Intellectual Property Dilemma

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-02-05

Geneva — Everyone agrees that intellectual property protection must be brought up to Internet speed, but in two days of meetings here last week, the World Intellectual Property Organization was unable to gain ground on an international solution.

Intellectual property protection has traditionally been a national issue. But which nations laws should apply when a trademark holder in France sues a company with the same trademark in Germany because the German company established a Web site available to French consumers?

Government officials, intellectual property experts and others concurred that e-commerce, the Internet and other means of conducting cross-border transactions have placed pressure on efforts to protect intellectual property.

"Today, the systems [for protecting intellectual property] can no longer work, given the global dimensions brought on by the Internet," said André Lucas, a member of the law and political science faculty at the University of Nantes in France. "Legal experts need to produce completely new solutions."

But there was little consensus on how to address the issue. One approach that came under intense scrutiny was the draft convention being crafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law — an attempt to set international rules for determining in which courts foreign parties can be sued and when countries must recognize the judgments of foreign courts.

Following WIPOs two-day forum, representatives from the Hague Conference held a daylong meeting with officials with intellectual property expertise to discuss concerns about the draft convention.

James Love, director of the U.S. Consumer Project on Technology, argued that intellectual property should be exempted from the convention because of the impact it could have on consumers. He said the draft convention would extend the range of overreaching intellectual property regimes globally, limit the scope of intellectual property fair use exceptions and impose other limitations on consumer rights.

Hague officials plan to hold a similar meeting with e-commerce experts in late February in Ottawa, said Christophe Bernasconi, first secretary of the Hague Conference.

Rocket Fuel