is a matter governed by the CISG [93] (at least "implicitly" [94] or "indirectly" [95]). This view has been justified, on the one hand, on the grounds that the CISG itself provides at least one rule on the allocation of the burden of proof,[96] namely the provision to be found in Article 79(1) [97] and therefore it cannot be asserted that the issue of the allocation of the burden of proof is not governed by the [page 213] CISG. On the other hand, legal scholars have pointed out that the issue of burden of proof is so closely linked to the substantive law that a rule on the allocation of the burden of proof must necessarily be derived from the substantive law, i.e. the CISG.[98]

Even if agreeing with the view that the issue is dealt with by the CISG,[99] it still needs to be decided how to allocate it in concreto. A close examination of both the legislative history of the various provisions as well as their wording [100] has led legal scholars [101] to elaborate the general principle according to which the party has to prove the existence of the factual prerequisites contained in the provision from which it wishes to derive beneficial legal consequence.[102] The Tribunale di Vigevano is one court that has evinced this principle from the CISG, as have others that it cites. [103] - indeed, it argues, "ei incumbit probatio, qui dicit, non qui negat".[104] As pointed out by the Vigevano court, this principle leads to a further conclusion: a party claiming an exception bears the burden of proving the factual prerequisites of that exception.[105]

Once the Tribunale di Vigevano had stated the general principle, it provided some examples of how the burden of proof must be allocated in concreto. The court stated, for instance, that the party claiming that the internationality of the contract was not apparent, which would lead to the CISG's inapplicability by virtue of its Article 1(2), has to prove this. It also held that the aforementioned general principle obliges the party claiming that the CISG's applicability had been excluded by the parties to prove the existence of such an agreement between the parties. And where the issue of damages is concerned, both the Tribunale di Vigevano and a Swiss court [106] cited by it held that the aforementioned principle leads to the damaged party having to prove the damage, the breach of contract, the causal link between the breach of contract and the damage, as well as the foreseeability of the loss.

From this general principle another rule can be derived: the buyer who asserts the non-conformity of the goods must prove the lack of conformity as well as the existence of a proper notice.[107] Since, in the case at hand, the buyer did not prove the lack of conformity, the Tribunale di Vigevano could have rejected plaintiff's claim on this ground alone. [page 214]

IX. - CONCLUSION

The conclusions which may be drawn from reading the Tribunale di Vigevano decision are obvious. Recourse to foreign court decisions in interpreting and applying the CISG, something that legal scholars have been asking for from the time the Convention came into force, is apparently possible. It is equally obvious, however, that not all courts (as mentioned earlier) will apply the CISG as did the Tribunale di Vigevano. We can only hope that the Tribunale di Vigevano will soon be called upon to decide another case dealing with the CISG. [page 215]


FOOTNOTES

* Legal Officer, United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, International Trade Law Branch; Full Professor of Comparative Private Law, Bologna University Faculty of Law (on leave). The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.

1. For a similar statement, see, e.g., D. Martiny, "Autonome und einheitliche Auslegung im Europäischen Internationalen Zivilprozeßrecht", Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (1981), 427 at 427.

2. In this sense, see most recently L.M. Ryan, "The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: Divergent Interpretations", 4 Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law (1995), 99, 101, stating that "textual uniformity [. . .] is insufficient."

3. R.J.C. Munday, "Comment, The Uniform Interpretation of International Conventions", 27 The International and Comparative Law Quarterly (1978), 450.

4. It has often been stated that it is only possible to reduce the danger of diverging interpretations; it is not possible to eliminate them altogether; see, e.g., J.M. Lookofsky, Consequential Damages in Comparative Context (Copenhagen, 1989), 294.

5. See the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, reprinted in: 19 International Legal Materials (1980), 668 et seq.

6. Many abbreviations have been used for the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods; for a court decision which lists several, see OLG Frankfurt, 20 April 1994, Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1994), 593 at 593. For a discussion in legal writing of the various abbreviations, see A. Flessner - Th. Kadner, "CISG? Zur Suche nach einer Abkürzung für das Wiener Übereinkommen über Verträge über den internationalen Warenkauf", Zeitschrift für europäisches Privatrecht (1995), 347 et seq.

7. See Art. 7(1) CISG: "In the interpretation of this Convention, regard is to be had to its international character and to the need to promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith in international trade."

8. Several papers have been written on the interpretation of the CISG; see, among others, J. Adame Goddard, "Reglas de interpretación de la Convención sobre Compraventa Internacional de Mercaderías", Revista de investigaciones jurídicas (1990), 9 et seq.; M.J. Bonell, "L'interpretazione del diritto uniforme alla luce dell'art. 7 della convenzione di Vienna sulla vendita internazionale", Rivista di diritto civile (1986/II), 221 et seq.; S. Cook, "Note, The Need for Uniform Interpretation of the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods", 50 University of Pittsburgh Law Review (1988), 197 et seq.; F. Ferrari, "Interprétation uniforme de la Convention de 1980 sur la vente internationale", Revue internationale de droit comparé (1996), 813 et seq.; M.P. Perales Viscasillas, "Una aproximación al articulo 7 de la Convención de Viena de 1980 sobre compraventa internacional de mercaderías", Cuadernos de derecho y comercio (1995/XVI), 55 et seq.

9. 9 For similar affirmations, see W. Melis, "Art. 7", in: Kommentar zum UN-Kaufrecht (H. Honsell ed., Zurich, 1997), 87; R. Loewe, Internationales Kaufrecht (Vienna, 1989), 32.

10. M. Karollus, UN-Kaufrecht. Eine systematische Darstellung für Studium und Praxis (Vienna, 1991), 11.

11. 11 See similarly J.O. Honnold, "The Sales Convention in Action - Uniform International Words: Uniform Applications?", 8 Journal of Law and Commerce (1988), 208 at 208, where he states that "one threat to international uniformity in interpretation is a natural tendency to read the international text through the lenses of domestic law." See also A. Babiak, "Defining "Fundamental Breach" under the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods", 6 Temple International & Comparative Law Journal (1992), 113 at 117.

12. For similar affirmations see, among others, B. Audit, La vente internationale de marchandises (Paris, 1990), 47; M.J. Bonell, "Commento all'art. 7 della Convenzione di Vienna", Nuove Leggi civili commentate (1989), 21 at 21; F. Diedrich, "Maintaining Uniformity in International Uniform Law via Autonomous Interpretation: Software Contracts under the CISG", 8 Pace International Law Review (1996), 303 et seq.; Ch. Häusler, Das Unidroit Übereinkommen über internationales Factoring (Ottawa 1988) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner Anwendbarkeit (Frankfurt, 1998), 135 (stating the same, albeit with reference to the 1988 Unidroit Convention on International Factoring).

13. For this conclusion, see J.O. Honnold, Uniform Law for International Sales under the United Nations Convention (2nd ed., Deventer, 1991), 136, stating that "the reading of a legal text in the light of the concepts of our domestic legal system [is] an approach that would violate the requirement that the Convention be interpreted with regard to its international character." More recently, see U. Magnus, Wiener UN-Kaufrecht (CISG) (Berlin, 1999), 153; P. Schlechtriem, Internationales UN-Kaufrecht (Tübingen, 1997), 29-30.

14. For similar statements, see F. Diedrich, Autonome Auslegung von internationalem Einheitsrecht (Baden-Baden, 1994), 77.

15. For this conclusion, see also F. Ferrari, "Der Begriff des "internationalen Privatrechts" nach Art. 1 Abs. 1 lit. b) des UN-Kaufrechts", Zeitschrift für europäisches Privatrecht (1998), 162, 166; Magnus, supra note 13 at 153.

16. Diedrich, supra note 14 at 59 et seq.; H. Kötz, "Rechtsvereinheitlichung - Nutzen, Kosten, Methoden, Ziele", Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (1986), 1 at 8.

17. See F. Enderlein et al., Internationales Kaufrecht. Kommentar (Freiburg/Berlin, 1991), 62.

18. M.F. Sturley, "International Uniform Laws in National Courts: The Influence of Domestic Law in Conflicts Interpretation", 27 Virginia Journal of International Law (1986), 729 at 738.

19. Magnus, supra note 13 at 155.

20. For similar statements, albeit with reference to the 1988 Unidroit Convention on International Factoring, see F. Ferrari, Il factoring internazionale (Padova, 1999), 111 et seq.

21. See, apart form the authors quoted in notes 1 and 2, Häusler, supra note 12 at 136 et seq. (albeit with respect to the 1988 Unidroit Convention on International Factoring).

22. Magnus, supra note 13 at 155 (with respect to the CISG); similarly Häusler, supra note 12 at 137 (with respect to the 1988 Unidroit Convention on International Factoring); A. Junker, "Die einheitliche europäische Auslegung nach dem EG-Schuldvertragsübereinkommen", Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (1991), 680 (in respect of the 1980 Rome Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations).

23. F. Ferrari, "Art. 7", in: Einheitliches UN-Kaufrecht (P. Schlechtriem ed., Munich, 2000), 126.

24. See Cook, supra note 8 at 226; Idem, "The UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: A Mandate to Abandon Legal Ethnocentricity", Journal of Law and Commerce (1997), 257 at 261; J.M. Darkey, "A U.S. Court's Interpretation of Damage Provisions under the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: A Preliminary Step towards an International Jurisprudence of CISG or a Missed Opportunity?", Journal of Law and Commerce (1995), 142; H.E. Hartnell, "Rousing the Sleeping Dog: The Validity Exception to the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods", Yale Journal of International Law (1993), 1 at 7; J.O. Honnold, Uniform Law for International Sales (The Hague, 1999), 95 et seq.; A.H. Kritzer, Guide to Practical Applications of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (Deventer, 1989); E.H. Patterson, "United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: Unification and the Tension Between Compromise and Domination", Stanford Journal of International Law (1986), 283; P. Winship, "Changing Contract Practices in the Light of the United Nations Sales Convention: A Guide for Practitioners", The International Lawyer (1995), 528.

25. See M.J. Bonell, "Art. 7", in: Commentary on the International Sales Law (C.M. Bianca - M.J. Bonell eds., Milano, 1987), 90 et seq.; Enderlein et al., supra note at 62; F. Ferrari, Vendita internazionale di beni mobili. Ambito di applicazione. Disposizioni generali (Bologna, 1994), 138; R. Herber - B. Czerwenka, Internationales Kaufrecht (Munich, 1991), 48; U. Magnus, "Währungsfragen im Einheitlichen Kaufrecht. Zugleich ein Beitrag zu seiner Lückenfüllung und Auslegung", Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (1989), 123; D. Maskow, "The Convention on the International Sale of Goods from the Perspective of the Socialist Countries", in: La vendita internazionale (Milan, 1981), 54; B. Piltz, Internationales Kaufrecht (Munich, 1993), 66; Magnus, supra note 13 at 155.

26. See Ferrari, supra note 8 at 831-832.

27. For similar affirmations, see F. Ferrari, "CISG Case Law: A New Challenge for Interpreters?", Journal of Law and Commerce (1998), 245 et seq.

28. This appears to be a problem above all for US judges; indeed, various US court decisions expressly refer to the "lack of case law" concerning the CISG at a time when there were already very many foreign CISG cases; see, most recently, Helen Kaminski Pty Ltd. v. Marketing Australian Products, Inc., 1997 WL 414137 (S.D.N.Y.).

29. See R. Herber, "CLOUT, Unilex und andere Veröffentlichungen zum internationalen Kaufrecht", Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1995), 502 et seq.

30. See the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the Work of its Twenty-First Session, 11-22 April 1988, Yearbook XIX (1988), 98 et seq.

31. This collection of abstracts can also be found on the Internet; see <http://www.uncitral.org>.

32. In this respect see also Ferrari, supra note 8 at 813 et seq.

33. For a comment on this database, see F. Liguori, "UNILEX: A Means to Promote Uniformity in the Application of CISG", Zeitschrift für europäisches Privatrecht (1996), 600.

34. See also Herber, supra note 29 at 502 et seq.

35. See CISG France at the following address: <http://Witz.jura.uni-sb.de/CISG/>.

36. See CISG Online at the following address: <http://www.jura.uni-freiburg.de/ipr1/CISG>.

37. See the website of the Institute of International Commercial Law of Pace University: <http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu>; for a reference to this site, see A.H. Kritzer, "The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: Scope, Interpretation and Resources", Review of the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1995), 147.

38. For this affirmation, see also F. Ferrari, "Brevi considerazioni critiche in materia di interpretazione autonoma ed applicazione uniforme della Convenzione di Vienna", Rivista di diritto civile (1998/II), 93.

39. In this respect, see F. Ferrari, "La jurisprudence sur la CVIM: un nouveau défi pour les interprètes? ", Revue de droit des affaires internationales (1998), 495, 503; E.A. Kramer, "Uniforme Interpretation von Einheitsprivatrecht - mit besonderer Berücksichtigung von Art. 7 UNKR", Österreichische Juristische Blätter (1996), 143, 146; Melis, supra note 7 at 88; Magnus, Währungsfragen, supra note 25 at 123.

40. See Gerichtspräsident Laufen, 7 May 1993, UNILEX.

41. See Tribunale di Pavia, 29 December 1999, Corriere giuridico (2000), 932; for a comment on this decision, see F. Ferrari, "Rapporto tra diritto materiale uniforme di origine convenzionale e diritto internazionale privato", Corriere giuridico (2000), 933.

42. See OLG Frankfurt, 20 April 1994, Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1994), 595.

43. Claudia v. Olivieri Footwear Ltd., 1998 Westlaw 164824; for similar affirmations, see also Delchi Carrier S.p.A. v. Rotorex Corp., 71 F3d. 1024, 1028 (2nd Cir. 1995) (stating that "UCC case law is not per se applicable"); Orbisphere Corp. v. United States, 726 F.Supp. 1344, 1355 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1989) (stating the same).

44. BGH, 3 April 1996, JuristenZeitung (1997), 35.

45. For more details concerning this issue, see Ferrari, supra note 39 at 495 et seq.

46. See Tribunale di Cuneo, 31 January 1996, UNILEX.

47. See LG Stuttgart, 31 August 1989, Praxis des internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (1990), 317.

48. See Pretura Locarno-Campagna, 27 April 1992, UNILEX.

49. See Tribunale di Pavia, 29 December 1999, supra note 41.

50. See Pretura Locarno-Campagna, 16 December 1991, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für europäisches und internationales Recht (1993), 665.

51. See Cour d'Appel Grenoble, 23 October 1996, UNILEX.

52. See OLG Düsseldorf, 2 July 1992, Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1993), 45.

53. Tribunale di Vigevano, 12 July 2000, Giurisprudenza italiana 2001, 280 ss. Note by F. Ferrari. In its decision, the court referred to court decisions form Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States.

54. See Tribunale di Pavia, 29 December 1999, supra note 41 at 933, where the court expressly states that "foreign case law merely has persuasive value."

55. Also compare Schlechtriem, supra note 13 at 29-30; Magnus, supra note 13 at 21; see also, albeit with reference to the Unidroit Convention on International Factoring, Ferrari, supra note 20 at 115.

56. For this, see L.A. Dimatteo, "An International Contract Law Formula: The Informality of International Business Transactions Plus the Internationalization of Contract Law Equals Unexpected Contractual Liability", 23 Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce (1997), 67 at 79; Idem, "The CISG and the Presumption of Enforceability: Unintended Contractual Liability in International Business Dealings", 22 Yale International Law Journal (1997), 111 at 133.

57. See also Ferrari, supra note 23 at 128.

58. See supra notes 33-37.

59. For papers on the exclusion of the CISG, see R. Holthausen, "Vertraglicher Ausschluß des UN-Übereinkommens über internationale Warenkaufverträge", Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1989), 513; C. Witz, "L'exclusion de la Convention des Nations unies sur les contrats de vente internationale de marchandises par la volonté des parties (Convention de Vienne du 11 avril 1980)", Dalloz Chronique (1990), 107.

60. Many legal writers have referred to the CISG's "dispositive nature"; see, for instance, W.-A. Achilles, Kommentar zum UN-Kaufrechtsübereinkommen (CISG) (Neuwied, 2000), 25; S. Carbone, "L'ambito di applicazione ed i criteri interpretativi della Convenzione di Vienna sulla vendita internazionale, in: La vendita internazionale (Milan, 1981), 61 at 78; F. Ferrari, La vendita internazionale. Applicabilità ed applicazioni della Convenzione di Vienna del 1980 (Padova, 1997), 158; J. Lindbach, Rechtswahl im Einheitsrecht am Beispiel des Wiener UN-Kaufrechts (Aachen, 1996), 67; P. Volken, "Das Wiener Übereinkommen über den internationalen Warenkauf. Anwendungsvorausetzungen und Anwendungsbereich", in: Einheitliches Kaufrecht und nationales Obligationenrecht (P. Schlechtriem ed., Baden-Baden, 1987), 92.

61. See also the court decisions quoted by the Tribunale di Vigevano: OLG München, 9 September 1997, Forum für Internationales Recht (1997), 159; LG München, 29 May 1995, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (1996), 401.

62. See LG Landshut, 5 April 1995, published online on the CISG Website; Orbisphere Corp. v. United States, 726 F.Supp. 1344 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1989).

63. For this, see also B. Audit, La vente internationale de marchandises (Paris, 1990), 38; K. Bell, "The Sphere of Application of the Vienna Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods", 8 Pace International Law Journal (1996), 237, 255; J. Cappuccio, "La deroga implicita nella convenzione di Vienna del 1980", Diritto del commercio internazionale (1994), 867, 868-869; C. Caravaca, "Art. 6", in: La compraventa internacional de mercaderías (L. Diez-Picazo ed., Madrid, 1998), 94; S. Carbone - R. Luzzatto, "I contratti del commercio internazionale", in: 11 Trattato di diritto privato (P. Rescigno ed., Torino, 1984), 132; B. Czerwenka, Rechtsanwendungsprobleme im internationalen Kaufrecht. Das Kollisionsrecht bei grenzüberschreitenden Kaufverträgen und der Anwendungsbereich der internationalen Kaufrechtsübereinkommen (Berlin, 1988), 170; S.K. Date-Bah, "The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, 1980: Overview and Selective Commentary", Review of Ghana Law (1979), 50, 54; F. Ferrari, "Art. 6", Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht, supra note 23 at 113-114; A. Garro - A.L. Zuppi, Compraventa internacional de mercaderías (Buenos Aires, 1990), 98; Holthausen, supra note 59 at 515; Karollus, supra note 8 at 38; N. Lacasse, "Le champ d'application de la Convention des Nations Unies sur les contrats de vente internationale de marchandises", in: Actes du colloque sur la vente internationale (L. Perret - N. Lacasse eds., Montreal, 1989), 37; F. Liguori, "La Convenzione di Vienna sulla vendita internazionale di beni mobili nella pratica: un'analisi critica delle prime cento decisioni", Foro italiano (1996/IV), 145, 158; Lindbach, supra note 60 at 253; B. Nicholas, "The Vienna Convention on International Sales Law", 105 Law Quarterly Review (1989), 201 at 208; P. Schlechtriem, Einheitliches UN-Kaufrecht (Tübingen, 1981), 21; K. Siehr, "Art. 6", in: Kommentar zum UN-Kaufrecht, supra note 23 at 81-82; Witz, supra note 59 at 108.

64. See Ferrari, supra note 63 at 116-117.

65. P. Schlechtriem, "Aufrechnung durch den Käufer wegen Nachbesserungsaufwand - deutsches Vertragsstatut und UN-Kaufrecht", Praxis des internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (1996), 256; see also Siehr, supra note 63 at 80; Ferrari, supra note 63 at 116; U. Magnus, "Das UN-Kaufrecht: Fragen und Probleme seiner praktischen Bewährung", Zeitschrift für europäisches Privatrecht (1997), 823 at 827; doubtful, however, E. Wolf, "Die Rechtsprechung des Gerichtshofs zum Kaufrecht", Wertpapier-Mitteilungen (1998), 41-42.

66. See, for instance, OLG Hamm, 9 June 1995, Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1996), 689; LG Landshut, 5 April 1995, UNILEX.

67. OLG Celle, 24 May 1995, UNILEX.

68. Id.

69. For this, see also Pretura Torino, 30 January 1997, UNILEX.

70. For similar statements, see also the following court decisions quoted by the Tribunale di Vigevano: Tribunale di Cuneo, 31 January 1996, UNILEX; OLG München, 8 February 1995, published on the CISG web-site; OLG Düsseldorf, 10 February 1994, Recht der internationalen Wirtschaft (1995), 53.

71. AG Augsburg, 29 January 1996, UNILEX.

72. RB Roermond, 19 December 1991, Nederlands Internationaal Privaatrecht (1992), n. 159.

73. For this, see also RB Zwolle, 5 March 1997, UNILEX, as well as AG Kehl, 6 October 1995, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift Rechtsprechungs-Report (1996), 565, both of which are quoted by the Tribunale di Vigevano in its decision.

74. In legal writing, see Ferrari, supra note 60 at 211; Piltz, supra note 24 at 193-194; I. Schwenzer, "Art. 39", in: Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht, supra note 23 at 420; M. Welser, "Die Vertragsverletzung des Verkäufers und die Folgen ihrer Verletzung", in: Das UNCITRAL-Kaufrecht im Vergleich zum österreichischen Recht (P. Doralt ed., Vienna, 1985), 113.

75. See also the German court decision quoted by the Tribunale di Vigevano, LG Gießen, 5 July 1994, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (1995), 438.

76. In its decision, the Tribunale di Vigevano pointed out that on a previous occasion, the Dutch Supreme Court had stated that a notice given four months after the discovery of the defects must be considered late; see Hoge Raad, 20 February 1998, Nederlands Juristenblad (1998), 566.

77. See RB Roermond, 6 May 1994, UNILEX.

78. See OLG Düsseldorf, 12 March 1993, UNILEX.

79. For an overview of case law concerning this issue, see C. Baasch Andersen, "Reasonable Time in Article 39(1) of the CISG - Is Article 39(1) truly a Uniform Provision?", Review of the CISG (1998), 63 et seq.; U. Magnus, "Die Rügeobliegenheit des Käufers im UN-Kaufrecht", Transportrecht-Internationales Handelsrecht (1999), 29 et seq.; A. Veneziano, "Non-conformité des marchandises dans les ventes internationales: étude de la jurisprudence actuelle sur la CVIM", Revue de droit des affaires internationales (1997, 39 et seq.

80. The notice of non-conformity does not have to meet any form requirements; it can even be given via telephone, as expressly pointed out by the Tribunale di Vigevano, which also quotes a German court decision which had stated the same on a previous occasion; see LG Frankfurt, 9 December 1992, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift Rechtsprechungs-Report (1993), 325.

81. See also Schwenzer, supra note 74 at 411-412.

82. For a similar affirmation, see also R. Resch, "Zur Rüge bei Sachmängeln nach UN-Kaufrecht", Österreichische Juristenzeitung (1992), 470 at 470.

83. OLG Frankfurt, 20 April 1994, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (1994), 1013.

84. HG Zürich, 30 November 1998, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für internationales und europäisches Recht (1999), 188.

85. LG München, 3 July 1989, Praxis des internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (1990), 316.

86. For further examples, see B. Piltz, "Neue Entwicklungen im UN-Kaufrecht", Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (2000), 553, 557.

87. Several monographs have been written on the subject of burden of proof; see, e.g., C. Antweiler, Beweislastverteilung im UN-Kaufrecht. Insbesondere bei Vertragsverletzungen des Verkäufers (Frankfurt, 1995); M. Henniger, Die Frage der Beweislast im Rahmen des UN-Kaufrechts: zugleich eine rechtsvergleichende Grundlagenstudie zur Beweislast (Munich, 1995); A. Imberg, Die Verteilung der Beweislast beim Gefahrübergang nach UN-Kaufrecht (Frankfurt, 1998); R. Jung, Die Beweislastverteilung im UN-Kaufrecht (Frankfurt, 1996); B. Reimer-Zocher, Beweislastfragen im Haager und Wiener Kaufrecht (Frankfurt, 1995).

88. See, e.g., M. Hutter, Die Haftung des Verkäufers für Nichtlieferung der Ware bzw. Lieferung vertragswidriger Ware nach dem Wiener UNCITRAL-Übereinkommen über internationale Warenkaufverträge vom 11. April 1980 (Diss. Regensburg, 1988), 44.

89. W.L.H. Khoo, "Art. 2", in: Commentary on the International Sales Law, supra note 25 at 39; U. Huber, "Der UNCITRAL-Entwurf eines Übereinkommens über internationale Warenkaufverträge", Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (1979), 413, 479; G. Reinhart, UN-Kaufrecht (Heidelberg, 1991), 89; A. Rosett, "Critical Reflections on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods", 45 Ohio State Law Journal (1984), 265, 281; G. Ryffel, Die Schadenersatzhaftung des Verkäufers nach dem Wiener Übereinkommen über internationale Warenkaufverträge vom 11. April 1980 (Bern, 1992), 59.

90. See ICC Arbitral Award n. 6653/93, Journal du droit international (1993), 1044.

91. Cfr. für Deutsches Recht (1992), 533, 534; Ryffel, supra note 89 at 59.

92. Thus S.S. Grewal, "Risk of Loss in Goods Sold During Transit: A Comparative Study of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the Uniform Commercial Code, and the British Sale of Goods Act", 14 Loyola L.A. International & Comparative Law Journal (1991), 93, 102.

93. Cfr. J. Aue, Mängelgewährleistung im UN-Kaufrecht (Frankfurt, 1989), 110; C.M. Bianca, "Art. 36", in: Commentary on the International Sales Law, supra note 25 at 287-288; V. Knapp, "Art. 74", in: ibid. at 541; R. Herber, "Anwendungsbereich des UNCITRAL-Kaufrechtsübereinkommens", in: Das UNCITRAL-Kaufrecht im Vergleich zum österreichischen Recht, supra note 74 at 41; Herber - Czerwenka, supra note 24 at 32; Jung, supra note 87 at 40; U. Magnus, "Stand und Entwicklung des UN-Kaufrechts", Zeitschrift für europäisches Privatrecht (1995), 202 at 207; Reimers-Zocher, supra note 87 at 148.

94. For this statement, see HG Zürich, 9 September 1993, UNILEX.

95. O. Hartwieg, "Prozessuale Aspekte einheitlicher Anwendung der Wiener UN-Konvention über den Internationalen Warenkauf (CISG). Eine komparative Fall-Studie zur einheitlichen Rechtsanwendung", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft (1993), 282, 321.

96. See Magnus, supra note 13 at 122.

97. See also Reimers-Zocher, supra note 87 at 146 et seq.

98. In this sense, see also Jung, supra note 87 at 38 and 40; Hartwieg, supra note 95 at 288-289.

99. Several courts stated that the issue of burden of proof is a matter governed by the CISG; see, e.g., HG Zürich, 26 April 1995, UNILEX; HG Zürich, 9 September 1993, UNILEX.

100. See, e.g., Jung, supra note 87 at 52 et seq.

101. See Jung, supra note 87 at 52 et seq.; Magnus, supra note 13 at 123.

102. Magnus, supra note 13 at 123, where the author states that this principle is clearly based upon Article 79(1); for a reference to the importance of Article 79(1) in establishing a general principle concerning the allocation of the burden of proof, see Reimers-Zocher, supra note 87 at 146 et seq.

103. Compare LG Frankfurt, 6 July 1994, UNILEX; OG Innsbruck, 1 July 1994, UNILEX.

104. Jung, supra note 87 at 44, Magnus, supra note 93 at 207.

105. See F. Ferrari, "Art. 4", in: Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht, supra note 23 at 104; Magnus, supra note 13 at 123.

106. HG Zürich, 26 April 1995, UNILEX.

107. For this rule, see also HG Zürich, 30 November 1998, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für internationales und europäisches Recht (1999), 185; HG Zürich, 26 April 1995, supra note 106; OLG Innsbruck, 1 July 1994, UNILEX, to which the Tribunale di Vigevano expressly refers in its decision.


Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated July 25, 2001
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