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Arbitrability in the field of Industrial Property, a study on international arbitration


While the arbitrability of contractual and infringement disputes in the field of industrial property has been the norm for many years, validity disputes remained outside of the arbitral jurisdiction. This resulted in some delaying tactics since a simple nullity exception may block arbitral proceedings. In 2008 the Paris Court of Appeal extended the arbitral jurisdiction: henceforth, an arbitral tribunal may rule inter partes regarding the nullity exception on an industrial property title. This solution, protecting the efficiency of arbitration, remains questionable. In particular, it does not respect the nature of industrial property rights having an effect against all, and it does not prevent the risk of contradictory rulings and the inconsistent enforcement of industrial property rights. This study examines whether an arbitral tribunal shall have jurisdiction to rule on the validity of industrial property titles with an effect against all. Many reasons have been put forth to establish the inarbitrability of these disputes. In particular, an arbitral award shall not generate the erga omnes effect attached to a decision of nullity. However, arbitral awards are “opposable” against third parties and the so-called inter partes effect of awards shall not justify the inarbitrability of nullity disputes. The essential reason of inarbitrability in French law is, therefore, the inter partes nature of international arbitral justice, which does not provide a protection mechanism for interested third parties. The arbitral jurisdiction may be extended provided that awards have an erga omnes effect by way of publication, and that this effect is counterbalanced with a limited and modern tierce opposition procedure adapted to international arbitration. This solution, if accepted by national laws, would revise the conditions under which arbitral tribunals and national courts determine arbitrability.

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