WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre Report 2023


Jane Lambert

About 30 years ago, I attended a workshop on the arbitration of intellectual property disputes. The speakers included Dr Francis Gurry and His Honour Peter Ford.  At that time, Dr Gurry was an Australian academic who had written a rather good book on the law of confidence. He went on to become Director-General of the WIPO. Peter Ford was the first judge of the Patents County Court which was the predecessor to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC").

Two alternative dispute resolution services were set up as a result of that workshop.  One was an arbitration and mediation panel attached to the Patents County Court under the leadership of Prof. Bryan Niblett.  I was a founder member.   I am not sure whether we ever had a case,  Certainly, nothing was referred to me and the panel was disbanded after a few years.   The other was the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") Arbitration and Mediation Centre which offers arbitration, expedited arbitration, expert determination, mediation and domain name dispute resolution.   I have been on its panel of neutrals since 2003.  

Yesterday the Centre published its Annual Report for 2023.   According to the Report, the Centre disposed of 679 disputes in 2023 which was a 24% increase on the previous year and a 280% increase in the last 5 years.  I remember a presentation by Ignacio de Castro at a seminar in Leeds on dispute resolution which I chaired in May 2006 in which he said that there had been fewer that there had been fewer than 100 arbitrations since the formation of the Centre  (see ADR of Intellectual Property Disputes on 27 Aug 2006 in NIPC Law).  Sadly, I have not been able to recover that excellent presentation from the Wayback Machine but his Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Technology Transfer Transactions from 11 March 2011 covers much of the same ground.

There has been a significant change in the type of disputes that have been referred to the Centre in the last 10 years.  In 2014 almost half the references were patent disputes and copyright and digital content made up only 4% of the work.   In 2023 copyright and digital content had grown to 50% and patents had shrunk to only 15%.   Specialist services have been developed for digital content and copyright disputes, and video games and e-sports which may account for the growth of work in copyright and digital content.  Over half of all disputes are referred by individuals and small and medium enterprises while collective management organizations account for another 23%.

The most successful ADR service in history has been the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("UDRP"),  The WIPO is not the only provider of domain name dispute resolution services but it is the main one.   It helped ICANN, the Internet Society and the US Department of Commerce to design the UDRP and it has contributed prominently in all discussions on the improvement, modernization and reform of domain name dispute resolution.   Last year it received 6,192 filings which was more than double the 2,634 it received 10 years ago. 

The UDRP was designed for generic top-level domain disputes where the domain names ended in such suffices as ".com", ".org" and ".net" domain disputes.   Many country code registries have adopted the UDRP for their own disputes and invited the WIPO to provide panellists and administrative services. Even registries that have developed their own dispute resolution services such as Nominet in the UK and the Czech Arbitration Court for the ".eu" domain have adopted similar procedures.

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