Advisory Opinion

The term has similar meanings in different contexts. Generally an advisory opinion is not a legally binding ruling – a court can reach a different conclusion, but seeking and obtaining an advisory opinion can still be useful to decision making, settlement and for investment purposes. Advisory opinions can take two forms:

  • Specific opinions addressing a requesters specific circumstances;
  • General opinions addressing a more generic set of circumstances

However, in each case the “if” of the “if-then” recitation of facts needs to be carefully considered to be certain a particular situation matches the facts that underpinned the opinion.

A number of intellectual property offices, mostly with respect to patents will supply advisory opinions as to infringement and sometimes validity, for example the UK Patent Office and the Japanese Patent Office (Hantei).

With respect to export controls the United States Bureau of Industry and Security or BIS has published a series of advisory opinions to guide exporters and traders as to the legality of certain transactions.

Various Tax Authorities will also issue advisory opinions as to the tax status and legality of certain business arrangements, for example the Irish Revenue Commissioners, the UK HMRC General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR) Advisory Panel.

A number of other US Federal Agencies will also issue or publish advisory opinions which, under certain circumstances it may be wise to review or seek.

The US Constitution’s case or controversy requirement precludes US courts from issuing advisory opinions, though the courts of other nations are generally not so restricted and some are positively required to issue opinions on constitutionality of newly enacted laws even without interested parties engaging in litigation.

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