China: 对《技术进出口管理条例》第二十四条的解读

Last Updated: 28 April 2017
Article by Watson & Band Law Offices

  《技术进出口管理条例》第24条 "技术进口合同的让与人应当保证自己是所提供技术的合法拥有者或者有权转让、许可者。"本条规定通常被理解为对让与人设定了瑕疵担保义务。因此,让与人通常十分关心该条是否具有法律的强制性规定,即合同双方能否通过约定排除本条的适用,以及通过何种方式能够减轻甚至消除本条对其产生的影响,本文即尝试对此进行分析、讨论。

  《技术进出口管理条例》于2001年制定,次年生效施行,但至今,未见与第24条有关的判例也未见后续司法解释,对于该条是否属于法律的强制性规定,中国的国内法和对外缔结的国际条约均未对此有明确规定。

  笔者认为,要判断第24条规定究竟属于一般义务还是法律的强行性规定,需要从《技术进出口合同》的法律本质来分析。也就是说,需要判断此类合同究竟属于"一般合同"还是"特别合同"。如果属于"一般合同",即意味着此类合同与公共利益或国家利益关系不大,缔约方可以在符合合同法和民法通则一般原则的前提下,自行约定;如果属于"特别合同",就表示此类合同客观上关涉一定公共利益或者国家利益,需要法律通过强制性规定,对缔约方的某项具体义务进行特别干预和规范。

  如果《技术进出口管理条例》中的《技术进出口合同》属于"一般合同",那么根据《合同法》的规定,双方就有权通过约定排除第24条的适用。

  根据《技术进出口合同》第2条对技术进出口行为的规定 ,《技术进出口合同》应归入《合同法》分则技术合同一类中。依照个案不同,又可以进一步分别归入《技术许可合同》、《技术转让合同》、《技术开发合同》、《技术咨询合同》和《技术服务合同》这些小类。依据《合同法》第353条 的规定,双方可以另行约定使用技术损害第三方权益时的双方责任分担。可见,如果《技术进出口合同》属于"一般合同"的,那么在《合同法》的框架下,是允许缔约双方在合同中对技术提供方瑕疵担保义务的存废和义务承担的强度进行约定的。

  境外其他大陆法国家的司法实践情况亦如是。以德国为例,德国判例法 是将《许可协议》作为一般合同处理的,因而适用《德国民法典》中有关租赁及出租的特定原则 。在此前提下,如果缔约双方并未在《许可协议》中明确约定许可方的权利瑕疵担保义务,许可方仍然需要保证权利的有效性,否则被许可方有权取消或者撤销协议并索赔。

  如果《技术进出口合同》关涉一定公共利益或者国家利益,则应归入"特别合同",双方当事人不能通过约定排除第24条的规定。

关于《技术进出口合同》是否涉及一定公共利益或者国家利益,国内长期以来存在不同的声音。2000年制定《技术进出口管理条例》时,主要是国外先进技术进口到中国,中方作为被许可人(被让与人),一般处于缔约弱势地位,为保护中方利益,在此时期,通行的观点是认为第24条是强制性规定。但考虑到近十几年来,中国国内经济形势已有较大改变,越来越多的中国技术开始出口到国外,持双方可以通过约定来规定责任分担观点的人开始逐年增加。

  虽然宜将第24条放在不同历史时期,结合实际情况进行灵活理解和处理。但考虑到在当下的司法实践和实务中,对该条款的理解尚有分歧,因此从降低让与人风险角度考虑,建议暂将第24条视为强制性规定,而在设定《技术进出口合同》条款时,注意避免出现完全排除让与人瑕疵担保义务的约定,以降低该约定因违反法律强制性规定而被认定无效或者面临行政责任的风险。

既然通过直接约定不能完全排除第24条规定的适用,那么,让与人能否通过间接许可(转让)来规避第24条的适用呢?以下我们分两种情况进行讨论。

  1.A公司与被让与人在国外的法人进行交易,所签署的合同适用外国法。

由于中国法律不承认法律规避 的行为,因此,如果出于规避中国强制性或禁止性法律规范的行为,将不发生适用外国法律的效力。因此,在此情形下,A公司很难实现规避第24条适用的目的则仍然存在风险。

  即便不考虑法律规避行为无效的情形,A公司是否依然承担担保责任还须取决于该外国法的规定。如果该外国法没有规定让与人须承担法定担保责任的,则A公司可以通过与对方协商谈判来免除A公司的担保责任。因此,通过这种间接许可(转让)的方式,能否顺利规避让与人的法定担保责任,存在一定风险。

  2.A公司先将技术许可A公司在中国的子公司,再以A子公司名义进行再许可。

  A公司与其子公司的合同,不得规避《技术进出口管理条例》第24条的规制,A公司对其子公司负有法定瑕疵担保的义务;而A子公司与B公司的再许可(转让)合同,属于国内技术许可,不涉及技术进出口,依据《合同法》第353条的规定,双方可以另行约定使用技术损害第三方权益时的双方责任分担。因此,此种间接许可(转让)的方式,也不能从根本上规避第24条对让与人的效力。

从上述分析可知,我们认为,通过协议方式或者间接许可(转让)方式,都无法完全排除《技术进出口管理条例》第24条规定的让与人的瑕疵担保责任的适用。但《技术进出口管理条例》并未禁止或限制缔约双方对让与人瑕疵担保责任承担的方式或程度进行约定,因此,我们认为双方可以通过在合同中约定让与人担保责任的承担方式或程度。

  基于以上分析,我们建议,技术让与人可以通过以下几种方式,减轻第24条规定对其产生的影响,可在合同中作以下约定:

1. 在合同中约定责任限额

 1) 明确限定承担瑕疵担保责任的条件

  (a) 被许可人严格依照约定使用许可方的技术,仍被司法机关生效法律裁决判定侵害第三方权利的,许可人依据合同约定的比例和限额承担责任;

  (b) 被许可人在合同签订时知道或应当许可使用的技术有瑕疵、存在侵害第三方权利的潜在风险,许可人不承担损害赔偿责任;

  (c) 因许可人自身原因(如超出许可范围进行使用,擅自改变技术等)造成侵害第三方权利侵害的,许可人不承担损害赔偿责任。

 2)具体约定给第三方损害时,双方之间的责任分担比例

 3)明确无论何种情况下,许可人对因合同履行产生的损害或违约之诉等承担责任的限额。

2.  选择合同适用的法律和争议解决机构

  双方可以通过选择合同适用法律和/或争议解决机构来规避第24条的适用:

 1) 约定适用外国法(该外国法中未对许可人设定瑕疵担保法定义务),并约定发生争议时选择外国仲裁机构仲裁;

 2) 约定适用中国法,但约定发生争议时选择外国仲裁机构仲裁。

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