WIPO ADR Stories: How do SMEs benefit from mediation to resolve their IP disputes?

SMEs account for 90% of all businesses worldwide and 70% of global employment. They play a vital role in today's economy and making use of intellectual property (IP) rights can enable them to build stronger, more competitive, and resilient businesses. However, despite efforts, IP-related disputes can (and do) arise. WIPO promotes the use of mediation to reduce the impact of disputes in innovation and creative processes through initiatives such as the WIPO Mediation Pledge.

(Foto: GettyImages/DeanMitchell)

Why mediation?

IP litigation in the courts can be costly, time-consuming, and can damage business relationships. Few SMEs have the resources to pursue litigation. Mediation is an alternative to litigation that may be suitable for SMEs.

Mediation is an informal, consensual procedure in which a neutral, the mediator, assists the parties in resolving the dispute, based on the respective interests of both parties. It is increasingly used as a method for resolving IP and technology , as well as commercial .

In part, this increased interest reflects dissatisfaction with the costs, delays, and excessive length of judicial proceedings. The increased interest is also due to the advantages of mediation, in particular, its attractiveness as a dispute resolution mechanism that gives the parties full control over the procedure and the outcome of that procedure, preserving confidentiality.

SMEs and Mediation: the experience of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center)

48% of the parties involved in mediation cases filed before the WIPO Center are SMEs (including start-ups, creators, and innovators). Disputes may involve complex legal, commercial, or management issues and often relate to trademarks, designs, copyright and related rights, patents, and R&D. WIPO Mediations have concerned a wide variety of contracts, including information technology, licensing, commercial contracts such as distribution and franchising, IP valuation, know-how and trade secrets, joint ventures, collective management and non-contractual disputes such as IP infringement.

In an effort to support SMEs, in 2021 the WIPO Center announced a 25% reduction on its fees in mediation and arbitration cases where at least one party is an SME. WIPO Director General Daren Tang said: “SMEs are the backbone of many economies and key to our economic recovery. This initiative is part of our larger efforts to help SMEs use IP to grow their businesses, by helping them save on business costs when they need to resolve IP-related disputes.”

How to help promote the use of mediation?

Mediation has proven to be an effective method of achieving mutually beneficial outcomes to both sides of a dispute. However, it is still an unknown dispute resolution procedure for many potential users.

The WIPO Center makes available a variety of resources on mediation, including information and case filing guides, model contract clauses, and training seminars.

The WIPO Center has also launched an initiative to support mediation for IP and technology disputes: the WIPO Mediation Pledge.

Without binding the parties, this initiative promotes mediation as an alternative to court litigation in order to reduce the impact of disputes on innovation and creativity processes. By supporting the initiative, SMEs, start-ups, creators, innovators, and their legal counsel recognize that mediation can offer a more collaborative, time- and cost-efficient way to resolve commercial, IP- and technology-related disputes than court litigation.

The initiative has the support of Intellectual Property Offices and other entities from around the world.

Join the WIPO Mediation pledge here and help us promote the use of mediation to resolve innovation, technology, and IP disputes.


WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
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