Cases on the CISG

Debunking a myth and expanding our outreach

"There are hardly any cases on the CISG." While it is true that most cases on the CISG are located at sources many people are not used to accessing, there are in fact many cases on the CISG. We report over 2,500 such cases and believe that there have been more than double this number of rulings on the uniform international sales law.

"More than 90% of international commercial disputes are . . . decided by international arbitral tribunals." Berger, "The Creeping Codification of the Lex Mercatoria", Kluwer (1999) 65. The confidentiality of arbitration has always distinguished the arbitral process from adjudication by domestic courts. "Also, awards by international arbitral tribunals [have been] frequently handed over from one practitioner to another in an informal way instead of being published in official collections." Id. at 62. There is evidence of improvements upon this practice. Id. at 62-64. However, instead of reporting 90% arbitral awards and 10% court decisions, the preponderance of CISG cases we currently present are judicial rulings. This evidences a need to expand our outreach to practitioners to help us expand the number of CISG arbitral awards we present.

We receive encouraging reports of judicial attention to rulings on the CISG by tribunals and scholars of other jurisdictions.

The European Court of Justice witnessed a reference to our database by an agent for the European Commission. The case of MCC-Marble v. Ceramica Nuova that we cite refers to our database as a "promising source" for "persuasive authority from courts of other States party to the CISG." We would like to improve this source of such authority. Because of the importance of case law -- to jurists and arbitrators, to attorneys who plead before them and counsel their clients, and to scholars -- we extend an invitation: Attorneys involved in CISG arbitral or judicial proceedings and others interested in the CISG who learn of cases we have not yet identified, we hope our database is of help to you. Help us expand our collection of CISG cases so we can be of further help to the persons from 161 countries who draw on the database.

Overview description of our case material

The CISG Case Schedule lists the court and arbitral rulings on the CISG we have identified. The CISG Case Search Form helps you tailor your access to them. Go to search mechanisms for guidance in the use of the Case Schedule and Search Form.

We identify proceedings before each court or tribunal of every reported jurisdiction (1st instance, appellate court, highest court). It is our intent to enable you to follow the progress of each case where we have records of an appeal.

The Case Schedule is a notice of case rulings. When we learn of new cases, we enter them in the Case Schedule. We then prepare Case presentations that report additional information on the proceedings.

The Case Schedule is an automated index with links to Case presentations. The Case presentation format is:

  • Case identification
  • Case abstract
  • Classification of issues present
  • Editorial remarks
  • Citations to case abstracts, texts and commentaries
  • Case text (including English translation if available)
  • Case commentaries

Every Case presentation is indexed and, as each entry is a link, you may go directly to the material of most interest to you. Where we include with our Case presentations the texts of commentaries on a case, they also are indexed with similar links provided.

Each CISG article identified in a Case presentation is linked to an annotated text of that article which contains much additional information on the article: guides to the issues it addresses, texts of scholarly writings on these issues, legislative history texts, cross-reference editorial analyses, words and phrases annotations, links to related articles, match-ups with provisions of the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts where such match-ups appear appropriate, etc.

Each annotated article also contains a case law cross-check. To access this material, go to the Table of Contents to the Annotated Text of the CISG.

We present many case abstracts and provide Internet access to full original-language texts of a large number of the cases -- in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. With the help of colleagues from many countries (see Autonomous Network of CISG Websites), we are expanding this collection of case texts. We are also expanding our case translation program. For a schedule of English texts and English translations of texts in other languages, go to Full English Texts of CISG Cases.

As we obtain new information on cases, we add it to our Case Schedule and refine our Case presentations. We invite you to help us maintain as current a Case Schedule as possible and to expand our case presentations. If our database helps you prepare pleadings, let us know when a decision on your case is handed down. Also, please call to our attention other desired additions or corrections to our reports. We wish to present on the Internet English translations of all important CISG decisions. If you have language fluencies, here too your help would be welcome. Ours is a collegial service to our profession. Join us in this work!

Search mechanisms

The volume of material that has been written on the CISG is monumental -- more has been written on it than on any other new sales code. Scholarly writings abound and case law is growing rapidly. The challenge is to enable you to pluck from this mass of material the cases, writings and other items that are of interest to you. To serve you, we built into our electronic database multiple search mechanisms -- to enable you to obtain the information you want in a variety of ways, each with its own virtues.

We call to your attention a new feature of our website, a Google search button at the upper left-hand corner of our site's homepage, on the upper left-hand corner of each of our case presentation pages, and on the upper left-hand corner of many of our other pages. This is a Google search button tailored to the contents of the Pace website. Alternative methods for searching for material on our website are set forth below. Under many circumstances, you will find use of this Google search button a more user-friendly method of searching for material on our site than any of those approaches.

We set these alternative approaches forth, nevertheless, in keeping with our view that when searching for needed material, "belt and suspenders" is not a bad technique to follow. In keeping with that, we also encourage Unilex searches. We code our cases in accordance with a methodology outlined in the UNCITRAL Thesaurus. Unilex codes its cases and other material according to a different methodology.

Case searches

Our Country Case Schedule
[access material from a comprehensive listing]

You may identify cases of interest and link to presentations on them by scrolling through the Case Schedule. The "Find" button on your computer may also be of help. To identify cases dealing with an article, click on "Find" and type in the number of the article, followed by a comma. For instance, to identify cases that have dealt with CISG Article 74, type:   74,

Our Case Search Form
[access material in the Case presentation subset]

You may also search for cases in a more sophisticated manner by going to the CISG Case Search Form. This form permits you to access cases not only by article number but also by country, court, tribunal, case name, date, goods involved, etc.

A companion search mechanism
[case data in context with other relevant information]

For a companion case search mechanism, go to the Table of Contents to Annotated Text of the CISG. It contains a chart of the articles of the CISG. Click on the article of interest. We provide a homepage for each article of the CISG. Each homepage contains an automated "case button" permitting you to access case law interpretations -- in the context of data on legislative history and scholarly writings. As with the Case Search Form, case links enable you to access case citations and case annotations for each article of the CISG: see 2,500 cases 10,000 case annotations.

Case chronologies
Case translations

We also offer case yearbooks that list case citations in chronological sequence: see YB 2010-2000; YB 1999-1995; YB 1994-1990; and YB pre-1990.

Most CISG cases are in languages other than English. Over 1,500 of these cases have been translated. Additional translations are underway: see Schedule of translated cases.

Other searches

Legislative history searches

The database contains significant elements of the legislative history of the CISG: the Secretariat Commentary (the closest counterpart to an Official Commentary on the CISG) and the Summary Records of the proceedings at the 1980 Vienna Diplomatic Conference at which the CISG was promulgated.

The legislative history of this Convention is so complex that ability to navigate the travaux préparatoires of the CISG has been difficult. The computer can help. We, of course, like the aid to mining legislative history that Prof. John Honnold prepared (we refer to his "Documentary History" of the CISG). Honnold prepared that text because finding what he wanted in thousands of pages of unindexed and difficult-to-find documents (some of which have been out of print) had been for him like "looking for a needle in a haystack". We who were not a part of the creation of this Convention have had more difficulty. We have utilized the computer in an effort to improve upon Honnold's presentation -- by permitting anyone to click a button and obtain data on the Diplomatic Conference legislative history of each article of the CISG in chronological sequence.

Scholarly writings on your subject
[our Bibliography and Bibliography Search Form]

When conducting a case search, you often need much related information. Our Bibliography contains thousands of entries. For extensive information on CISG doctrine, go to the Bibliography homepage, select the language folios of interest and scroll through their contents, or go to the Bibliography Search Form.

If the case of interest is, for example, Filanto v. Chilewich, enter the case name in the Bibliography Search Form or the Case Search Form and you can access commentaries on it. A special feature of the Bibliography Search Form is the ability to enter requests by author of a journal article or text, by title, or by date or subject. Subject requests can be highly relevant to case research. If the subject of your case is, for example, battle of the forms (a subject of the Filanto case) or perhaps passage of risk under the CISG (a subject of other cases), enter "battle of the forms" or "passage of risk" on the Bibliography Search Form. The computer will provide pages of citations to scholarly writings on your subject.

In our Full-text Archives, you will in addition be able to obtain the texts of many of these writings. We express appreciation to the Boards of Editors of the many law journals that have granted us permission to present the full texts of scholarly writings on the CISG that they have published. A further service we will be providing is to present in our Archives the full texts of Masters and Doctoral theses on the CISG (see our invitation to authors). When this program is in place, if a participating scholar has written a thesis on your subject, you will be able to read it on the Internet.

Commentary on CISG case law

"Uniform law requires . . . a new common law" in which "[f]oreign precedents would not be precedents of a foreign law but of uniform law" (Antonio Boggiano [Argentina], note 1). Governmental legislation sets in place uniform law, but "[i]n reality, uniform law is not the work of governmental legislation. It is a creation of jurists, a kind of jurisconsultorium" (Gino Gorla [Italy], note 2). "[C]ourts . . . have to develop their jurisprudence in company with the courts of other countries from case to case" (Lord Scarman [United Kingdom], note 3).

Interpretations of an international convention by sister signatories are entitled to considerable weight (Air France v. Saks [United States], note 4); they are to be taken into account "in a comparative and critical manner" (Boggiano, op. cit.), with the "integrative force of a judgment . . . based on the persuasive reasoning which the decisions of the Court bring to bear on the problem at hand" (Jürgen Schwarze [Germany], note 5).

"To be able to take account of decisions from other countries one has first to be aware of them" (Leif Sevón [Finland], note 6). The goal of our Case Schedule and the companion Case Search Form is to assist in the prolific interaction of judicial and arbitral rulings on the Uniform Law.

Case law (jurisprudence) is one of several aids to interpretation (see note 7, The Comparative Precedent Project, 1992-97, for illustrative comments on precedent as "a major form of law recognized in one way or another" in common law and civil law legal systems). Uniform Law doctrine (scholarly writings) and legislative history (travaux préparatoires) should also be considered. For data on CISG doctrine, see our Bibliography and Archives; for data on the legislative history of the Uniform Law, see the Annotated Table of Contents (one may link from it to material on the travaux préparatoires of each article of the CISG).

It makes sense to set in place "channels for the collection and sharing of judicial decisions and bibliographic material". "The development of a homogenous body of law under the Convention depends on [this] so that experience in each country can be evaluated and followed or rejected in other jurisdictions" (John O. Honnold [United States], note 8). "There is a need for an international clearing-house to collect and disseminate experience on the Convention" (note 9). Our database was created to help respond to this need. The intent of the case law segments of the database is to have "[w]hatever a national court [or an arbitral tribunal] decides become internationally known . . . to add to the body of experience on the Convention" (Ralph Amissah [Ghana/Norway], note 10). The medium of the presentations is the computer.

The world is a community. It works better when we work together. We invite you to help us improve our case offerings.


1. Antonio Boggiano, "The Experience of Latin American States", in: International Uniform Law in Practice/Le droit uniform international dans la pratique [Acts and Proceedings of the 3rd Congress on Private Law held by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Rome 7-10 September 1997)], Oceana: New York (1988) 47.

2. Gino Gorla, "Observations," in: International Uniform Law in Practice, supra note 1 at 304.

3. Lord Scarman, 2 All E.R. (1980) 696, 715. Sevón elaborates: A judge ought to be "obliged to search for and to take into consideration foreign judgments and doctrine, at least the judgments from other Contracting States, when he is faced with a problem of interpretation of an international convention". Leif Sevón, "Observations", in: International Uniform Law in Practice, supra note 1 at 135.

4. Air France v. Saks, 470 U.S. 392, 404 (1985).

5. Jürgen Schwarze, "The Role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Interpretation of Uniform Law among the Member States of the European Communities", in: International Uniform Law in Practice, supra note 1 at 221.

6. Sevón, supra note 3. In the same vein, "Proper reporting of decisions [is an] essential prerequisite for the proper working [of the rule of precedent]". René David, "The Legal Systems of the world, in: International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1984) 133

7. Robert S. Summers, "The Comparative Precedent Project, 1992-97", in: Cornell Law Forum (July 1997) 17-20, a review of a new text, Interpreting Precedents - A Comparative Study, Dartmouth Press (1997); see also René David, supra note 3 at 111-137. For comments on challenges associated with "the transmutation of an interpreted norm from precedent to pending case", see Vivian G. Curran, "The Interpretive Challenge to Uniformity", 15 Journal of Law and Commerce (1995) 175 [review of Claude Witz, "Les Premières applications jurisprudentielles du droit uniforme de la vente internationale" (LGDJ Paris 1995)].

8. John O. Honnold, "Uniform Words and Uniform Application. The 1980 Sales Convention and International Juridical Practice", in: Einheitliches Kaufrecht und nationales Obligationenrecht (Baden-Baden 1987) 127-128.

9. Id. at 128.

10. Ralph Amissah, "On the Net and the liberation of information that wants to be free", in: Fra institutt til facultet: Jubileumsskrift i anledning av at IRV ved Universitetet i Tromsø feirer 10 år og er blitt til Det juridiske facultet, Skoghøy ed. (Tromsø 20 February 1997) 70.

An invitation

The case law segment of the database is a sharing of data on case law. We are grateful to have been able to draw upon the work products of the members of the autonomous network of CISG websites, as well as case material published by UNCITRAL and Unilex.

Assistance requested. When a CISG case comes to your attention that has not been entered in this database, please advise the Institute of it.

Vikki Rogers, Director
Institute of International Commercial Law
Pace University School of Law
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603, U.S.A.
Phone: +1 (914) 422-4002
Fax: +1 (914) 422-4405

Added assistance invited. Where you can help us advance our case translation program, a contact with the Director of the Institute would be most appreciated.

©Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated August 16, 2012