The End of the EU-US Safe Harbor Agreement: No Longer a Port in a Storm, But Now a Storm in the Port? (Live MBHB Webinar)

Actions of the EU governmental bodies over the past few years, coupled with the recent opinion from the European Court of Justice in the Schrems case, have eviscerated the safe harbor agreement between the U.S and the European Union. Safe harbor provided a mechanism for data transfers from the EU to the US that complied with the EU’s rigorous data protection scheme. The EU’s reconsideration of safe harbor arose largely in response to the Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance activities throughout the world. And while the EU was considering how to modify its own privacy policy and dealing with the possibility and implications of eliminating safe harbor, a case was making its way up to the European Court of Justice that would overshadow the entire process. Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian citizen and privacy activist, brought an action against Facebook in Ireland (Facebook’s EU headquarters) claiming his privacy had been violated as a result of transfers of Facebook data to U.S. servers and the NSA surveillance of companies in the U.S. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner rejected Schrems’ application based on the safe harbor agreement, and Schrems then appealed to the European Court of Justice. In September 2015, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice issued an opinion which stated not only that national data protection authorities could, and indeed had the obligation to, overrule safe harbor certifications if they determined that data protection provisions were not sufficient, but also that the safe harbor agreement itself was in conflict with EU fundamental human rights protections and therefore was invalid. Following the AG opinion, the European Court of Justice invalidated safe harbor on October 6, 2015. This decision creates significant issues for companies doing business in or with Europe that may well impact how companies pursue patent protection and enforcement. 


Join us as we review the Schrems ruling and current EU legislative activities and assess whether Schrems ruling signals the end of safe harbor as we know it or is merely the proverbial tempest in a teapot. Specifically, we will consider:


  • What impact the ruling will have on litigation activities involving European companies or data housed in Europe

  • What impact the ruling will have on patent prosecution for companies with European presence or using data developed and maintained in Europe

  • What the likely outcomes are for the future of safe harbor



Presenter: S. Richard Carden, MBHB litigation partner and Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe


Access an archived audio version of this webinar here. NOTE: MCLE credit is not available for this archived recording. 

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