Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New WIPO ADR Guide for IP Cases

The Arbitration and Mediation Center (AMC) of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, just released an updated guide providing an overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes for intellectual property disputes. Since intellectual property portfolios became an essential part of business value, businesses started looking at more efficient methods to settle disputes than litigation. WIPO's AMC was created almost 25 years ago, recognizing a growing ADR trend where international parties informally gathered to settle disputes without litigation. The new WIPO guide is designed to provide an overview of ADR processes without purporting in any way to be authoritative or prescriptive. Chapter One of the guide offers background information concerning the early use and rise of ADR around the world, followed in Chapter Two by a description of potential advantages of ADR for intellectual property disputes. Chapter Three explains in more detail the different ADR procedures that may be used in intellectual property disputes, while Chapter Four outlines some practical considerations that may be relevant for IPOs and courts that wish to institutionalize such ADR procedures. For the substantive and procedural implementation of such procedures, the guide identifies as a core element the interface with existing regulations. The guide reminds litigants that ADR processes can deliver outcomes that provide a certain and conclusive resolution to disputes. This finality is a clear advantage for ADR, as the complexities of intellectual property litigation can make outcomes uncertain. Legal judgments can be overturned on appeal and jurors that often lack technical expertise may make incorrect decisions. See more here-- https://bit.ly/2vpuocT

Sunday, July 22, 2018

No More Business Court? Use a Special Magistrate!

This month in Orange County, we saw the demise of the state's first "Business Court" due to lack of adequate funding from the state legislature which allocates less than one percent of Florida's budget to the judiciary. Known as the Complex Business Litigation Division of Circuit-Civil, this specialized court helped determine thousands of cases in its 15 year history through the use of its own rules and active case management by its presiding judges. Mediators with commercial experience also helped dispose of many a case upon referral. Now that these cases have been reassigned to the General Civil Division, they will likely have to wait to be decided among thousands more general cases already on those dockets. Ninth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Fred Lauten spoke on this at our recent Orange County Bar Association Judicial Relations Committee meeting and is in the midst of a public relations campaign to encourage citizens to ask their elected officials to secure more funding next session. Judge Lauten has commented that "with a growing population and a base constituency of 1.7 million people, the Ninth Judicial Circuit has been operating at maximum effort with minimum resources for years. Despite a caseload that has qualified the circuit for additional judges every year since 2006, no new judgeships have been allocated. While an ever expanding workload coupled with chronically insufficient resources would spell a reduction in services for most agencies and businesses-- the judiciary is not afforded that option, nor should it be." As such, the business judges were moved to the fill a bigger need in the growing Family Division. Still, there remains an option to litigants to have their cases heard before a skilled neutral or Special Magistrate, by consent. Special Magistrates in state court (formerly known as Special Masters which they are still called in federal court) can timely assist burdened trial judges in the disposition of complex cases. Carefully drafted orders of referral under Rule 1.490 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure that anticipate the scope of issues to be decided, such as discovery disputes, can do much to make the utilization of Special Magistrates effective and cost-efficient. Having served the Circuit-Civil Division in culling cases during 2013 as a General Magistrate, I recently offered to serve as a hired Special Magistrate where parties so desire. See more in newspaper opinion piece here-- https://bit.ly/2mykykR

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

HOA Presuit Mediation in FLA

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of negotiating a resolution to a beachfront homeowner's association (HOA) dispute in presuit mediation. Because this process is statutory, I thought it a good idea to remind everyone of the contents of Section 720.311, Florida Statutes. A mediator is authorized to conduct mediation or arbitration under this section only if he or she has been certified as a circuit court civil mediator by the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Legislature, finding that alternative dispute resolution reduces court dockets and trials and offers a more efficient, cost-effective option to litigation, created this mechanism for HOAs. Importantly, the filing of any petition or the serving of a demand for presuit mediation as provided for in this section tolls the applicable statute of limitations. Note that neither election disputes nor recall disputes are eligible for presuit mediation, as those are arbitrated under another process. Disputes between an association and a parcel owner regarding use of or changes to the parcel or the common areas and other covenant enforcement disputes, disputes regarding amendments to the association documents, disputes regarding meetings of the board and committees appointed by the board, membership meetings not including election meetings, and access to the official records of the association are subject to a of a demand for presuit mediation served by an aggrieved party before the dispute is filed in court. Presuit mediation proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the applicable Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, and these proceedings are privileged and confidential to the same extent as court-ordered mediation under Chapter 44, Florida Statutes. Disputes subject to presuit mediation under Chapter 720 do not include the collection of any assessment, fine, or other financial obligation, including attorney’s fees and costs, claimed to be due or any action to enforce a prior mediation settlement agreement between the parties. Also, in any dispute subject to presuit mediation under this section where emergency relief is required, a motion for temporary injunctive relief may be filed with the court without first complying with the presuit mediation requirements of this section. After any issues regarding emergency or temporary relief are resolved, a court may either refer the parties to a mediation program administered by the courts or require mediation under this section. An arbitrator or judge may not consider any information or evidence arising from the presuit mediation proceeding except in a proceeding to impose sanctions for failure to attend a presuit mediation session or to enforce a mediated settlement agreement. Persons who are not parties to the dispute may not attend the presuit mediation conference without the consent of all parties, except for counsel for the parties and a corporate representative designated by the association. The statute also provides approved forms for use in the demand and response. See complete statutory language here-- https://bit.ly/2FXkhj1