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The Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot is the largest mooting competition of its kind in the world, usually held in Vienna. In late March, seven student members of the Inn joined 386 other teams to participate in the 28th annual Vis Moot.  After months of preparation, two memorials, and five days of moots, the team finished in the final 32. This is the furthest that a Gray’s Inn team has ever progressed in the moot. Alice Horn and Matthew Innes received Honourable Mentions for the Martin Domke Award for the best individual oralist. This followed the team’s success in the Fox Williams Pre-Moot, where Alice was first runner-up for the best oralist award.

This year’s moot problem concerned a contract dispute between four companies involved in vaccine research and production. Respondent No. 1 granted the Claimant a non-exclusive license, in 2019, for a fictional viral vector, ‘GorAdCam’. Later, the Claimant discovered that Respondent No. 1’s sister company, Respondent No. 2, had previously granted Ross Pharmaceuticals an exclusive license for the vector. It seemed that this overlapped with the Claimant’s license. There were two substantive issues: first, the applicability of the CISG to the 2019 contract; and second, the scope of CISG Article 42, which imposes a duty on the seller to deliver goods free of any third-party ‘right or claim’.

There were also two procedural issues: first, whether the Swiss Rules (to which all parties had consented in their arbitration agreements), allowed the tribunal to join an unwilling Ross Pharmaceuticals; and second, whether virtual hearings should take place.

The team grew from the Inn’s six-week course on international commercial arbitration last autumn, devised by Marion Smith QC and Frederico Singarajah. In October, Marion and Frederico selected the team, and work on the two memorials commenced. After the Respondents’ memorial was submitted in January, the team turned to preparations for the oral rounds. Throughout both stages, the team benefited greatly from the generosity of barristers and judges from across the Gray’s Inn community.

One of the highlights for the team was the chance to interact with mooters and arbitrators from different legal systems. It exposed different approaches to contractual interpretation, oral advocacy, and the notion of good faith. During the weekly training moots, the Fox Williams and Tehran Regional Arbitration Centre Pre-Moots, and Vienna itself, the Inn’s team appeared against teams from Brazil, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Italy, Iran, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK.  

The team would like to thank everyone who helped them: Marion and Frederico, Kristina Whelan, and all of the volunteer coaches and arbitrators. The team was made up of Alice Horn, Caspar Ramsay, Joslyn Lim, and Matthew Innes (the four oralists in Vienna), and Emma Kelly, Ingrid Griffiths, and Jonny Pilkington.


Article contributed by the moot team.

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