A closer look at specialized intellectual property courts

Author:Jacques de Werra
Position:Professor of Intellectual Property and Contract Law, University of Geneva, Switzerland
A closer look at
specialized intellectual
property courts*
by Mr. Jacques de Werra, V ice-Rector and
Professor of Intellec tual Propert y and Contract
Law, University of Geneva , Switzerland
*is art icle was rst
published in a Speci al
Supplement of the
WIPO Magazine for the
Internation al Conference
on Building R espect for
Intellectu al Property –
Stimulati ng Innovation and
Creativit y in Shanghai i n the
People’s Republic of China
in November 2016. To reuse
or adapt this a rticle, please
contact the author d irectly at
While there is no international ob ligation to do so, there is a global trend to specialize
or centralize the handling of cer tain types of intellectual property (IP) disputes. The
question whether it is advantageous or necessar y to establish specialized IP courts,
however, is a difcult one to answer as there are both advantage s and disadvantages
associated with them and they are certainly not recommended in all circumstance s.
Any plan to create specialized IP courts requires careful analysis of the prevailing
situation in the country concerned.
A specialized IP court is an independent public judicial body that can operate at
national or regional levels to adjudic ate certain types of disputes relating to IP rights,
but may also adjudicate other types of disputes. Although IP disputes are often as-
sociated with the enforcemen t of IP rights against piracy and counterfeiting ac tivities
(especially in the areas of copyright and trademarks), the reality of IP disputes is far
more complex. This results f rom, for example, differences in the type s of IP rights and
the legal regimes on which they a re based, the diversity of legal issues that ca n arise
as well as the different types of legal proceedings available to resolve them, namely,
civil, criminal and administrative proceedings.
Although there is a marked glob al trend toward specialization, the types of spe cialized
courts that are emerging are by no means uniform. Some only have jurisdiction over
certain type s of IP disputes, such as patent disputes, while others are restricted to
particular typ es of legal issues, such as the validity of IP rights, or m ay only consider
civil disputes. Some act as trial courts while others act as appellate bodies with the
power to review cases on appeal and to reverse the decisions of lower courts.
Specialized IP cour ts are generally believed to improve the quality of justic e available to
IP right holders. The cour t’s expertise means that disputes can be handle d coherently
on the basis of past experien ce. This is particularly impor tant for IP disputes because

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