Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Different countries, different cultures – and usually also a different basis for legal systems. The development of the European single market, the global integration of multinational business and commercial companies as well as the increasing internationalisation of our daily lives require that areas of private and commercial law provide solutions that cannot only be derived from the legal systems of individual countries. Academics at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg apply analysis of the differences and similarities between different legal systems to develop a foundation for an international understanding of law and its application to cross-border circumstances. This also includes addressing the methodological issues of comparative law and unification of law. The central research tool of the Institute is its library, which contains one of the world’s most extensive collections of literature on civil law.


Mittelweg 187
20148 Hamburg
Phone: +49 40 41900-0
Fax: +49 40 41900-288

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department German, European and International Company Law and Securities Regulation, Commercial Law including Accounting Law, Economic Analysis of the Law and Comparative Law more
Department Law of obligations and law of succession in historical and comparative perspective; mixed legal systems; harmonization of European private law more
Brexit has far-reaching ramifications in private law
Brexit is a done deal. Prime Minister Theresa May now faces the gargantuan task of negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union. Disentangling the finely woven network of EU directives and regulations and national and EU law is certainly no mean feat. more
The TTIP Agreement is highly controversial in the public opinion in Europe and especially in Germany. First and foremost the opponents criticize the intended arbitration process for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). By the supporters it is considered as a general practice. more
Investment arbitration in the light of TTIP – a sensible instrument?
An opinion article from Jürgen Basedow more
Europe’s courts under reform pressure
The European Court of Justice is facing tremendous challenges. A study by the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Private Law outlines the reasons why, and sets out solution proposals. more
Legal study offers first comprehensive overview of liability issues in connection with the Fukushima nuclear accident more
The downsides of the quota system
Experience in other countries shows that preferential treatment can be prejudicial – for women too more
Inheriting and bequeathing in Europe
EU citizens should be able to determine for themselves under which national law they want to bequeath their estate more
Dynamic family law reform, recognition of adoption and consideration of a child’s best interests: Nadjma Yassari from the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg and her “Changes in God’s Law – An Inner-Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Law” research group illustrate how complex and mutable law in Muslim countries is.
The Japanese are far less likely to settle their disputes in a court of law than Europeans or Americans. Is this a product of their mentality? Do they know of better ways of resolving conflict? Or are they lacking in legal alternatives? These are some of the questions being explored by Harald Baum and his colleagues in the Japan Unit at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg.
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Private law relations in cross-border contexts have traditionally been governed by private international law. Yet rules vary from country to country, and developments in the field have not kept pace with globalisation. Consequently, in resolving cross-border dispute, courts have been turning to human rights law. more

The family constitution: A toothless contract?

2017 Fleischer, Holger
Disputes arising among family members will not infrequently threaten the break-up of an entire – multi-generational – family business. Against this background, family constitutions find increased popularity. These documents allow family businesses to set out their shared values and to formulate approaches for dealing with potential conflicts. Until now however, family charters have been considered primarily through a business lens and have not been attributed any legal relevance. The present article sees jurist Holger Fleischer challenge this view. more

International surrogate motherhood: The child in a legal no man’s land

2016 Duden, Konrad; Basedow, Jürgen

International surrogate motherhood tests the limits of what a national law can do. Surrogacy is forbidden in Germany. Thus, many Germans commission surrogates abroad. Are they later the legal parents of the children? The children’s rights demand the recognition of their social family with the intended parents – which comes at the cost of effective enforcement of the prohibition of surrogacy. One might regret this circumstance. Accepting it, however, opens up a discussion that could lead to a better protection of the parties involved than merely insisting on the prohibition of surrogacy.

The dower (mahr) is a key figure of Islamic marriage law. The work of Nadjma Yassari shows how the dower remains an important tool to fill existing financial gaps. Notwithstanding the continuous reforms of the regulations related to the financial relations between spouses, postmarital solidarity is still weak and there are hardly any social welfare transfers. Emphasizing the function and purpose of the mahr, the book also addresses the incorporation of the dower into private international law and German family law. more
The law of succession is subject to the influences of social change and the increasing internationalisation of living circumstances. Accordingly, a comparative examination of fundamental questions is needed. To what extent can a succession law regime tolerate assets being tied up across generations by means of foundations or trusts? How is the freedom of testation to be reconciled with the requirement of familial solidarity? Additionally, a new EU Regulation that will bring numerous changes to cross-border succession cases has to be considered. more
The development of European private law has thus far been accomplished through legislative instruments and regulatory mechanisms reflecting short-term considerations driven by the politics of the day. As a response to this development, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law published in 2009 the Handwörterbuch des Europäischen Privatrechts. In 2012 the Max Planck Encyclopedia of European Private Law was released, representing an English version accessible to an international readership. more
Asia’s ever growing political and economic importance is not disputed any more. Europe, however, still lacks a coherent strategy how to cope with this challenge. Based on 150 years of genuine friendship between Japan and Germany the later has a unique chance to deepen its engagement in Asia in cooperation with its Japanese partner. Law in general and comparison of law with Japan especially are a high potential building block for an Asian strategy. more

Wills and succession in Europe

2011 Basedow, Jürgen; Dutta, Anatol
In October 2009 the European Commission submitted a Proposal for a Regulation on international succession law which shall enhance legal certainty and facilitate the enforcement of rights for European citizens when faced with cross-border successions. With its comments on the Commission Proposal the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law participates in a European-wide discussion and contributes academically to the increasing Europeanisation of private international law. more

Private Law on the Road to Europe

2010 Illmer, Martin
The Handbook of European Private Law structures, edited by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, structures the various aspects of European private law in light of their historical and comparative law dimensions as well as of the harmonization of European law. The Handbook provides both academics and practitioners with a concise and convenient account of the present state of European private law, and forms an important basis for its consistent development in the future. more

Mediation - Empirical Data, Comparison of Laws, Model Regulations

2009 Steffek, Felix
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
The German Federal Ministry of Justice commissioned the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law to analyze mediation rules and empirical data from nineteen countries in Europe and around the world. The recently published results may foster discussion on the implementation of the European Directive on Mediation. The comparative view on other legal systems reveals successful models of regulation and offers a better understanding of their effects. more
In the Napster–Bertelsmann case, the German defendant Bertelsmann AG tried to block service of a US class action suit for the sum of 17 billion US Dollar. The defendant filed a constitutional complaint. The German Constitutional Court (Second Senate) asked the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law for an expert opinion on the legal issues raised by the service of a US class action in Germany. The Institute recommended a return to the rather liberal approach to international judicial assistance adopted by the First Senate. The recent jurisprudence of the Second Senate follows this line of reasoning. more
In June 2006, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law has held the First Max Planck Postdoc Conference on European Private Law where 18 young scholars from various European countries presented and discussed the propositions of their respective Ph.D. thesis. The subjects ranged from the law of obligations to private international law and company law to civil procedure, labor and environmental law. This conference has carried forward the successful series of the “Habilitandenkolloquien”, organized by the institute since 1999 and expanded the group of participants to young scholars from across Europe. more
A research project at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law analyzed why and how US American corporate law is received in Germany. In a historical perspective the researcher pointed out the functional interdependence between those points in which German lawmakers decided to follow a different course than that prevailing in the US, i.e. stock exchange regulation, antitrust, supervision of capital markets, labour codetermination and conflict of corporate laws. Finally, he delved into the specific problems of interpreting and applying corporate law that has been transplanted from a US American context. more

Japanese law

2006 Baum, Harald
Contrary to Japan’s role as the world’s second largest economy, understanding and knowledge of Japanese law is still insufficient in Germany and Europe. The Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Private Law and Private International Law has taken up this challenge and made comparison of law with Japan one of its major research focuses. A journal of Japanese law is the focal point of its pertinent activities. Since 1996 the journal documents and analyses the manifold developments in Japan’s legal order using a broad methodological approach. more

Reconstructing the Afghan legal system

2005 Yassari, Nadjma
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
One of the most critical issues for the reconstruction of the legal system in Afghanistan is the lack of reliable data and analysis. The conflicts of the past 25 years have resulted in the collapse of institutions of higher education and a brain drain as many educated Afghans fled the country. Furthermore, the short-term nature of funding, combined with the fast-paced working environment of international organisations, has left little room for reflection. This is a handicap calling for redress. The Max Planck Institute for Foreign Private Law and Private International Law has thus developed several projects to assist the Afghans in their endeavour to reconstruct their legal system. These projects revolve around legal education, the new Afghan Constitution adopted in 2004 and Afghan family law. more

Jurists uprooted: German-speaking emigré lawyers in twentieth century Britain

2004 Zimmermann, Reinhard
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence
As a result of the Nazi-regime, German law faculties lost just over a quarter of their members. Recent years have seen a growing body of literature on the contribution of scientists, historians, and literary and artistic figures who were forced to leave Germany and Austria after Hitler came to power. For the first time, this international project evaluates the important contribution of refugee and émigré legal scholars to the development of English law. It considers nineteen legal scholars originally trained in Germany or Austria who made their home in England; and it assesses their contribution to scholarship in a very different legal system from that which they left. more

Prospectus and information liability in the EC, Switzerland and the United States

2004 Hopt, Klaus J.; Voigt, Hans-Christoph
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
On 31 December 2003 the new Directive on the prospectus to be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading entered into force. The Directive regroups the provisions that stem from Directive 80/390/EEC coordinating the requirements for the drawing up, scrutiny and distribution of the listing particulars to be published for the admission of securities to official stock exchange listing and 89/298/EEC coordinating the requirements for the drawing up, scrutiny and distribution of the prospectus to be published when transferable securities are offered to the public. One of its objectives is to protect investors by providing full information concerning securities and issuers of those securities, enabling them to make an informed assessment of the involved risks. But the Directive does not constitute "de minimis" rules on civil liability in case such relevant information is incorrect or missing. Therefore, it is up to the Member States to ensure that their laws, regulation and administrative provisions on civil liability apply to those persons responsible for the information given in a prospectus. This leads to a great variety of different liability regimes restricting the issuers/offerors access to investment capital on a Community-wide basis. The comparative study mandated by the German Federal Ministry of Finance analyzes the provisions regarding civil liability in the different legal systems, trying to show common principles for future harmonisation. more
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