New Committee For WIPO Development Agenda; Patents Reinvigorated

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Member governments of the World Intellectual Property Organisation tonight overcame a flare-up in tensions to reach agreement on the future of a proposed WIPO development agenda and the future work of a key patent committee.

The final texts of both, which represent the last two sticking points for the 10-day WIPO General Assembly, will be adopted in a plenary session on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, the last day of the meeting, all agreements will be formally adopted.

The development agenda was originally proposed by the Friends of Development Group led by Brazil and Argentina at the 2004 General Assembly. That assembly created an Intersessional Intergovernmental Meeting (IIM), a high-level, temporary forum to examine the proposal, and the Friends of Development sought to continue that forum.

The Group B industrialised countries led by the United States sought to move the issue to an existing but revitalized Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD).

The agreed text states:

– Considering the need to make progress in integrating the development dimension in WIPO broadly so that concrete and practical results can be achieved in the most timely and efficient manner, the General Assembly hereby decides:

– To constitute a Provisional Committee to take forward the IIM process to accelerate and complete the discussions on proposals relating to a WIPO Development Agenda and report with any recommendations to the General Assembly at its September 2006 session.

– In the interim, and without prejudice to the provision of technical assistance, the PCIPD will cease to exist.

– The work of the Provisional Committee shall not prejudice the activities of the other WIPO bodies in discussing all matters relevant to development.

– The Provisional Committee shall have two one-week sessions, and the deadline for submission of new proposals shall be the first day of the first session of the Committee.

Several officials asked afterward gave varying interpretations as to the significance of a “provisional committee,” which does not appear to be a standard WIPO classification. One official hinted that it might be considered a stepping stone to a permanent committee, while another said the committee might have the same high-level status as the IIM, which reports directly to the General Assembly.

It was also noted that the PCIPD only ceases to exist while the provisional committee is operating.

New Work Programme For Patent Committee

On the work programme of the Standing Committee on Patents, which has been sought by the United States along with the European Union and Japan, agreement was reached to hold a five-day meeting and report to the 2006 General Assembly.

The committee meeting will be preceded by a three-day, informal open forum in Geneva in the first quarter of 2006 on all issues related to the draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty. Contributions to the forum will reflect a “balance of geographical representation and perspectives, and technical expertise,” according to the latest version of the chair’s draft. The WIPO Director General will prepare a programme for the forum in consultation with member states.

Then a three-day informal session of the SCP will follow to agree on a work programme for the committee, taking into account the discussions of the open forum.

Tensions Crescendo Before Accord

According to some participants, the closed, informal session of the annual WIPO General Assembly broke abruptly after Switzerland on behalf of the Group B industrialised countries declared they would not recognise a proposal on the future of the development agenda put forward by the assembly chair. Some officials said the chair then reacted by suggesting to proceed to the patent committee, the only other outstanding agenda item of the assembly.

But countries of the Friends of Development Group led by Brazil said they would not agree to discuss the patent issue without discussing the development agenda issue first. As one developing country delegate put it shortly afterward, to suggest that patents could be discussed outside of the context of development is to demonstrate a lack of understanding about development issues. They argue such issues cut across many areas of WIPO.

A US official noted outside the meeting that Brazil had moved to link the development agenda with the patent issue, something no country had done overtly in WIPO before that point.

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