Last week, I spoke on a panel addressing “Hot Topics in International IP Law” as part of a program sponsored by the outstanding Seattle IP Inn of Court. My piece was about obtaining service of process under the Hague Convention.
The long and the short of it is, the Hague Convention is a treaty through which U.S. plaintiffs can arrange for the service of process on foreign defendants (that reside in one of the many countries that have signed the treaty) by sending a request for service to that country’s “Central Authority,” a clearinghouse for arranging for service of process on its citizens in foreign lawsuits. The Central Authority then sends the papers to the defendant’s local court, which arranges to serve them on the defendant, often by the local police.
Service of the summons and complaint is a crucial piece of U.S. civil procedure because without it, a plaintiff can’t join the defendant in the lawsuit or seek a default judgment if the defendant does not participate in the case.
My slides are available here. The main take-away is that Hague Convention service through foreign country’s Central Authority is slow — it takes six months or more, so it pays to plan ahead. This time lag can be particularly painful in counterfeiting or trademark infringement cases because U.S. courts are loathe to order injunctive relief against a party that has not been served. That can mean enduring months of continuing infringement before Central Authority service is effected. Central Authority service also isn’t currently available on Russian defendants because of a dispute between the U.S. and Russia. Otherwise, it often is the best means to effect service on a foreign defendant that resides in one of the many countries that have signed the treaty.