Explore IP Paths in the Context of International and Constitutional Law

By Ciccy Shang, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

Thomas Cottier: Professor Emeritus of European and International Economic Law at the University of Bern
 
Thomas Cottier, former Managing Director of the World Trade Institute, is Professor Emeritus of European and International Economic Law at the University of Bern and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He published widely in the field of international economic law, with a particular focus on constitutional theory and intellectual property. He directed the national research program on trade law and policy (NCCR Trade Regulation: From Fragmentation to Coherence) located at the WTI from 2006-2014. He is an associate editor of several journals. He was a visiting professor at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, the Paris I Sorbonne, University of Barcelona, and regularly teaches at the Europa Institut Saarbrücken, Germany, at Wuhan University, China, at the University of Torino and more recently at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He held several positions in the Swiss External Economic Affairs Department and was the Deputy-Director General of the Swiss Intellectual Property Office. Prof. Cottier also has a long-standing involvement in GATT / WTO activities.
 
On May 13th, Professor Thomas Cottier, as the keynote speaker, attended the Nankai Symposium of International IP Law. China IP Magazine, as the media partner, had an interview with Prof. Cottier.
 
China IP: As you were the former Managing Director of the World Trade Institute, would you please share with us what is main work of the World Trade Institute?
Prof. Cottier: The WTI engages in legal, economic and political science research on international trade and investment. It runs the MILE programme, a post graduate Master of Advanced Studies in International Law and Economic and a seven week summer academy. This year, it launched the TRAIL+ programme, which comprises an LLM in International Trade and Investment Law, as well as a Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) in International Law and Economics. Through our education, research and outreach, we aim to shape public policy to benefit society.
 
China IP: You have directed the national research program on trade law and policy located at the WTI from 2006 to 2014, so what is the main work of this research program and what kind of achievement that you have got from it?
Prof. Cottier: The NCCR Trade Regulation has been one of the largest research programs in law and social sciences in Switzerland and perhaps the World on matters pertaining to international trade regulation and international trade. It aims to bring about greater coherence into a system which is strongly fragmented in all areas of trade law and policy. It aims to educate scholars and researchers and help to spread the teaching of the field around the world. A number of PhD students have taken up teaching positions upon completion of their studies in universities around the World.
 
China IP: As we know, you published widely in the field of international economic law with your own particular focus on Intellectual Property, what made you choose the perspective of Intellectual Property when studying economic law, do you have some opinions for the students who are studying economic law or Intellectual Property?
Prof. Cottier: I was educated and trained as a public and international lawyer, working in trade, but also the law of the sea. Upon joining the Swiss Government, I was assigned to negotiate IP, and thus I learned on the job. Ever since, it has been one of my special areas, but not the only one. Students have particular interest in IP should make sure that they do not study the field in technical isolation. It is not sufficient to learn about patents and trademarks and the other forms of protection. It is of utmost important to learn about IP in the context of the overall legal system, including constitutional law, competition law, and public international law, in particular international trade law.
 
China IP: You are visiting professor and teacher in many schools around the world, what do you feel when facing different kind of students from different countries, different ages? Is there anything or any students particularly impressed you?
Prof. Cottier: Students reflect different educational systems: Some are more active, other learn more passively, but all share a keen interest in the subject. Moreover, if they work together in class, these differences can be overcome and greater mutual understanding results. I am impressed by many students taking up the field in the spirit of learning and contributing to the solution of difficult global issues and facing the challenges of the job market at the same time.
 
China IP: What kind of IP issues are most controversial in import and export trade around the world? Do you have some opinions to solve these problems?
Prof. Cottier: We have a very good set of high standards with the TRIPs Agreement of the WTO, sometimes even too high, and the main problem is enforcing these rights in particular in developing countries. We need to bring about a proper balance among different interests, depending on the level of economic development and integration into the world economy. Much of my talk at the conference addressed these issues. Perhaps the most difficult issue today is about regulating parallel trade and market segmentation. International law allows countries to choose their own tailor-made solutions. From the point of view of free trade, we should adopt, however, a principle of international exhaustion, subject to some exceptions for sensitive products in patents. It certainly should apply across the board in trade mark law.
 
China IP: You were the Chief negotiator on TRIPs, what kind of experience is it? Are there any interesting experiences or unforgettable memories for you?
Prof. Cottier: The learning process in a spirit of mutual respect during the negotiations was most impressive. We had an excellent group of negotiators and demonstrated that regulatory convergence can be achieved on what today we call behind the border issues if there is a political will to do so.
 
China IP: What is your impression of China when teaching or visiting in China?
Prof. Cottier: I was privileged to train a number of Chinese scholars and to teach at Wuhan University trade and also the law of the sea. I also had the privilege to tutor Chinese PhD students, some of which returned to China to teach. I have been impressed by their hard work and also their respect for the teacher which you no longer find in the West to the same extent. My advice to Chinese students has been to develop their own ideas, and come forward with solutions to impending problems in a creative way. Also, it is important to develop strong language skills. Communication with the rest of the world depends upon good oral and written knowledge of the English language today, to work in the field of IP and in other areas of international trade.

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