Need for Specialized Tech Neutrals Recognized: Benefits of Tech ADR Becoming Obvious

Arbitral institutions around the world are turning their attention to licensing, infringement and other tech-related disputes. An article in Law360 earlier this year on the focus on IT by the Hong Kong International Arbitration & Mediation Centre (HKIAC) quoted our own SVAMC Tech List appointee Peter Michaelson, who said the efforts in Hong Kong are “a function of the marketplace demand” given the growing Asian economies and the increasing global importance of IP.

We at SVAMC are blushing bright.  After all, our mission is educating the tech sector on the benefits of tech ADR and we published the initial Tech List, selecting the world’s leading technology neutrals, almost three years ago.  Our abiding conviction was that the perceived lack of eminent neutrals steeped in technology industries was the primary deterrent to the use of ADR by technology companies.

SVAMC, of course, has a different mission than HKIAC, AAA and other arbitration institutions that have increasingly seen the need for specialized tech-related ADR panels.  At SVAMC we advocate and educate about tech ADR; we do not administer cases.  SVAMC promotes the resolution of technology disputes by highly experienced arbitrators and mediators who are skilled in business, technology and dispute resolution law and have hands-on industry sector experience.  The Tech List is international in scope:  At 35 strong presently, the Tech List has appointees in the major U.S. technology centers, such as New York, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley–but its members also hail from Sydney, Seoul and Hong Kong, with additional candidates under consideration in Singapore, London, Paris and other major cities.  We complement, rather than compete with arbitration institutions–and indeed our Tech List and general members serve as neutrals for many arbitral entities.

In earlier blogs, I have spot-lighted the benefits of ADR for companies playing in tech arenas.  See, e.g., “Why Tech Companies Should Embrace ADR (Part III). Those themes were echoed in another Law360 article on April 11, 2016, titled  “3 Advantages of Arbitrating IP Disputes.”  Citing the enforceability of international arbitration awards and speed as two reasons, the third was specialization: “. . . [A] jury in a U.S. court case is almost certainly not going to have expertise on the intellectual property at issue in any given dispute, which can be unnerving to companies who have invested significant resources in developing their technology.”  Quoting Ashurst lawyers Donovan Ferguson and Gareth Hughes, “we are seeing an increase in the number of clients who agree to arbitrate IP disputes. . . Clients are very interested in knowing that a specialist tribunal will decide their dispute, particularly an IP dispute.”

So SVAMC is pleased to see the growing acceptance of its founding premise: Technology companies need no longer fear the uncertain judgments and inexperience of ADR neutrals unfamiliar with the new world of digits, genes and Schumpeterian disruptive change.