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WIPO ADR services underused in Canada

The arbitration and mediation services offered by the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Association (WIPO) are underused by Canadian lawyers, says IP and charity lawyer Taras Kulish.

“The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center has tremendous resources that Canadian lawyers should be aware of and utilize,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Kulish says he recently discovered the service while seeking advice from colleagues in relation to a charity law case.

“I wanted to insert an arbitration clause into an international humanitarian contract,” says Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP. “I am working on a multiparty memorandum of understanding for a relief project in Nepal. There are three non-government organizations (NGOs) involved, based in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. They will jointly fund the work for an affiliated NGO in Nepal.”

He considered that Switzerland would be a good neutral location for the arbitration, and a colleague suggested that he try the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center in Geneva.

“I was surprised to learn that the WIPO Center could be used for non-IP disputes.”

“I contacted the WIPO Center and I quickly realized that this is a terrific opportunity for Canadian lawyers doing international work of any type,” Kulish says.

WIPO’s mandate is to develop a balanced and effective international intellectual property system. It is a self-funded agency of the United Nations and its Arbitration and Mediation Center offers dispute resolution options for international commercial conflicts between private parties who can also be NGOs.

Kulish was informed that when WIPO is appointed by the parties as the administering institution, it assists with the exchange of documents and pleadings and helps with finding a suitable mediator/arbitrator.

WIPO has a panel of 1,500 mediators, arbitrators and experts spread out over 100 countries,” he notes. “They can also assist in locating an appropriate venue.”

While Kulish says many mediation/arbitration organizations offer similar services, WIPO offers three key differences.

“One is that the cost is significantly lower. It’s US$250 for case management of a mediation and $2,000 for an arbitration. Of course, there are additional costs for the actual mediator or arbitrator,” he says.

Kulish says other private organizations charge significantly more just to case manage. “There are tremendous savings in process and case management.”

He points to the WIPO Center’s 24 years of experience and the quality of its mediators and arbitrators capable of dealing with multilingual parties as the second difference. “You know you can get access to high-quality services at a reasonable cost.”

Finally, the parties can use the WIPO facilities in Geneva — which are free — to further control costs. Kulish says he can attest to their suitability.

“I lived in Switzerland from 2011 to 2014 and attended at the WIPO facilities. They are excellent, not only for a hearing but also for meetings prior to mediation or arbitration to narrow down the issues.”

Parties are free to choose another location and still have WIPO assist with the arrangements.

“It can take place anywhere in the world,” says Kulish. “They will list half a dozen qualified mediators in the geographical area you choose or the parties can choose to fly in people to expand the list. They are very flexible in terms of venues and video conferencing.”

Nor are matters confined to IP disputes, Kulish says.

“The way it was set up, in the terms of reference, there was no limitation on the scope,” he says. “The WIPO services can be used for a variety of commercial disputes between private parties or NGOs.”

He also points to the security WIPO offers for handling deposits and payments.

“Parties have assurances that the organization comes under the auspices of the UN. Deposits are held in a secure manner and administration is performed efficiently,” he adds.

Other services the centre offers through its website is a clause generator and model clauses. Kulish says they can be used under WIPO’s auspices or as a free resource.

“You can also tailor the WIPO model clauses,” he adds.

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