On July 28, 2009, Director General of the World Intellectual
Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Francis Gurry, signed an agreement with
Singapore Minister for Law, Mr. K Shanmugam, for the establishment of the WIPO
Arbitration and Mediation Center in Singapore.  Mr. Shanmugam announced that the Singapore
office would officially be opened in January 2010 at Maxwell Chambers.  This is the first Arbitration and Mediation
Center established in the Asia Pacific region.

 

The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center was first
established in Geneva, Switzerland in 1994 to offer alternative dispute
resolution options for the resolution of international commercial disputes
between private parties.  The Center
offers dispute resolution procedures including mediations, arbitration,
expedited arbitration, and expert determination.[1]  The Geneva Center has administered over 220
mediation and arbitration cases to date.[2]

 

The Singapore Arbitration and Mediation Center aims to
promote alternative dispute resolution services in the Asia Pacific region.  These services include advising parties and
their lawyers on ways to resolve IP disputes, and providing them with access to
the alternative dispute resolution procedures, particularly suited for the
resolution of international IP disputes.  As Dr. Gurry said, “alternative dispute
resolution is an important cost-saving alternative to traditional litigation
and means of finding constructive and workable solutions to the often complex,
cross-border IP related disputes that can arise in a wide range of fields.”  Alternative dispute resolution can save time
and money, and its consensual nature often results in a less adversarial
process, allowing the parties to begin, continue, or enhance profitable
business relationships with each other.[3]

 

Mr. Shanmugam comments that Singapore is an ideal location
to serve the arbitration needs of Asia because it is within a seven-hour flight
from all the major cities in Asia, such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, New
Delhi and Sydney.  He also comments that
Singapore is an ideal location because business is conducted in English in
Singapore.[4]

 

In addition to providing alternative dispute resolution
services, the Singapore Arbitration and Mediation Center administers and
facilitates hearings in cases conducted under the WIPO Rules in Singapore.  It also provides training and advice on
procedures such as arbitration, mediation and expert determination.  WIPO’s specialized training programs include
workshops led by prominent dispute-resolution and IP practitioners and other
experts.  The workshops are designed for
practitioners, lawyers, business executives, and others who are interested in
mediation process.[5]  To facilitate the arrangement of these
workshops, WIPO has set up a website (http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/events/)
through which visitors can view and enroll in various workshops and conferences.

 

With the latest establishment of the Singapore Arbitration
and Mediation Center, WIPO has officially recognized the importance of reaching
out to its members in the Asia Pacific region and in better serving their
needs.  This Singapore Arbitration and
Mediation Center also stands as a concrete example of WIPO’s commitment to its
constituents in the Asia Pacific region in furthering the development of IP as
a tool for economic growth.

 

Indeed, being situated at the center of Asia, the Singapore
Arbitration and Mediation Center is well-placed to foster closer ties between WIPO
and the various IP offices in the region, including facilitating constructive
dialogue on issues in the international IP agenda and resolving domestic and
international issues that can benefit WIPO immensely.   For the
entire Asia Pacific Region, the Singapore Arbitration and Mediation Center presents
further opportunities for all Asia-WIPO members to advance the global IP agenda
in various ways; for example, member countries can take advantage of the Office’s
proximity to better leverage on WIPO’s numerous programmes and its technical
assistance initiatives while promoting collaboration and discouraging conflicts
that can give rise to hostility and indifference among member countries.