Espinel Featured as Panelist at ASIL Annual Meeting

Professor Victoria Espinel took part in a panel discussion at the American Society of International Law's annual meeting held at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the period March 25–28. The theme of the conference was "International Law as Law," and the conference was billed as an opportunity for over 1,000 practitioners, academics, and students from all over the world to debate and discuss the latest developments in their field.

Espinel's panel was part of the March 25 Interest Group Meeting entitled "Intellectual Property Rights in China: Reflections and Directions," in which Espinel and other experts examined China's progress in safeguarding intellectual property rights, explored areas of ongoing tension, and discussed where improvements are needed.

Keynote speaker for the Interest Group Meeting was Dr. Zhipei Jiang, retired Chief Judge of the Intellectual Property Tribunal, People's Supreme Court of China.

Future of TRIPS in Question After WTO's China IP Ruling, Washington Internet Daily, March 26, 2009. By Greg Piper.

"The U.S. won two points of its case: That China violated WTO rules by denying protection to media undergoing a 'content review,' and that customs officials must be given authority to destroy infringing goods. But the U.S. fell short on its most important claim, that China's criminal thresholds for piracy were too high to create a significant deterrent. Another U.S. complaint against China, regarding market access barriers, is still being contested at the WTO.

"The U.S. case was 'not a hostile action' against China as much as an attempt to hand off disagreements to the 'neutral third party' of the WTO and continue working with China on other matters, Espinel said. The government carefully weighed the risks of bringing a case, such as trade retaliation by China and harm to TRIPS, but China responded officially by giving the U.S. reduced IP cooperation for a specified time, she said. Officials also extensively considered whether a case would be 'unfair' considering the 'undeniable' progress that China has made elsewhere on IP, such as improving patent and trademark procedures.

"The nature of the U.S. case -- involving both China's application of its laws and their validity -- also presented a challenge, Espinel said. Most WTO cases are based on explicit contradictions between a country's laws and WTO rules, and panels generally will disregard a country's interpretation of its own laws only if the reading is 'untenable on its face,' she said. John Thomas, a law professor at Georgetown University and the panel's moderator, said 'paucity of evidence' seemed to be a regular problem in WTO cases, as illustrated by the U.S. giving the WTO panel 'articles from lay press' as evidence of IP violations. The panel had objected to what it called the 'general statements or random pieces of information' on the level of unchecked piracy submitted by the U.S."

View the conference information