While IT & TLC law skills usually originate, in law firms dealing with such matters, as a by-product of their pre-existent IP practice, Studio Legale Sutti’s practice in this area has developed from the interest of a number of the Firm’s members in information technology per se, and from our efforts to stay, from the very beginning, on the technological cutting edge with regard to information and communication services. Thus, our involvement in IT and TLC is a very determinant part of our history, evolution and achievements.
Our approach to this area of law reflects such development, and has led to the establishment of an inter-disciplinary IT, TLC, TMT Group, which includes members of both our Company-Commercial Dept. and our IP Dept., some of whom also participated in our Y2K/Euro Task Force.
Among the more traditional Studio Legale Sutti’s IT Group services are: assistance with regard to negotiating and drafting custom software development contracts and outsourcing agreements; revision of standard terms and conditions, and shrink-wrap agreements, for software sale; advice on EDI, e-commerce and teleworking; litigation related to on-line contracts, liability for hardware and software failure, patent and software copyright infringements, the legal protection of databases, and unfair competition in the IT sector: and, from 1998 to 2002, Y2K and Euro-related issues.
Of course, the hottest issues are now those related to B2B and B2C e-commerce and the Net in general, including the related corporate tax planning, compliance with the legal security requirements applicable to treatments of personal data and the certification of digital signatures, the EU consumer protection rules applicable to on-line sales, the legal protection of Internet-based business ideas, and the prosecution of the so-called “computer crimes”.
The Group also concentrates on hi-tech joint-ventures, IT cross-licensing, and transfers of know-how in the TMT sector.
Lastly, IT, multimedia, consumer electronics, and high-tech in general, are also the strong point of our patent attorney practice, which includes the drafting of IT, TLC and multimedia patent applications, and the registration of software with the Italian Copyright Agency (SIAE).
A large part of the domestic media coverage obtained by Studio Legale Sutti since the early eighties is related to our peculiar involvement in the IT sector. The interest in this feature of SLS of course increased once Internet-based and Internet-related business had boomed, and in the period of the so-called New Economy. In this climate, the weekly business news magazine Il Mondo published, in its issue of the 23rd of April 1999, an article on Stefano Sutti, the Firm’s Managing Partner, entitled “The Pioneer of the Cyberlaw Firm”; an year later even a consumer-oriented magazine such as Happy Web has reiterated once more this “traditional” SLS theme in its issue of April 2000 (“I Want to Talk to My Cyberlawyer”), and so did the lifestyle magazine Capital (“The Cyberlawyers”, June 2000).
Again, Stefano Sutti – who in 2002 was appointed as Professor in Business IT Law by the University of Padua for its Master Course on the Internet and lectures for the Postdoctorate Course in Law and Economics of International e-Commerce organised by SCiNT – was the only lawyer mentioned by Donatella Percivale, in the issue of the 05/05/2000 of Il Mondo, among the Italian, Net-based, “New Economy” entrepreneurs and evangelists; and he was as well among the very few lawyers mentioned for the Italian jurisdiction by Law Business Research’s prestigious An International Who’s Who of Internet and e-Commerce Lawyers, by Legal Media Group’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Lawyers 2002,and in the IT & TLC section of European Legal Experts 2001 (Legalease).
Vast domestic and international media exposure has also been enjoyed by our obtaining the first Italian and European judgment in a Y2K dispute, and by the petition filed by SLS in October 1998 on behalf of a non-profit organisation of IT and TLC operators and users, for alleged abuse of dominant position, against a large software producer with the Italian antitrust authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato.
On another occasion, at the end of 2001, ANSA (04/12) Il Giorno (“Surprise to Web Surfers: This Site Is Under Seals” 08/12), La Provincia Pavese (“The Justice Online in the Web”, 05/12),Italia Oggi (“Web Site Seized Real Estate-Style. The Cordoned-Off Home Page”, 06/12), The International Law Office Newsletter (“Studio Legale Sutti Seals Website Coup”), and other media, mentioned Studio Legale Sutti with respect to the first seizure obtained in Italy of a Web site per se – which was “cordoned off” and put “under seal” by the police in cyberspace, upon SLS’s client request, according to the procedure in force for seizures of real sites and buildings – for the advertisement contained therein of machinery allegedly infringing a patent.
A very different Web-related case which made the front page, on 16/01/2002, of all the Italian press (including Il Giorno, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24Ore, Il Gazzettino, Il Secolo XIX, La Stampa, etc.) saw us for once represent an individual in the so-called “High Tech Hate” affair, where a group of hackers on the occasion of the G8 meeting in Genoa allegedly penetrated the Web sites of the Pentagon, the Italian Senate, and plenty of European Ministries, Chambers of Commerce, political parties, press agencies and ISPs, in order to leave a message against globalisation.
As far as the specialised legal press is concerned, it is therefore of little surprise that we are regularly cited as the leading IT practice in the jurisdictions where SLS is now active.
IT law was for instance mentioned among SLS’s “strong areas of practice” by European Counsel 3000 (published by L&C Publishing Ltd.) in its 1999, 1998 and 1997 editions – where Stefano Sutti’s expertise in matters related to hi-tech and electronics was also cited. Now, Global Counsel 3000, the new annual practice survey of the same publisher, again reports in its 2000 edition that SLS was recommended for “Internet-related work”; and in its 2001-2002 edition notes again our expertise in “technology & telecommunications”. Consistently, in 2002, 2003 and 2004 we are again recommended for “Communications”, with regard to both our Italian practice and our Bucharest office.
Similarly, our “strong practice” in the area of “Telecoms / Internet” is mentioned by ILFR’s 1000 – The Guide to the World’s Leading International Business Law Firms (now also online in the site of the Legal Media Group) since 1999. In the 2002 edition, we were pleased to read that “for IT and e-commerce, Studio Legale Sutti ranks as the top specialist firm”; and that our office in Sofia is separately recommended for “technology & telecommunications”. This opinion is also shared by The World’s Leading Lawyers (aka Chambers and Partners Global) 2002, where SLS is described as “the leading firm for IP-related matters concerning the Internet”, and again by the 2003 edition of the same publication, where we read: “Market opinion acknowledges SLS IP team’s long standing expertise in the high-tech industry. Other areas of specialisation include IT and Internet, cellular phones and fibre optics technology, 3D trademarks and MP3 technology”.
In the survey on “Foreign Law Firms in London” published by the 2000 edition of Legal 500 UK SLS is especially recommended, among Italian firms having an office in the United Kingdom, for “IP & IT”, while our work in the area of Y2K litigation was mentioned in the Italian section of the same directory. Speaking of the Internet and e-Commerce, according to The European Legal 500. 2001 edition, “it has been an established policy of the firm to become leaders in this field, serving B2B and B2C clients on all their legal and business advisory needs”. Again, in the 2002 edition we were recommended for “Telecoms, Media & E-Commerce” as a firm “offering a full range of services”, as we are again in 2003, which also mentions our competence in the field of e-banking.
Lastly, Studio Legale Sutti is the only Italian law firm recommended by KuesterLaw – The Technology Law Resource for Italy, and is listed under “Legal IT, Communications and Computer Law Attorneys” by the American Legal-ease Attorney Listing Service.
At the beginning of the nineties Studio Legale Sutti has participated in a number of IT-related EU projects as a member of Legit- Specialists in Legal IT, and in this capacity also took part in the conference organised by IBC UK Conferences Ltd. and sponsored by the ICC on the 27 and 28 November 1996 in Bruxelles on “European Information and Communication Technologies: Policy and Practice into the 21st Century”, where Stefano Sutti chaired the session dedicated to the relationships between computer science, competition and intellectual property.
SLS’s expertise in the area of European TLC and e-business was once more recognised at the end of 2000 when we were invited to join the Global Alliance for E-Commerce Law, a club of heavy-weight independent law practices, initially covering the United States, the Pacific Rim and Asia, on the forefront of the legal assistance to e-business operations. The interest of this initiative is that the Alliance is not so much the typical referral network amongst independent law firms scattered in different jurisdictions, but rather an ambitious knowledge-management joint-venture amongst top specialists in this sector, and by consequence a quality trademark based on peer recognition. Given that e-business is global and multi-jurisdictional by definition, membership in the Alliance thus provides an obvious added value, epecially with regard to issues related to general terms and conditions of trade, taxation and tax planning, intellectual property and competition aspects, business methods, security, regulatory compliance, privacy and personal data processing, consumer protection, and Internet-related international disputes.
Accordingly, our appointment as the Alliance’s first European member was widely echoed by the Italian and international press (see Il Mondo, 01/06/2001; The International Law Office Newsletters 06/12/2000; Commercio Elettronico 01/01/2001; Italia Oggi, 09/11/2000; Britaly, 01/12/2009 – the Newsletter of the British Chamber of Commerce in Italy; Il Secolo XIX, 10/12/2000, “Global Alliance Lands in Genoa”; The European Legal 500, 2001 edition; International Legal News, 20/11/2000; The Legal Media Group News 03/11/2000; The International Technology Law Review 01/12/2000; WordLaw Business 01/01/2001, etc.).
Since 2003, we represent the Alliance as well in Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania, and have been appointed to the prestigious position of world Coordinating Member – hardly an everyday occurence in any similar organisation for continental-Europe law firms, as it has been noted by the specialised legal and IT media – see again Legal Week 09/10/2003, “Italy’s Sutti Wins e-Law Group Role”; The Laywer 13/10/2003, “Studio Legale Sutti To Head up Global Network”; Mondaq 22/10/2003, “Studio Legale Sutti Appointed World Coordinator Of The Global Alliance For E-Commerce Law”; Studio Celentano22/10/2003, “Lo Studio Legale Sutti alla alla guida della prima alleanza globale di grandi studi specializzata esclusivamente sull’e-commerce ed Internet”, Excite23/10/2003,”e-Commerce Law: Studio Legale Sutti alla guida della Global Alliance”, Interfree23/10/2003, “Studio legale italiano a capo della Global Alliance for e-Commerce Law”, Aziende.it 22/10/2003, “E-commerce, Sutti a capo della Global Alliance”, ItLOOX 22/10/2003, “Internet: Studio Legale Sutti guida la Global Alliance”, Fullpress 20/11/2003, “Studio legale italiano alla guida della Global Alliance for e-Commerce Law”, Bernabé Magazine 24/11/2003, with an interview to Stefano Sutti (“La legge dei più bravi”).
We were also amongst the founders of euroITcounsel, an international circle of specialist lawyers, with strict admission requirements, which promotes the study of IT-related legislations. As such, euroITcounsel has been present at the Cebit 2000 in Hannover where on 25 February a member of SLS held a conference on the “Legislative and Regulatory Implementation of the Digital Signature in Italy”.
Owing to our especial focus on IT and TLC law and our direct interest in highly-specialised human resources in this field, in 2002 Studio Legale Sutti (in association with two other leading hi-tech practices) took the unusual initiative of partcipating in the creation and development, under its own very trademark, of one of the most ambitious Master courses in Law available in Italy (residential, 1200 hours classroom and laboratory teaching, plus a three-months’ compulsory stage period within the most important national IT law firms). The Master course will take place for the first time in 2003 under the aegis of Omni@media and Italia Lavoro, the educational arm of the Italian Ministry of Employment and Social Policies.
The initiative has been announced on, inter alia, La Stampa 27/12/2002; Il Tempo 07/01/2003; Altalex; Interlex 23/01/2003 (“Master in Information Technology Law”); Diritto.it 01/02/2003 (“Master in Information Technology Law”); and commented in articles published by Italia Oggi 20/01/2003 (which interviewed on the occasion SLS’s managing partner); Legal Week 11/02/2003 (“Italian trio launch training partnership. Top firms team up with labour ministry for tech venture”); Il Mondo 14/02/2003 (“Avvocati Online”); Studio Celentano (“Un Master in IT Law”); Yahoo11/02/2003 (“Un Master in Information Technology Law”); Interfree 01/02/2003 (“Il Master per l’avvocato hi-tech”), FullPress 13/02/2003 (“Primo Master in Information Technology Law”); Il Denaro 15/02/2003 (“Diritto dell’informatica, nascono i professionisti); Diritto d’Autore 05/03; Il Mattino 29/05/2003. Lastly, on 06/06/2003, a TV interview concerning the initiative was broadcasted in prime time by TG3, one of the daily news services of RAI-TV.
Given our traditional concentration on the IT & TLC sector and issues, SLS’s members have always been present also in many other conference and seminars held in our country and abroad, some of them (those concerned with IP-related issues) being listed in the page of our IP & Competition Dept.
One of those is those is the Italian Cyberspace Law Conference organised by Prof. Ziccardi each year in Bologna, where on 21/11/2003 Simona Cazzaniga presented a report on “The New Protection of the Intellectual Property in the Internet Age”, and Stefano Sutti on “Information Technology Law in a Law Practice”. Similarly, Prof. Cazzaniga, Cesare Bulgheroni and Prof. Giampaolo Corabi have been invited by AICA in Milan to an interdisciplinary discussion of software patents on 12/02/2004, to illustrate respectively the intellectual property-, criminal law-, and corporate tax planning-related issues. Again Prof. Corabi has been requested by the Circolo dei Giuristi Telematici to lecture in the Chamber of Commerce of Grosseto on on “e-Commerce and Corporate Tax Planning” on 15/01/2004.
Among other recent non IP-related, events where we were given the opportunity to participate, we may mention those which were held in Milan by CEGOS on “Negotiating and Drafting IT Contracts” on 22/10/1999, and by Systech – System Technology Institute, under the title “Y2K – What To Do When It Is Too Late for Technical Solutions” on 20/09/1999; and that organised by Fondazione Cassamarca, again on the “Millenium Bug”, which took place in Treviso on the 27/11/1999.
With respect to matter more directly related to the Net, SLS was invited in January 2000 by the Rotary Club – Milano Nord to discuss the Italian law on privacy and the online treatment of personal data, and again on 03/03/2000 lectured on “The Legal Security Requirements for the Treatment of Ordinary and Sensitive Personal Data” in the seminar organised by Centro di Formazione del Sole-24Ore on Legal Security Issues in the Treatment of Personal Data, with the participation of Dr. Giovanni Buttarelli, Secretary General of the Italian Privacy Authority.
We spoke again on Security in the Internet, the conference organised by IIR on the 27/06/2000 in Milan, where Stefano Sutti discussed the legal minimum security requirements and Gustavo Ghidini the legal protection of information published or transmitted on the Internet, and the same organisation requested Stefano Sutti to discuss the Security of Local and Wide Area Corporate Networks in November 2000 and “The Legal Protection of Corporate Information Systems” in the conference Objective: Zero Intrusion on 19-20/12/2001. Security Management and the Law was again the subject matter of the IIR seminar which took place on 17-18/04/2002, where we reported on “Corporate Policies and Protection of Corporate Data”.
Centro Studi Ateneo invited in turn Prof. Ballarino to discuss “Internet Law and Conflict of Laws” in the its meeting on Internet Law held in Padua on the 5th October 2001.
“Computer Crimes, Privacy and How to Elude Legal Limits to Corporate Controls” was instead discussed in the 4-5/12/2001 IIR seminar on Corporate Security, and “IS Policies and Corporate Security” in that on Security Management and the Law on 16-18/04/2002. “ITC Security and the Law” was also the topic of a lecture given on 03/07/2003 in a course on Internet and the Law offered in Milan by the European School of Economics.
Tito Ballarino is as well the director of the the Master course on Internet Law, organised by the University of Padua, which has now reached its third edition, and where Stefano Sutti also plays the role of contract professor and member of the academic board. The Paduan Master Course on Internet Law also sponsored on 10/10/2003 in Milan the Agora conference on Digital Signature, which was chaired by Prof. Ballarino himself.
The contracts for the development, maintenance and hosting/housing of Web sites were the subject of two conferences held by Stefano Sutti, the first in Amsterdam, in English, in the frame of the Computer Law Association European CyberSpaceCamp 2001, the second in the 28/11/2001 CEGOS seminar on Outsourcing Contracts for the New Economy. “Security and Safety Obligations and Liabilities in Outsourcing Contracts” were also discussed by Gianluca Gilardi on the 27/07/2003 in the seminar IT Outsourcing (IIR). Again, on 06/06/2003 Stefano Sutti was invited to discuss main contractual patterns in e-business (“I principali modelli di contratti on-line”) in the framework of the Corso di Alta Formazione in Diritto ed Economia del Commercio Elettronico e Internazionale (SCiNT). “Legal Aspects of Document and Workflow Management” is the subject of two courses contributed by SLS to LRA in Milan on 19/11/2003 and 10/03/2004.
Intranets were instead the subject of two lectures given by Andrea Montanari, respectively “New Corporate Strategies in the Internet Era: Protecting the Company’s Know-How” (Knowledge Management and Intranets in the E-Business Era, 25-26/10/2000, by Business International), and “Intranets: How to Make the Most of Corporate Information and Know-How” (Intranets and Knowledge Management, 29-30/11/2000, by IIR). The topics of the “Physical and Digital Storage of Documents Containing Personal Data” was instead discussed for the same corporate training provider by Gianluca Gilardi on 19-20/02/2002 (Information Storage Services. Comparate Experiences). Open Source and ITC Policies and Strategies in Consultancy Firms was the subject matter discussed in a round table attended by Stefano Sutti and Gianluca Gilardi on 26/09/2003 and organised by IusOnDemand.
Again, Stefano Sutti, Andrea Montanari and Fulvio Moneta Caglio were invited to lecture on the legal and fiscal aspects of the activity of the Application Service Providers in a workshop jointly organised by CEGOS and SLS in Milan on 11/10/2000; for IIR in the same city Gianluca Gilardi spoke on “How to Draft Safe and Flexible Outsourcing or ASP Contracts” (in Outsourcing vs. ASP) on 24-25/09/2001, and “EDP Divisions Spin-Offs as an Alternative to Outsourcing” (in IT, Outsourcing, SLA) on 18-19/09/2002, and Marco Pistis discussed “IT Contracts and Corporate Strategy” (in IT Contracts) on 21/11/2001.
E-business has been instead the subject of two seminars sponsored by IIR in December 2000, where we disccussed respectively on Technologies and Solutions for E-business and Legal and Tax Aspects of E-Commerce. CEGOS has again invited SLS to discuss “Privacy, Treatment of Personal Data and Employer’s Liability: Forbidden or Obligatory Snooping?” in the conference on The Electronic Control of Employees on 23/03/2001 in Milan, and IIR the legal implications of the Transition from EDI and XML on 27-28 March 2001, as well as “Private-public partnerships with Technology Pourveyours” (in Information Technology and Italian PublicAgencies), on 26-27/02/2003. The directives for e-government in Italy were also the topic of a report by Marco Pistis in a LRA even held on 28/10/2003 in Milan on The Digital Protocols and the Workflow Management in Italian Public Agencies.
Studio Legale Sutti also co-organised on 25-26/03/2003 a joint seminar with the same conference organiser, on Business and IT Law Issues, with the participation of Davide Valsecchi, Simona Cazzaniga, Gianluca Gilardi, Tito Ballarino and Stefano Sutti.
Lastly, Stefano Sutti has chaired on 05/07/2001 the CEGOS conference in Milan on Privacy and the Internet , where he also discussed “How to deal with Internet-related data protection and privacy disputes”; and on the 21/11/2003 Stefano Sutti and Simona Cazzaniga participated to the Italian Cyberspace Law Conference with two reports on “Information Technology Law in the Practice of Law” and on “The New Protection of Intellectual Property in the ITC Era”.