WIPO Development Debate Turns To Chile Public Domain Proposal

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On the second day of a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meeting on a proposed development agenda, how to move forward and discuss the roughly 50 proposals that WIPO has received was the theme of regional as well as plenary meetings.

Officials on Tuesday began discussing the substance of the proposals, starting with a recent proposal from Chile to protect knowledge in the public domain.

The meeting is a one-week gathering of the Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a Development Agenda (PCDA) which was set up by the WIPO General Assembly in September 2005. It has taken over the work of last year’s inter-governmental inter-sessional (IIM) meetings at WIPO.

The committee’s mandate is to consider proposals to establish a WIPO development agenda. Proposals submitted to the 2005 IIM by Argentina and Brazil along with 12 other Friends of Development, the African Group, Bahrain and other Arab states, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been carried forward.

In addition, several new proposals have been put forward for this week’s meeting. These include the one from Chile, highlighting the public domain; Colombia, highlighting access to patent information databases; a US expansion on its earlier proposal on technical assistance; and a document by the Friends of Development group proposing a framework for moving forward with the proposals.

On Chile, several governments such as Russia said the issue of public domain is outside the scope of WIPO’s mandate, while others such as Brazil argued that it is “not external to IP.” The Brazilian delegate told the meeting that all WIPO treaties refer to the public domain.

The Chilean proposal covers submissions on three areas: Appraisal of the public domain; importance of complementary systems to and in intellectual property; and a study assessing the appropriate levels of intellectual property, considering the particular situation in each country, specifically its degree of development and institutional capacity.

One of the sticking points is whether WIPO should change its mandate to adopt a development agenda, or whether it should improve its work already being done in the area, sources say.

Before the Tuesday plenary, the European Union met and an EU official told Intellectual Property Watch that the 25 EU nations neared a common position on the proposals by the African Group and Colombia, while the group would try to get to the other proposals later.

The delegate said that the EU had tried to “focus” the proposals and gone through the two proposals to identify what could be brought forward in the discussions. They were expected to present their edited versions in plenary later.

One EU meeting participant said some resisted a reference in the draft position of EU president Austria to everything in the Chile proposal being subject to the WIPO mandate. The issue was whether such a reference would invite efforts to change WIPO’s mandate, the source said.

A US official indicated support for the EU approach of narrowing down the differences instead of clustering the various proposals, which other countries such as Brazil have suggested.

For example, the suggestion in Friends of Development proposal to establish an independent WIPO Evaluation and Research Office would probably not survive the method of narrowing down differences in the proposals but would so if the issues were merely clustered, a source said.

The B Group of industrialised countries also met. One European official said there had been a “loose exchange of first impressions” and the discussion had been focused on how to organise the work rather than the substance of the proposals.

The official said the idea of clustering the issues had been discussed as one way forward. This idea was also supported by Jordan in the morning plenary, while Uruguay suggested that the WIPO secretariat draw up a table indicating the issues in all the proposals.

The African Group met during the first part of the day and was to present its view on Tuesday afternoon. The European Union and the Friends of Development group also had a coordination meeting in the afternoon.

Links between African and Friends of Development Proposals

The close links between the African proposal and the Friends of Development were also highlighted in the plenary discussions. Egypt noted that there are “close links between many elements” in the two proposals. It also, however, supported the Colombian, US and Chile proposals as well as a statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China yesterday.

On Monday, Pakistan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China said it is “important that mainstreaming the development dimension into all activities in WIPO should constitute a priority for the organisation.” This should include “protecting and operationalising” the use of flexibilities to rules for smaller economies.

The notion of “mainstreaming” development issues also is found in a new report entitled, How Human Rights Can Support Proposals For A World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda, circulated at the meeting by 3D, a Geneva-based non-governmental group. At the outset of the meeting, 3D was granted observer status to WIPO.

Argentina said on behalf of Friends of Development that the African proposal was an “important contribution” to the goal of setting up a development agenda at WIPO. It said that the issues in the African proposal which especially highlighted the concerns of Africa should be given adequate consideration in the forming of a development agenda.

Argentina also said that the two proposals were “mutually supportive” and it hoped that specific recommendations based on both proposals could be made to the WIPO General Assembly.

Bangladesh said that the question should not be whether WIPO needed a development agenda but rather whether “WIPO can do without a development agenda” considering that all the other UN agencies are working within this area.

On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning the new proposals from Chile, Colombia and the US as well as the document from the Friends of Development group and the African proposal were presented by the respective countries. The meeting will end on Friday, 24 February.

Chile Proposal Debated

On Tuesday morning the Chilean proposal was the first to be discussed by the delegates.

A South Asian country said the Chile proposal was a “very good proposal.” But it called for more discussions between the Convention on Biological Diversity and WIPO. Also, it supported Chile’s proposal of setting up a standing committee on technology transfer.

Argentina said that the Chile proposal was very close to the Friends of Development proposal and that there were “a great deal of similarities.”

Brazil echoed this, saying that the 15-member Friends of Development is working with Chile to try to find a common ground. It also said that the Chile proposal reflected that the development agenda should not encompass technical assistance alone.

Iran also supported it but called for more studies on other policy tools that could foster innovation in addition to IP.

African Proposal Discussion Begins

The United States said that it saw a lot of convergence between the African proposal and that of Bahrain. It also suggested that all proposals should be listed, not characterised, so that it could be decided on which there was a chance of gaining consensus.

The United States also noted that by establishing a well-functioning IP protection, WIPO was helping the public domain. But the US was doubtful that studies proposed in the proposal would be effective.

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