November 7, 2001
Sponsoring Committee: Issues and Policy Committee and its Emerging Issues Subcommittee
WHEREAS, a number of countries around the world have specialized courts whose jurisdiction is limited to intellectual property matters of various kinds; and
WHEREAS, a number of other jurisdictions have formal or informal procedures whereby intellectual property cases are filed in courts of general jurisdiction, but are then assigned to specific judges who thereby develop special knowledge of and expertise in such matters; and
WHEREAS, those who have had experience with such specialized courts and judges generally rate them highly, reporting that such courts and judges resolve intellectual property disputes efficiently and fairly, and generate consistent case law which enhances understanding and certainty among owners and users of intellectual property; and
WHEREAS, trademark disputes, no less than other intellectual property matters, are governed by laws, treaties, rules and principles which can be complex and which require extended study and experience to master; and
WHEREAS, the submission of litigated trademark cases to judges having specialized knowledge of and experience in trademark matters would benefit not only the litigants but trademark owners and users generally;
BE IT RESOLVED, that the International Trademark Association supports the submission of litigated trademark cases to judges specializing in or having substantial experience in trademark matters.
Specialized intellectual property courts exist in a number of jurisdictions, though the jurisdiction of such courts does not always extend to trademark matters. In such jurisdictions there has been an overwhelming vote of confidence in support of such courts for the reasons set out in the recitals above. An informal survey of the views of practitioners in a large number of jurisdictions around the world was conducted by a team of the Emerging Issues Subcommittee, the results of which are summarized in the attached memorandum. Those results reflect a consistently high level of satisfaction with such specialized courts on the part of those having experience with them.
Some other jurisdictions may be said to have an "informal" specialized intellectual property judiciary whereby intellectual property cases are filed in a court of general jurisdiction, but are consistently assigned to one or more judges who thereby develop experience and expertise in such matters. In general, these specialized judges are viewed with great favor as well. In some of these jurisdictions there is support for the formalization of such arrangements by means of a specialized intellectual property court with exclusive jurisdiction to deal with such matters, while in other jurisdictions the informal system of assigning such cases to experienced judges in courts of general jurisdiction appears to be satisfactory and preferred.
In many jurisdictions, however, judiciaries with experience in trademark matters are not consistently available, either formally or informally. While the appropriate mode of implementation will vary depending on many local factors, there is overwhelming support among trademark owners and practitioners in all jurisdictions for providing by some formal or informal means for trademark cases to be heard by a judiciary with specialized background and expertise in trademark matters.
A legal system which delivers efficient, quality, consistent, cost-effective decisions of disputed trademark matters will benefit trademark owners and users, and the trademark community as a whole. Many factors must be considered in designing and administering a court system, including local custom and practice, budgetary constraints, constitutional and jurisdictional issues, and many other factors. Nonetheless, as a matter of general principle, the development and implementation by some means of specialized and experienced judiciaries to hear trademark matters will benefit trademark owners and users and should be encouraged.