WIPO Committee Forms Draft For Future Development Agenda Talks

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Member governments of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) wrapped up the first of two weeklong meetings on proposals for a development agenda with a document listing all of the proposals under categories.

“Everyone is the owner of this development agenda now in its raw form,” a Brazilian official said, referring to it as a “diamond in the rough.”

The mood was positive for most of the week, but by the end, even something as benign as placing proposals under headings was delicate as key countries sought to guide future talks in a direction favourable to them. The meeting of the WIPO Provisional Committee on Proposals for a Development Agenda (PCDA) was held from 20 to 24 February.

Debate over categorisation turned tense in the final hours as the 14 Friends of Development, including development agenda originators Argentina and Brazil, were late in submitting placement of their proposals under the headlines created by the chair. This led the Friends of Development list to be handled as a separate document from the rest of the countries and regions that had submitted proposals.

Contention arose as the Friends of Development document named the source of each proposal listed, something the other countries had agreed not to do. It also listed 66 proposals, which was a larger number than expected to emerge once individual suggestions were culled from the group’s original overall proposal.

The Argentine ambassador then said the sources of the proposals would be removed. Meeting Chairman Rigoberto Gauto Vielman of Paraguay decided the two compilation papers will be combined into one draft compilation by next week, and he will conduct consultations with member governments before the second PCDA meeting in June. The provisional committee has a mandate to work through the various proposals and make recommendations to the WIPO General Assembly next autumn.

The chairman said he will try to find ways through the consultations to fuse any similar proposals, and then present a new draft compilation for the June meeting.

Developed Countries, Industry Decry Perceived Late Additions

What rankled the Group B industrialised countries and industry-friendly non-governmental groups most at the end of the meeting was the perception that new elements had been added to the original proposals, something all had agreed not to do.

One example raised by a US official with Intellectual Property Watch related to a reference to fees and a proposed treaty on access to knowledge, which he said included more detail than the original proposal. “They are trying to foist NGO-generated texts on the process,” the official charged.

But a Friends of Development source insisted that every reference in the document was sourced directly back to the original proposal and that nothing new had been added. The chairman said each proposal would be examined before the next meeting.

Members agreed that the cut off for new proposals was the first night of this week’s meeting, which allowed the inclusion of some changes made the first day by Chile to its proposal on protection of the public domain in order to appease a variety of countries.

A US official said after the meeting that Group B countries would reserve their position on the draft compilation paper until any additions to proposals could be removed. The official echoed an earlier comment by a Central European delegate, stating, “We hope the process does not become an end in itself.”

The Romanian delegate noted that a week had passed and the committee had looked at about 32 proposals without reaching any consensus. Next meeting, there will be many more proposals, he said, adding, “I think we are indeed in for a very tough job.”

A representative from US pharmaceutical company Wyeth said, “We’re further away from consensus than ever” because of the move by the Friends of Development.

But a Brazilian official said that some progress was made this week, referring particularly to the fact that countries had given up their ownership to their respective proposals.

In addition to dropping ownership, the proposals had been bundled in an “operative language,” he said. The chair had given a “cryptic” answer as to whether countries could submit new proposals, but they could probably propose new ideas through the chair in the consultations, he said.

An official from another developing country said that at least there was no longer a discussion on the necessity of a development agenda, and a little clarity had been brought as to what this “animal” was about.

The chair told Intellectual Property Watch that his consultations probably would involve the regional groups. He said that this was “the beginning of a very long and complex task.”

He noted that the current document is a non-binding “working tool” that includes all the new proposals discussed at this meeting as well as those submitted to WIPO on the development agenda before. It was also clear that no more proposals would be accepted at this point, he said.

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