United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
Intellectual Property under the Scrutiny of Investor-State Tribunals
Legitimacy and New Challenges
In 2009, C.S. Gibson was suggesting that: “With this early coverage of intellectual property in BITs, it is perhaps surprising that there has yet to be a publicly reported decision concerning an IPR-centered investment dispute. Given the trajectory of the modern economy, however, in which foreign investments reflect an increasing concentration of intellectual capital invested in knowledge goods protected by IPRs, this could soon change”. A couple of years later, the first investment cases dealing with IP issues were made public.
In this context, this paper first addresses the conditions that have to be fulfilled in order to bring intellectual property claims in investment arbitration, by touching upon the question of the definition of an investment in theory and in practice. It also tries to shed light on some of the implications of recent arbitral awards touching upon this interaction between intellectual property and investment protection, from a legal and regulatory perspective.
On the other hand, the specific situation of the European Union is scrutinized, and in particular the project put forward by the European Commission to adapt the dispute settlement system for the protection of investments.
Legitimacy Concerns of the Proposed Multilateral Investment Court: Is Democracy Possible?
Growing concerns in Europe about international investment regimes and investor-state dispute settlement systems pushed the European Union into pursuing the creation of an investment court system and a multilateral investment court. The European Union (EU) started this reform through the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement, and by direct persuasion of other countries to start negotiations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Visible reasons for the change include concerns over the perception of a lack of transparency, coherence, and arbitrators’ partiality, all of which diminish the legitimacy of the multilateral investment court. Other reasons might be laid on the budgetary risks of more than 213 claims against EU countries. To address these legitimacy concerns, the EU wants to replace traditional party-appointed arbitrators with a two-tiered investment tribunal system comprised by a roster of members selected by the state parties on the treaty. This Essay argues that the creation of the multilateral investment court needs to follow democratic principles in order to be legitimate. History has shown us that the EU has abused its power in the past when implementing resolution systems. Foregoing negotiation, comment by member nations, and implementing a tribunal at its own behest has shown this. The EU multilateral investment court proposal has legitimacy deficiencies because the EU has relied on its power to impose its views so far, i.e. its proposal was not previously negotiated multilaterally amongst other member nations. It is thus possible that the appointment of the future judges to this court will likely be subject to the political constraints and veto that the International Court of Justice or World Trade Organization appointments suffer today. This could leave small economies at a disadvantage because they might be subject to permanent, politically biased judges. A superior solution would be to adopt better arbitrator disqualification rules, clear interpretation directives to avoid law creation, and stricter arbitrator qualifications.
This update provides a snapshot of the publications and social media activities of the South Centre during the month of March 2019.
The Future of Investor-State Dispute Settlement Deliberated at UNCITRAL: Unveiling a Dichotomy between Reforming and Consolidating the Current Regime
Reform of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is being deliberated at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III, which will be meeting in New York between the 1st and 5th of April 2019. For several years, the ISDS regime has been under scrutiny from voices in both developed and developing countries. ISDS reforms have been addressed in multiple forums, including national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Reforms could include moving away from arbitration as the norm for dispute settlement between foreign investors and host states or end up by introducing adaptations that might make arbitration in ISDS cases perform in a more acceptable way. Finding one-size-fits-all solutions in these deliberations is unlikely. Advancing relevant reforms would require full and effective participation of interested countries, equal opportunity for different points of views to be heard and integrated into the design of any potential outcome, and effective mechanisms to address any potential conflicts of interest within this forum.
UNCITRAL Working Group III: Can Reforming Procedures Rebalance Investor Rights and Obligations?
The work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) provides an opportunity to rebalance the international investment regime – but only if the full gamut of key issues are identified. Requiring investors to uphold standards of responsible business conduct (RBC) is largely a function of substantive rights and obligations, but it also presents procedural dimensions that fall within the purview of the UNCITRAL process. This policy brief explores the issues and discusses possible options for reform.