1st intellectual property court to launch July 1


TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) will launch Taiwan’s first-ever intellectual property (IP) court July 1, in a bid to further protect intellectual property rights (IPR) and improve Taiwan’s reputation on the issue in the international community.

“Following the establishment of an IP court, the ministry can concentrate its legal resources to help resolve the country’s IP conflicts and better protect the rights of intellectual property holders,” said Margaret Chen, the deputy director general of the MOEA’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on Friday.

She added that this judicial milestone would also help promote greater competitiveness among Taiwan’s industries.

The court would be the latest move in the country’s campaign to better defend intellectual property rights at home.

Taiwan was placed on the Priority Watch List — for countries that do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection or enforcement — in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) “Special 301” report for four years at the beginning of the decade.

But the U.S. improved Taiwan’s classification in 2004 when it promoted Taiwan to the less onerous Watch List. The USTR plans this year to initiate an out-of-cycle review to monitor progress on “selected outstanding issues” to assess whether to completely remove Taiwan from the list.

The USTR has been urging Taiwan to set up the specialized IPR court to continue its efforts to combat counterfeiting and Internet piracy.

Chen said eight judges have been selected to date to take on the 1,600 to 2,500 IPR cases that arise per year.

“We will increase the number of judges when the IPR cases show any increase in number,” she added.

Citing another potential improvement in Taiwan’s IPR protection, Chen said the Legislative Yuan will meet May 15 to screen a Cabinet-approved amendment regarding the Protocol Amending the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Cabinet’s amendment concerns Article 31 of the TRIPS agreement, which aims to combat fatal diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The protocol proposed a compulsory licensing system to authorize pharmaceutical companies in eligible WTO member states to manufacture and export cheaper generic drugs to less developed nations, without having to pay the patent holders. The WTO’s General Council has asked all its member nations to obtain approval from their own lawmakers and to notify the WTO no later than Dec. 31, 2009.

In addition to the amendment, Chen said Taiwan’s patent regulations will also have to be revised to waive the intellectual property rights on certain drugs, before Taiwan can notify the WTO of its formal adoption of the measure.

“At present 15 of the 150 WTO member states have notified the general council on their acceptance of the TRIPS, including the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Sweden and South Korea,” she said.