WIPO Members Fret Over Procedure On Development Agenda Proposals

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By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen and William New

Member governments of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meeting established to discuss proposals for a development agenda at the United Nations body spent considerable time today discussing how to manage the large number of proposals.

The debate in the 20-24 February Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA) is focused on how to categorise the more than 50 proposals that have been put forward by a range of countries and regional groups. The development agenda process began in late 2004 with a basic proposal for change of WIPO by Brazil and Argentina, later joined by 13 other Friends of Development. Others have added proposals since then.

Meeting chair Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay, told Intellectual Property Watch that he is conducting consultations with regional groups regarding a list of proposal categories he was planning to prepare. Full proposals would be broken down into individual suggestions and grouped under these subjects.

The list would cover the main issues in the proposals and the countries behind the respective proposals would themselves decide under which topic they would like to list their proposal. Allowing countries to place their own proposals would avoid concerns that one category might have greater weight than another, according to an official from the Group B of industrialised nations.

Group B is pushing for broader themes as categories, and has not formally departed from its opening position that any proposals lacking consensus support should be dropped from discussion. This approach is a sticking point with some developing countries, who may fear proposals will be removed without sufficient discussion. The Asian Group and Friends of Development have drafted different approaches to categorising.

South Korea said in a statement earlier in the week that, “given that there are more than 60 different proposals on the table,” it suggested the secretariat compile a list of all the proposals with a one or two sentence summary of what each proposal is about. This should be grouped by topic area, with similar ideas put together, it said.

The chair’s categorisation document is expected to become the basis for the discussion of the next development agenda meeting in June, Gauto said, at which he hoped “specific measures” to be recommended to the next WIPO General Assembly would be discussed.

Gauto noted that the substance of this document would probably not be discussed at this meeting, although he was hoping so. He did not expect, however, that there would be a discussion of the document with the topics at this meeting.

The chair said he would probably conduct consultations on the document until the June meeting.

Also Wednesday, the possible negative link between human rights and intellectual property rights was raised by Brazil and Peru. Negotiators also discussed features of the African proposal submitted last year, and a string of non-governmental and industry-related organisations took the floor while private consultations carried on outside the main room for hours. At the end of the day, Brazil walked through the US proposal in a painstaking line-by-line analysis.

WIPO Mandate on Development

Regarding a key proposal from the Friends of Development to change WIPO’s mandate toward development, some countries such as the United States say it is not realistic nor necessary to change the WIPO Convention in order to fulfill a development agenda, sources said.

Sisule Musungu of the intergovernmental South Centre said in an interview that based on an agreement with the United Nations, WIPO already has a mandate to work on development, and now it was generally agreed that changing the convention is not necessary.

At the outset of the development agenda discussions, WIPO had argued that its mandate was only to promote intellectual property according to its convention, Musungu said, but this had now changed.

In the original development agenda proposal there were suggestions of separating WIPO’s norm-setting activities and research and impact assessment of these norms, Musungu said. This could be done by changing a few things as WIPO already has an academy, and it could be semi-autonomous, he said.

The World Trade Organization has, for example, separated these issues through an advisory centre as it is supposed to be objective but at the same time assist developing countries, Musungu said.

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