Taiwan's first IPR Court was inaugurated on July 1, marking the latest in a series of moves by the Taiwanese government to improve intellectual-property rights.

The court, which is modeled after similar courts in the United States, Japan and Germany, will have nine judges, each of whom has undergone four months of training on IPR and copyright-infringement issues.

Nine officials from the Taiwanese government's Intellectual Property Office have been assigned to the newly-established court to help judges keep track of the often complex patchwork of patents and trademarks involved in IPR litigation.

John Eastwood, a lawyer with Taipei legal firm Wenfei Attorneys-at-Law, says the court should help demystify this area of the law for the Taiwanese.

"Once the local confidence in handling IP cases is increased among judges, prosecutors and court staff, we are going to see a big improvement," he says.

However, Intellectual Property Office deputy director-general Margaret Chen says rights holders too often pursue criminal litigation against small-time infringers. She says music should develop licensing schemes that work in the local market instead of using the courts to compensate for their financial losses.

"If a rights holder can easily obtain disproportionate compensation via criminal procedures, why would he bother to set up workable commercial licensing scheme?" she asks.

But several influential groups, including IFPI and the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, commend Taiwan's efforts to improve IPR protections over the last few years. Sources say the Office of the United States Trade Representative could remove Taiwan from its "Special 301 Watch List" of IPR trouble spots by the end of the summer.

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