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Legal matters in international business

This information is provided by:Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNetherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNetherlands Enterprise Agency RVONetherlands Enterprise Agency RVONederlandse versie

When you do business with a foreign business partner, make sure you document what you have agreed upon. This can take the form of a contract, your general conditions, and delivery conditions. Always ensure that product requirements and product liability have been taken care of. Don’t forget to protect your trademark or copyright, to avoid abuse. And, if you are doing business in or with an EU country, make sure you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Record your agreements in a legally binding contract

You are under no legal obligation to draw up a contract, but doing so may prove useful for you. A contract records the agreements you and your business partner enter upon in a legally binding form. For instance, who will be liable for product transport. It makes clear the rights and duties of both parties. A sound contract gives you certainty, and helps to prevent conflicts. It reduces your entrepreneurial risk. Natural as well as legal persons can enter into a contract. A judge may declare a contract null and void if one of the parties is a minor, or is in ward. So, be careful with whom you enter into a contract. Read more about contracts and agreements.

Contents of an international contract

In the contract you describe the product or service, the price and its acceptance by the customer. A contract also states under which jurisdiction or set of laws it resorts, and which judge has the authority to act in case of disputes. Considerable differences exist from country to country. It is advisable to appoint a lawyer for drawing up the precise content of the contract.

Include international delivery terms

Clearly set out the delivery terms in your contract. You do this using the ICC Incoterms®2020. If you have been using the ICC Incoterms®2010, you can continue to do so. They remain valid. When using the international delivery conditions ICC Incoterms® 2020 you know:

  • who is responsible for arranging transport
  • who is responsible for the costs associated with transport
  • who bears the risk of damage to or loss of the goods during carriage

Draw up general conditions

General conditions are delivery terms, payment and warranty conditions that apply to every quotation or order. If you want to start exporting, make sure your general conditions apply to the sale of your product or service in the destination country. Include your general conditions in your quotation and refer to them in the contract. And don’t forget to have your general conditions translated into the language of the destination country.

Protect your trademark or copyright

If you import private-label products, that are made specifically for your company, you can release them on the market under your own brand name. Register your trademark or brand name to prevent others from abusing it. If you export goods, you should consider applying for international copyright protection.

Protect your intellectual property

If you launch a new or unique product, you don’t want others to copy it. As a precautionary measure, you can register your trademark. If the invention is your own, you can apply for a patent for your product. The Netherlands Patent Office (NPO) offers valuable information on how to protect your invention in your export country.

Check the product requirements and liability

If the product you market is faulty, you are liable for the damage it causes. Be sure to check the product requirements in your import or export country, even if you have the correct quality certificates. If you are the liable party, you may have to face financial claims. Check with your insurer how to keep your risk within acceptable limits.

Comply with the GDPR

If you do business in or with an EU country, supplier or customer, you have to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation. The step-by-step guide will tell you what to do.

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