Clouds Gather ahead of Possible Antigua-US Settlement

20 March 2008

The Antiguan government is giving the United States until the end of the month to negotiate an agreement in the dispute over remote gambling services before it asks the WTO for permission to impose intellectual property sanctions.

"The U.S. said they wanted to negotiate and work something out, so we're waiting for something to happen," Mark Mendel, legal counsel for Antigua and Barbuda, told IGN today. "It's supposed to happen in the next few days and beyond that we'll see if there's a way forward or not."

In December, a WTO arbitration panel ruled that Antigua was entitled to $21 million in damages over its four-year I-gaming dispute with the United States. The panel authorized Antigua to suspend its obligations to the United States in respect of copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property rights.

Upon the ruling, Mendel asserted that imposing sanctions was not the remedy his client wanted to pursue. He reiterated that sentiment today, but conceded that if negotiations -- which were first proposed in January -- cannot be resolved, they will have to go forward.

A U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) spokesperson told Variety magazine on Tuesday that Antigua would be breaking the law by imposing the sanctions. But Mendel said the WTO's ruling in December supersedes any other intellectual property laws.

Mendel said that the USTR is under the impression that getting authorization to impose the sanctions is "more difficult than it actually is."

"What we would probably do is at the next monthly meeting ask for a formal authorization as a matter of course under the WTO," he said, adding that he had "absolute confidence" that the WTO would grant the authorization.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.