COLUMN-Update-International Practice: China Mediation at a Euro IT Trade Fair (Web)

April 23, 2009

Intellectual Property:  Mediation Used to Defuse Potential China Piracy Disputes at European Trade Fair

Hanover, Germany, each spring hosts the world’s largest trade fair showcasing digital information technology and telecommunications services.  Offering an international platform for “comparing notes” on current industry trends, CeBIT--the Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik, or Center of Office and Information Technology--attracts thousands of the world’s top IT firms.

In recent years though, the trade show has been interrupted by police raids to confiscate allegedly patent-infringing technology products being used by Chinese companies.

At this year’s exhibition early last month, China, the European Union and the event organizers tried to preempt any such raids by setting up a “China IPR Desk.”  Designed to resolve and defuse intellectual property rights disputes on the spot, Chinese and European companies could approach the desk directly both before and during the trade fair.  

The desk, manned by Chinese officials and European advisers, provided two types of support services: information and mediation.  Information was disseminated on the nature and scope of IP rights in the host country, as well as suggestions for better IP rights protection, and avenues to ensure enforcement.

The mediation support service was provided by attorneys and was meant to facilitate information exchange between parties and help reach an equitable solution to any potential dispute.  While providing a neutral intermediary for both parties, the mediators could not provide legal advice; determine the existence of an infringement; request evidence that the parties didn’t wish to disclose, or remove products from the trade fair.  

The mediations also had no binding power of enforcement.