Hello Ma, kindly introduce yourself for posterity sake.

Hi! My name is Rita Anwiri Chindah an associate at Infusion Lawyers a virtual law firm that specializes in Intellectual Property and Information Technology. My core areas of specialization are Intellectual Property & Information Technology, and Arbitration as a tool in the Alternate Dispute Resolution.

How did you start your journey in ADR and in IP?

If you look around, IP is everywhere—from the books you read, songs you listen to, new car models with new features every year, the drugs we take, evolution of the telephones, televisions, computers, buildings etc. I have always been fascinated with the strange and unanticipated evolution of the global economy, about how the relentless rise of technology has made intellectual property the new oil, and the most valuable asset that any company can possess.

So when IP was introduced in my final year I didn’t think twice and when it was time to choose a pathway. My knowledge of the global economy spurred my interests and influenced my decision so I opted for a fusion of IP and IT law.

As for ADR, my perspective on resolving disputes without actually going to court while still preserving the relationship by rethinking the traditional approaches to resolving disputes. While I was doing my masters degree program in Intellectual Property And Information Technology Law at the University of Derby, United Kingdom, I offered a course on International Commercial Arbitration It piqued my interest in this area.

With every arbitration conference, training with the Charters Institute of Arbitrator (UK) Nigeria Branch and workshop I have attended, I am often amazed at how vast arbitration is and how I could apply it to dispute resolution in almost every sphere of sector where dispute are bound to arise.

Thanks to my lecturer Dr Yog Upadhyay who advised and encouraged me to do a training with Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)  (UK) Nigeria Branch since the University was unable to register us as student members of CIARB, now I am an Associate Member of the institute and an active member in the Port Harcourt Chapter. I also did a training on Dispute Management and Negotiation Skills with the Nigerian Institute Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS).

Which came first?

Intellectual Property came first.

Where was the merging point for you?

The more I delved into IP and Arbitration, the more intrigued I became.

Like most aspects of law, both fields are related and have their convergence points. 
But while IP is vast and is concerned with every product of the mind, ADR is limited in the sense that only certain kinds of disputes can be resolved through its various mechanisms. Even then, ADR has its perks of privacy and confidentiality for parties involved. These peculiar features encourage parties like Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Startups owners who are likely to have a disagreement arising from their contracts from different stages of their activities can opt to settle out of court through any of the ADR mechanism.

 Is there a merging point between ADR and IP ?

IP is all about protecting the intangible assets of the owner such as copyright, industrial designs, patents, trademarks, and balancing this protection with public interest. ADR is all about protecting the parties’ individual or business interest, and balancing this protection with public policy and state interest. Therefore, ADR can benefit IP owners by serving as a dispute-resolution option that best protects the IP owner’s proprietary interest. Litigation won’t always guarantee that. Also, one of the features of IP is the exclusive rights accorded to the owner/author which has legal protection making it personal and sensitive enough not to be shared with the public except where it is to be traded for a few, however where the rights of the owner has been infringed upon instead of going to court parties can opt for ADR which makes provision to save time and cost for parties involved in a dispute resulting from the information shared between the parties by exploring a flexible approach to resolving their differences.

In order for this to work, we must have willing and consensual parties.

Is it safe to say that IP disputes are best resolved through the mechanism of ADR?

From the point of view of parties, one could say YES, IP disputes are best resolved through ADR. This is because the parties, the owner of the IP work in question and the third party involved must give their consent to settle their dispute through any of the ADR mechanism.

Thereby exercising their Party Autonomy to resolve their IP dispute which could have resulted from a Commercial issue related to IP, Violation of IP Rights and Technology. 

Furthermore, some of the benefits of resolving IP disputes through ADR includes the following: it is time efficient, preserves relationship, the procedure calls for specific expertise of the neutral, ADR can be neutral to the law and language of the parties, ADR proceedings are private and confidential, arbitral awards are recognized on par with domestic court judgments through the New York Convention that recognizes the enforcement of foreign awards, etc. An example of a body that resolves IP disputes through ADR is the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, a neutral and international dispute resolution provider. It offers time- and cost-efficient ADR options for resolving IP disputes out of court.

But as great as ADR is to IP dispute resolution, it may not always be healthy for the development of IP through case law. This is because superior courts are best positioned to develop case law through principles they establish on a case-by-case basis. It helps IP catch up faster with contemprorary realities rather than having to rely on legislative changes which is typically a slow process.

What advantage or what edge do you have over your colleagues, being both an IP and ADR expert?

For me, IP doesn’t end in registration and it becomes my responsibility to further educate my client on how they can make money off their IP through commercialization and having a good IP strategy.

This process is normally dicey and very sensitive, so in order to protect my client’s interest, I include the necessary Dispute Resolution Clause in the event a dispute arises there won’t be a need to go to court but choose a more confidential approach while still maintaining the relationship.

And because they are mostly entrepreneurs, business owners, innovators and techies who by the nature of their works are naturally busy would like to resolve disputes faster and also save time and money.

 Ordinarily, parties involved would prefer ADR which bring answers to problems that are beyond what litigation can do especially in Nigeria where a lot of technicalities could make or break your case.

The digital age has made access to information easier to get there by making techies and business owner become increasingly aware of dispute resolution mechanisms that help them maintain good relationship with their “foes” and give them the option to control things (eg, date, time, and venue of ADR proceedings) with the introduction of the online dispute resolution, parties involved can stay wherever they are to resolve their dispute with the use of technology which is a product of IP.

In view of the above, I am obviously strategically placed.

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