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HKIAC introduces IP arbitrator panel

The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) has launched a panel of arbitrators to deal with intellectual property (IP) disputes.16 Mar 2016

The panel of 30 arbitrators is separate from HKIAC's regular panel or list of arbitrators. It will strengthen the centre's expertise in IP matters and improve its ability to handle a broad range of IP cases, HKIAC said.

The launch of the panel coincides with the publication of a consultation paper by the Hong Kong government on amendments to the territory's Arbitration Ordinance, HKIAC said.

The proposed amendments clarify that IP disputes can be settled by arbitration in Hong Kong and that Hong Kong's public policy allows an award on an IP issue to be enforced.

Hong Kong is keen to establish itself as a global centre for resolving IP disputes and an IP trading hub in the Asia-Pacific region, and there has been an increasing number of IP disputes submitted to HKIAC, the centre said.

HKIAC has also seen a steady increase in the number of domain name cases being referred to the Centre every year.  In 2015, HKIAC handled 227 such cases, which represents a 13% growth from 2014, it said.

Hong Kong-based IP law expert Jolene Reimerson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The introduction of a panel of arbitrators specifically for IP disputes is a welcome move by the HKIAC. It demonstrates that arbitrators in Hong Kong do have specialist expertise in intellectual property matters, and will provide comfort to disputing parties that their case will be resolved by experienced IP legal practitioners. "

"The timing of the panel introduction is just right too, as the government seeks to amend the Arbitration Ordinance to make it clear that disputes over intellectual property rights are capable of resolution by arbitration. The amendments would allay concerns that, under the Ordinance, enforcement of an arbitration award concerning intellectual property rights may be refused. The current position in Hong Kong can be contrasted with jurisdictions such as the United States and Belgium, which expressly allow the arbitration of disputes concerning patent validity and infringement, and that of mainland China where patent validity is deemed an administrative matter that cannot be arbitrated," Reimerson said.

"Parties considering arbitration of IP disputes in Hong Kong want certainty that arbitral decisions will be fair, binding and enforceable. These latest moves by the HKIAC and the government may well attract more parties from other jurisdictions to resolve their disputes by arbitration in Hong Kong."

HKIAC opened its first office in mainland China in November, in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. This is HKIAC's second overseas office: the centre opened an office in Seoul, South Korea in May 2013.