Intellectual Property and the role Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can play

We are currently living in an era where Intellectual Property Rights are more recognized and appreciated. No longer do we have people go on Facebook to simply lament about others stealing their inventions, designs or other creations of the mind. Rather than scream and lash at someone copying that tune, artwork, special name or logo, laws have been created as a way to protect certain rights known as Intellectual Property Rights. Every nation of the world has laws in relation to specified rights of intellectual property and with these laws come protections civil in nature and criminal, in certain cases. However, here I dwell on the civil. It is quite pleasing how you can actually make an infringer pay for using or stealing your Intellectual property.

There have been a number of cases where the courts have ordered quite rewarding settlements for IP rights breach. However, beneath the nicely sounding settlements are things you should know.

An interesting case is the Bratz Doll (MGA Entertainment) v Barbie (Mattel) case which in fact dragged from 2004 to 2011 where after several decisions, reversal by another court, rereversal, counterclaims and a whopping 8 years of legal battle, the court awarded $85 million dollars to MGA for trade secret infringement. However, at that time, the parties had spent over 100 million dollars in legal fees and it seemed the lawyers were the ones benefiting from the dispute.
While this is not always the case, enforcing an IP right can be quite expensive, tedious and rigorous bringing bad publicity with it. Fortunately, there is an alternative to resolving IP disputes through lengthy legal battles and this alternative is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR is a means of settling disputes outside courtroom through means like negotiation, conciliation, mediation or arbitration. ADR is quite beneficial as it saves time, money and preserves relationships.

It should be noted that ADR is not new to IP cases. There have been situations where a pretty loud IP case would suddenly go quiet and a massive settlement would be later reported to have been paid to one party by the other.

An example is the Apple v Samsung patent case where after more than fifty lawsuits in ten countries, four trials, jury decisions and seven years, the parties decided to settle privately with an out of court settlement. This was however after a lot of money had been pumped into legal fees and the endless battle.

With ADR becoming more popular in settling legal disputes, it is obvious there is a need for larger publicity of its benefits especially in its neutrality and confidentiality. Patent cases in particular are best settled out of court and ADR has provided an easy and reliable means. Notably, there is a WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Geneva, Switzerland and Singapore and hopefully ADR has a method of solving IP cases in Nigeria would soon be largely accepted.


By Precious Akinkuolie


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