WIPO Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for Art and Cultural Heritage

As part of the WIPO ADR Services for Specific Sectors, the WIPO Center provides dispute resolution advice and case administration services to help parties resolve disputes arising in the area of art and cultural heritage, without the need for court litigation.

Art and Cultural Heritage Disputes

Art and cultural heritage disputes can involve a variety of highly specific subject matter such as copyright, traditional cultural expressions, or cultural property. They can also involve sensitive non-legal issues of a commercial, cultural, ethical, historical, moral, religious, or spiritual nature. Parties in such disputes are often from different jurisdictions and cultural backgrounds.

As a flexible and confidential mechanism, ADR allows consideration of such issues and helps parties to adopt sustainable, interest-based solutions that may go beyond monetary relief (e.g., compensatory provision of art works, long-term loans, co-ownership). Where indigenous communities are involved, ADR may also be a forum in which customary laws and protocols can be considered. ADR allows parties to choose a mediator, arbitrator or expert with specific expertise in art and cultural heritage and understanding of the cultural backgrounds. It provides a neutral forum in which an international art and cultural heritage dispute can be resolved through a single procedure.

Selected Areas of Dispute

  • access and benefit sharing
  • art as collateral in financing transactions
  • art fairs
  • artist representation
  • authenticity
  • collection
  • copyright agreements
  • digitization
  • documentation
  • donation
  • droit de suite (resale)
  • exhibition
  • insurance of art works
  • loans
  • misappropriation of traditional cultural expressions
  • misuse of traditional cultural expressions
  • ownership
  • representation
  • reproduction
  • restitution, return or repatriation
  • restoration
  • sale
  • use of traditional cultural expressions

Potential Stakeholders to Dispute

  • anthropologists
  • archives
  • art dealers
  • artists
  • auction houses
  • banks
  • collectors
  • universities
  • galleries
  • indigenous communities
  • industry
  • insurance companies
  • libraries
  • museums and other cultural institutions
  • states

WIPO ADR Services for Art and Cultural Heritage

  • Administration of Art and Cultural Heritage Disputes

The WIPO Mediation, (Expedited) Arbitration and Expert Determination Rules are well suited for art and cultural heritage disputes.

The WIPO Rules are flexible and can also be applied in disputes that are not limited to intellectual property. In its role as administering institution, the WIPO Center maintains strict neutrality and independence.

Examples of WIPO arbitrations in this area include:
- WIPO Expedited Arbitration Relating to an Artistic Production Finance Agreement,
- WIPO Arbitration of an Artist Promotion Dispute

By way of further example, the WIPO Center has carried out its “good offices” in a matter between a museum and an indigenous community concerning the restitution of a cultural object, as well as related intellectual property issues.

  • WIPO Art and Cultural Heritage Panel of Neutrals

Effective proceedings to a large extent depend on the quality of the mediator, arbitrator or expert. The WIPO Center maintains an open-ended Panel, including mediators, arbitrators and experts from around the world with expertise in art and cultural heritage. They can be appointed by parties in cases under WIPO Rules but parties are also free to select mediators, arbitrators or experts from outside the WIPO Panel.

  • Procedural Guidance and Training

The WIPO Center makes available recommended contract clauses and submission agreements that parties can use to submit their disputes to ADR.

Upon request, the WIPO Center provides procedural guidance to interested parties and organizations in the art and cultural heritage sector. This includes advice on the drafting and adaptation of ADR clauses in art and cultural heritage related contracts and submission agreements, as well as helping to bring disputing parties to ADR.

The WIPO Center also organizes training and workshops on mediation, arbitration and related topics.

  • Establishment of Adapted ADR Frameworks

Where appropriate in light of the needs of the relevant stakeholders, the WIPO Center provides guidance in the establishment of adapted ADR frameworks, including Rules, fees and clauses, and provides administrative services thereunder.

Collaboration with Concerned Stakeholders and Entities

To optimize dispute resolution in the art and cultural heritage sector, the WIPO Center collaborates with relevant stakeholders and organizations. This may include organization of joint events and training, and establishment of adapted ADR frameworks, and involves for example the following:

  • International Council of Museums (ICOM)

ICOM and WIPO are collaborating in a number of areas, including the provision of a dedicated mediation process for disputes involving ICOM members' areas of activity under the tailored ICOM-WIPO Mediation Rules.

The WIPO Center is available to collaborate with other interested stakeholders.

Collaboration with Other WIPO Divisions

In the art and cultural heritage sector, the WIPO Center collaborates in particular with WIPO’s Program on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions, and with WIPO’s Copyright Program.

WIPO ADR Services for Art and Cultural Heritage are operationally distinct from and without prejudice to ongoing normative discussions in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) and elsewhere. The WIPO ADR service is intended as a voluntary and complementary mechanism and does not substitute or interfere with ongoing IGC discussions.

Selected Resources


Arbitration and Mediation Center
Arbitration and Mediation Center
34, chemin des Colombettes
P.O. Box 18
1211 Geneva 20
T +4122 338 8247 or 0800 888 549
F +4122 740 3700 or 0800 888 550
Maxwell Chambers
28 Maxwell Road #02-14
Singapore 069120

T +65 6225 2129
F +65 6225 3568

General queries: arbiter.mail@wipo.int