I was born on October 5, 1950 in Büderich (today: Meerbusch-Büderich) near Düsseldorf, Germany, son of the independent shipping and transport merchant Gerhard Martinek and Christel Martinek, née Fährmann.
In 1955, our family moved from Düsseldorf-Oberkassel to Osterath near Krefeld (today: Meerbusch-Osterath), where I began the community elementary school in 1957. After completing the fourth grade, I continued my education at the Comenius-Gymnasium high school in Düsseldorf. There I attended the branch for classical languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) and graduated in the spring of 1969 attaining my Abitur (Bachelor) in the humanities.
From 1969 to 1971 I underwent a commercial training course as a shipping and transport merchant in my father’s business, during the course of which I spent one year working in several European cities (London, Birmingham, Paris and Milan) as clerk to the correspondent firms of my father’s firm. I specialized in international transport (import and export shipping). During a half-year stay in London I worked only part-time and in addition studied philosophy and history at Trinity College, London University. In the summer of 1971 I passed my examinations as a commercial employee for international shipping and transport with the grade of „good“ before the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Düsseldorf.
In the winter term 1971/72 I commenced the study of jurisprudence and ancient philosophy at the Free University of Berlin. After six semesters I discontinued my studies of philosophy in order to devote myself more intensely to the study of law. During my student years, I undertook trips throughout Europe, including Eastern Europe, and to the United States of America. After nine semesters I completed my First State Examination in law, which I passed with the grade of „good“ in summer 1976.
My plans upon completion of my studies to take over increasing responsibility for the management of my father’s business (Transitus, Internationale Spedition, Martinek & Co. KG) were frustrated due to an illness of my father which necessitated the selling of the firm. From September, 1976 until June, 1977, encouraged by Prof. Dr. Dieter Reuter, I worked on a doctoral dissertation on corporation and liability law. On January 12, 1978 I passed my oral doctoral examination and was conferred the degree of Dr.iur. by the Free University of Berlin, Faculty of Law. My dissertation was awarded the grade of „summa cum laude“. From June, 1977 until December, 1979 I worked as a legal trainee (Rechtsreferendar) in Hamburg with several administrative and judicial institutions as well as with private practitioners. The accent in my practical professional training lay in the instruction on the settlement of disputes in civil (mainly commercial) litigation. I spent my elective term at the Third Division for Civil Matters, Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg (3. Zivilsenat des Hanseatischen Oberlandesgerichts), which specializes in disputes on industrial property and copyright protection. This period of legal professional training was interrupted by two terms of study at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law in London (summers of 1978 and 1979) which were supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and a semester of study at the Postgraduate School of Administrative Sciences in Speyer during the winter term of 1978/79. In December, 1979 I passed my Second State Examination in law in Hamburg with the grade of „good“, hereby achieving the capability to be appointed judge in the German juridical service.
As a result of my increasing interest in a scholarly pursuit of private and public commercial law, I began in 1980 a second doctoral dissertation in the area of public enterprises at the Postgraduate School for Administrative Sciences in Speyer. This dissertation, written under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus König, with its emphasis on the organization and administration of aid to developing countries, was awarded the grade of „magna cum laude“. Following my oral examinations on August 24, 1981, I was conferred the degree of Dr.rer.publ. From September, 1981 to June, 1982 I studied American law and comparative jurisprudence at the School of Law, New York University, New York, where I earned the degree of Master of Comparative Jurisprudence (M.C.J.), my major fields of study being corporation law, antitrust law and the conflict of laws. During this year (1981/82) I worked on a part-time basis as affiliate of UNITAR (United Nations Institute on Training and Research) under the supervision of Professor Thomas Franck on a research project focussing the Voluntary Trust Funds of the United Nations.
From the beginning of 1981 – with an interruption (leave of absence) due to my stay in the United States – I held an appointment as university assistant at the School of Law, University of Tübingen, where I was attached to the chair for civil, labour and commercial law under Prof. Dieter Reuter, who undertook the supervision of my inaugural dissertation for recognition as a university professor (Habilitation). When he accepted the call to a chair at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, I accompanied him there as a university assistant. During the winter term of 1985/86, I received recognition as university professor at the School of Law, University of Kiel. On March 5, 1986 I was awarded the “venia legendi” in the disciplines of civil law, mercantile and commercial law, comparative law and conflict of laws, and the degree of a Dr.iur.habil. was conferred upon me. My inaugural dissertation bears the title „Franchising – Fundamentals of the Treatment in Civil and Antitrust Law of the Vertical Group Cooperation in Distribution of Goods and Services“. My inaugural address had as theme: „International Private Antitrust Law and its Universal Conflict Rules: An Exemplary Model of the ‘Second Pillar’ of Modern German Conflict of Laws“. During the summer term of 1986, I was deputy professor at the University of Münster in the field of commercial law (antitrust law and industrial property protection law).
In the fall of 1986 I was appointed to my present post as full professor for civil law, mercantile and commercial law, comparative and conflict of laws in the Department of Law, School of Law and Economics, University of Saarland, with tenure for life. The accent of my teaching and research has been German and foreign/international mercantile, corporation and antitrust law and in particular the law of modern contracts and distribution law. I am especially interested in questions on leasing, factoring and franchising contracts, as well as other modern types of contracts found in trade and industry. The emphasis of my teaching lays in the fields of civil law, commercial law, company and antitrust law, as well as comparative law and conflict of laws. In my publications on private and commercial law subject matters appears increasingly a European and comparative dimension. The same is true with regard to my classical doctrinal research topics, namely the law of unjust enrichment and the law of mandates and agencies. In the last thirty years I published some thirty law books (monographies, treatises and commentaries; some of them have become standard works) and submitted more than three hundred articles with scholarly contributions to law journals. I supervised more than 140 doctoral dissertations and eight professorial habilitations in the field of private and commercial law. Five of my disciples have become university professors, four of them in Germany and one in China.
In 1990 I did not follow a call to a professor’s chair in private and commercial law and in industrial property law of University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (succession of Prof. Heinrich Hubmann and Prof. Wulf-Henning Roth), and in 1994 I rejected an offer to a similar chair of University of Freiburg/Breisgau (succession of Prof. Fritz Rittner and Prof. Christine Windbichler), which was linked with the directorship of the Institute of Business and Commercial Law. Instead, I was appointed director of the Institute of European Law in addition to my professorship at the law faculty of University of Saarland in Saarbrücken. From 1995 on, I shared the responsibility with my colleague Professor Dr. Filippo Ranieri as Co-Director of the Institute of European Law. From 1999 to 2007 I was again solely responsible, and since 2008 my colleague Professor Dr. Tiziana Chiusi and me are jointly leading the institute as executive directors. This Institute deals mainly with comparative law and conflicts of law issues of the European member states. I am also in charge (together with my assistants) of the LL.M.-program for foreign law students in Saarbrücken. This program provides for an introduction into the German legal system and German legal culture for post-graduate students from other countries. The Institute of European Law also takes care of some of the European (ERASMUS-, respectively SOKRATES-) exchange and cooperation programs, which the faculty entertains with partner universities in Europe.
I was visiting professor for several terms in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1991, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (formerly: Rand Afrikaans Universiteit – now: University of Johannesburg), and in Wuhan, P.R. China, in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 (Zhongnan – South Central University of Economics and Law, formely: Zhongnan University of Political Science and Law). I was appointed Senior Visiting Fellow of the Law School of University of Warwick, England, in 1999, where I spent my research sabbatical in the winter term 1999/2000. In October 2002 the honorary degree of doctor iuris causa has been conferred upon me by Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, Hubei, P.R. of China. In March 2006 I was appointed Honorary Professor of Law of the University of Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa. In October 2007 I have been awarded the title doctor honoris causa by the University of Lille, France. In November 2009 an honorary doctor degree has been awarded to me by University of Craiova, Romania. In November 2013 the University of Warsaw, Poland, conferred upon me an honorary doctor degree. In February 2015 I was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor and Honorary Professor at University of Johannesburg. Since 2017 I am also Honorary Professor (Wen Lan-Professor) of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan. During the past decade I travelled a lot to different countries in several continents for the purpose of lectures and discussions with colleagues about my research interests.
In recent years I was frequently engaged as arbitrator of international commercial arbitration tribunals, e.g. of the International Arbitration Court of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris or the London International Court of Arbitration, but also in ad hoc-arbitration proceedings. I have also written numerous expert opinions in international commercial matters for courts, arbitration courts and companies.