WIPO Negotiators Tackle Proposals On Reform For Development 23/06/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. Negotiators at a 20-22 June meeting to discuss possible reform of the World Intellectual Property Organisation to better address developing country needs began on the second day tackling the details of various proposals put forth by member governments. Officials arrived at no conclusions by the three-day meeting’s end, but positions on the various proposals on the table began to emerge, with differences showing along North-South lines of developing versus developed countries with some notable exceptions. The gathering was the second of three sessions of the WIPO Intergovernmental Inter-sessional Meeting (IIM). The IIM was called for by the General Assembly last October to discuss a proposal from Argentina and Brazil to overhaul WIPO’s mandate to make it more development-oriented. That proposal, co-sponsored by 12 other so-called “Friends of Development,” seeks to reform Geneva-based WIPO’s governance to make it more consistent with other United Nations bodies. It also suggests greater involvement of all member states, establishment of an independent evaluation and research office, and ensuring wider participation of civil society in WIPO activities. Other aspects of the Friends of Development proposal are to ensure development objectives are central to all WIPO norm-setting activities, better tailoring of technical assistance programs to developing country needs, and improving the transfer of technology to smaller economies. Regional groups such as the African Group and China (its own regional group) signalled support for the Friends of Development proposal. A delegate from South Africa likened the effort to reform WIPO to that country’s recent fundamental reform, calling on members not to give in to fears of change. But in the meeting, the United States reiterated concerns with the Friends of Development proposal, both with the underlying principles upon which the proposal was constructed as well as specific provisions. Once specific proposals were being discussed, rifts began to appear on key points. Perhaps the biggest dividing point was whether to move the subject of development wholly into an existing WIPO committee, the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD). The idea derived from a United Kingdom proposal that argues for the cost-effectiveness and practicality of putting the issue under and existing body that appears to have no limit on its mandate. Questions remain about legal and political aspects of the committee, a UK delegate said, as it currently meets every two years and reports to the WIPO Conference, not the General Assembly as the IIM does. The official said the General Assembly includes all governments who are member of at least one WIPO treaty, but that the Conference includes all WIPO members. The PCIPD could be “reinvigorated” with new purpose, he said. But there also appeared to be a lack of clarity among UK proposal supporters on whether the PCIPD mandate should be expanded or whether it is sufficiently broad as is. The PCIPD proposal got significant support from developed countries, both as the Group B industrialised countries, and as a number of individual developed country delegations, including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. But key developing countries, such as Argentina, Brazil and India argued against it, out of concern that the broader, cross-cutting issues of a sweeping development agenda would be dumped into a “garbage can” committee, as a Brazilian delegate put it. Brazil argued that the broad change it called for cannot be confined to updating an existing body, noting for instance that norm-setting issues would be difficult to handle in a technical assistance committee. The Brazilian delegate said it appeared that some developed countries speak on behalf of rights holders and want to separate norm-setting and development issues. Brazil warned that adding much broader issues to the agenda of the technical cooperation committee could affect the ability of the committee to address those original technical cooperation issues. The Indian delegate said the PCIPD would be “singularly unsuitable” for addressing non-technical issues such as norm-setting. He said there are perhaps five or six committees in which development issues could arise. He painted a scenario where a development issue that came up in the existing WIPO committees on copyrights or patents would be referred to the new PCIPD, where non-experts in those issues would grapple with them and send them back to the original committees with the hope that they might be considered. Yet some developed countries backing the U.K. proposal argued that spreading development issues across different committees could lead to “fragmentation” of the issues, which would not be beneficial. Several developed countries, such as Canada, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom, otherwise signalled a positive reaction to some aspects of the development agenda, such as an evaluation mechanism, depending on the details. The United States raised concerns about the independent evaluation mechanism, as it does not appear to include mention of member state involvement, as well as a suggestion for public hearings. The US representative called a code of ethics in the Friends of Development proposal a “good idea” but said the government would need to know more about the idea. The US representative spoke against most of the development agenda proposals, arguing generally that they are based on two “misconceptions,” sources said. They assume that WIPO has disregarded development concerns, and that strong intellectual property protection is detrimental to global development goals, the U.S. argued. Another point by the United States was that it supports the goal of economic, social and cultural development, and that WIPO plays a key role in fostering development through the promotion of intellectual property worldwide. In addition, the United States asserted that development must not become reason for weakening international intellectual property, which it said would undermine the very development is seeks to bring about. Finally, the United States argued that WIPO continues to make its best contribution to development by deepening and expanding rather than diluting its intellectual property “expertise.” Another proposal, from Bahrain and a range of Arab states, generally reflected the UK and US proposals and signalled support for existing WIPO efforts on development. An attempt to discuss this proposal was made at the end of the meeting, but no Bahraini representative could be found. A question of coherence among the governments supporting this proposal was raised during the week when it was pointed out by Egypt and others that their leaders had stated support for development issues to be dealt with across WIPO as stated in the South Summit declaration from the previous week. During the IIM, negotiators worked through a list of all of the proposals put forward by various delegations. At the start of second day of the meeting, Chairman Rigoberto Gauto Vielman, the Paraguayan permanent representative in Geneva, proposed after consultations that proposals be grouped into four categories: capacity building and public policy; norm-setting; the role and mandate of WIPO; and others. This chairman’s idea moved the group beyond the first day’s suggestion by Brazil that proposals be considered in the groupings of: norm-setting; review of WIPO’s mandate and governance; technical assistance and capacity-building; and technology development, access to knowledge, technology transfer and related competition policies. That suggestion met with resistance. The efforts to categorize proposals was short-lived on day two as a second Brazilian proposal was accepted that listed all of the proposals without categories. But ultimately, the proposals were discussed in clusters anyway. Delegations approved a meeting chair’s summary, which included the list of 24 proposals. Slight changes were made to the summary before acceptance, such as a change to indicate that the proposal from Bahrain and others was “presented” rather than “discussed.” Another late change to the summary was to separate mention of the US proposal for a partnership program and database from a description of proposals calling for improved information-sharing on technical assistance including the establishment of databases and a dedicated webpage, which was cited in the proposals of the Friends of Development and Bahrain et al. A secretariat report on the meeting will follow in early July. The final of the three meetings will be held 20 – 22 July. The group must submit its final report to the General Assembly at the end of July. 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