Akzo-Nobel

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Background to the case In 2003, the European Commission (acting as a competition authority) conducted an investigation into Akzo-Nobel Chemicals Ltd (“Akzo”) and Akcros Chemicals Ltd (“Akcros”). This included a search of Akzo and Akcros’ UK premises, during which the authorities took photocopies of documents that Akzo and Akcros argued were protected by legal professional privilege. Among the documents were two internal email exchanges involving an Akzo in-house lawyer.

The two companies brought proceedings before the European Court of First Instance against the Commission’s decision to take copies of the disputed documents. The Court of First Instance dismissed the appeal as unfounded, following the reasoning set out in earlier EU case law that made it clear that legal professional privilege is only available where the lawyer is independent and not bound to his or her client by a relationship of employment.

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