Tuesday 20 October 2009

WIPO Arbitration Training by Mark Anderson

Last week I attended a WIPO two-day course, in Geneva, on the arbitration of intellectual property disputes. It was one of the best legal courses (12.5 hours CPD) I have attended.

Thanks to Tom Giovanetti of IPI PolicyBytes for this image of the WIPO sign circa 2005

Although the course did consider the arbitration of “pure” IP disputes (eg infringement of IP), most of the case examples that we discussed were concerned with disputes arising under IP agreements, including licences and R&D collaboration agreements.

The course took us methodically through the different stages and processes of arbitration under WIPO rules, looking in some detail at the various rules, treaties and guidance documents. This would have been very valuable in itself. For me, what made the course exceptionally good was hearing the practical insights of experienced WIPO arbitrators (including our own Trevor Cook) in relation to each stage and process. These insights were further enriched by the inclusion of half a dozen panellists from different jurisdictions, who were able to discuss both common law and civil law approaches to dispute resolution, and how these approaches compared with the WIPO arbitration process. Although the panellists mostly agreed on their approach to the various issues discussed, their occasional disagreements (eg as to the best way of handling difficult situations in an arbitration) were extremely valuable in teaching us about subjects where there is no single, “correct” answer.

Several sessions consisted of “case scenarios” where small groups discussed practical problems. It was well thought-out to keep the membership of the groups constant but to rotate the panellists between the groups for each session. This meant that group members were able to develop a rapport and to have an easy discussion, whilst the insights of a different panellist at each session gave us some further light and shade on how best to tackle the practical issues that arise in arbitrations.

The course was very well-organised, and this gives confidence that a WIPO arbitration might be similarly well-organised by the WIPO secretariat.

It was fascinating to encounter that rare human sub-species, the IP diplomat. After an introductory talk by Francis Gurry, Director-General of WIPO, we were introduced to Erik Wilbers, Director of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre, and Ignacio de Castro, the Deputy Director. To be a successful IP diplomat, it seems to be necessary to be a talented IP lawyer (often with experience in a major law firm such as Freshfields), and to have the qualities of “ease and tact” that are necessary for international diplomacy. If you are interested, they currently have several vacancies for IP lawyers.

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