Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised Atol S.A (Atol), a leading French network of opticians, on its successful appeal hearing before the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) in a case against Optical Center, a competing optical equipment retail network, following a 13 year dispute.
Optical Center first brought a claim against Atol in early 2008, accusing Atol of unfair competition through initiating or encouraging fraudulent practices in order to better attract customers to its network. Optical Center claimed over €13 million in damages from Atol.
In a judgment dated 20 October 2016, the Nanterre Commercial Court rejected all of Optical Center’s claims and ruled that Atol could not be held liable for the actions of independent merchants who were members of its network. In addition, the court considered that the preventive and educational measures that Atol had implemented excluded any wrongful negligence on its part. This ruling was fully confirmed by the Versailles Court of Appeals on 6 March 2018, which also dismissed Atol’s counterclaim for the disparagement it claimed it had suffered from Optical Center over the years.
The decision of the French Supreme Court on 27 January 2021 puts an end to the legal action brought by Optical Center against Atol, ruling out any act of unfair competition attributable to Atol and paving the way to possible compensation for Atol in relation to its disparagement claim. The issue of compensation will be decided by the Versailles Court of Appeals.
The ruling by the French Supreme Court is particularly interesting as it follow a series of legal actions brought by Optical Center against almost all the major optical equipment retail networks in France at the beginning of 2008. In these cases, some companies were unsuccessful in decisions that are now final, while other companies won their cases on appeal after initially being ordered to pay significant damages to Optical Center.
The White & Case team in the Paris office which represented Atol comprised partner Yann Utzschneider and associate Anouk Clamens.
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