Geographical Indications Register Still Stuck As WTO Meetings Continue13/06/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare 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.World Trade Organization (WTO) discussion of a multilateral register for wines and spirits that derive their names from geographical locations seemed to hit a new low today as the chair ended a meeting after 15 minutes because of lack of movement.“The chair seemed quite bitter,” two participants said. The chair, Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan, indicated that while other negotiating groups have been able to identify possible points of convergence, there was no movement in this group on the register, and that overall he seemed quite pessimistic, participants said.The geographical indications (GI) register was discussed in a 12-13 June special session of the Council on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), in formal as well as informal sessions.“We are playing soccer in the field but the goals are closed,” one developed country delegate said. A key sticking point remains whether the register should be legally binding and the effects of registration, sources said.In paragraph 29 of the WTO Hong Kong ministerial declaration from December 2005, it is noted that a register is mandated in Article 23.4 of the TRIPS agreement and paragraph 18 of declaration from the WTO ministerial in Doha, Qatar in 2001.It states that WTO members “agree to intensify these negotiations in order to complete them within the overall timeframe for the conclusion of the negotiations that were foreseen in the Doha ministerial declaration.” This means by the end of 2006.Bilateral meetings are expected to continue over the next few weeks, sources said, and the chair also encouraged delegations to intensify consultations over the next few weeks, an informed source said.The chair will hold another meeting on 19-20 July, the source said, as the negotiating session of the TRIPS Council prepares a working paper for the end of July, as called for in the timetable set out at the Hong Kong ministerial.GIs are products that derive their names from geographical locations or have special characteristics, such as Champagne. Creating a GI register for wines and spirits is discussed in a “special session” of the TRIPS Council.Countries agree that there is a mandate to discuss such a register, but disagree on whether it should be legally binding, according to sources.The European Union and Switzerland, the main proponents of establishing the register, argue that the reference to a “multilateral” system in Article 23.4 of the TRIPS agreement means that it should be centrally operated by the WTO and be binding for all member states.Article 23.4 of TRIPS states that, “In order to facilitate the protection of geographical indications for wines, negotiations shall be undertaken in the Council for TRIPS concerning the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines eligible for protection in those Members participating in the system.”Others in the “New World” such as the United States refer to the language in the same paragraph on “those … participating in the system” as meaning it should be voluntary. This group sees the register as an aid for countries developing their own domestic policies.Countries remain apart on the meaning of terms within the EU proposal under discussion, such as whether a GI name that is registered is “presumed” to be legally protectable in all WTO members, whether registering to protect a term in one territory imposes protection on other countries, and the quality of the data in the register, according to sources.One developed country official said that most developing countries are concerned about a register as they see it as meaning stronger intellectual property rights protection, adding that the IP system is in general not very popular at the moment among some of these countries.There are three existing proposals on a register (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 27 February 2006)Only the European Commission took the floor in the Tuesday meeting, calling for further negotiations and a paper on which further discussion could be based, the sources said. But as no other delegates took the floor, the meeting ended early.The apparent continued deadlock came after “special consultations” took place Monday afternoon after the special session and a number of bilateral meetings, sources said.The special consultation appeared to be attended only by key members, sources said. The idea was to make the most of the “special session” time before it moves into the TRIPS Council, scheduled for Wednesday.Among the participants at the special consultations were Australia, Brazil, the European Commission, Switzerland and the United States, a source said. The European Union suggestion for a paper for discussion was raised, but this idea was met with resistance, sources said.A participant said that the meeting had been “explanatory” in nature, meaning that the various positions were discussed but no agreement had been reached. Another participant said the aim had been to identify common ground.On Tuesday afternoon, consultations with WTO Deputy Director General Rufus Yerxa were scheduled on a separate issue of extending the higher protection that wines and spirits GIs enjoy to other products as well.Some sources questioned the likelihood of any progress in this area given the deadlock on the register, as countries disagree on whether there is a mandate to discuss the extension issue. No progress was made when this issue was last discussed in March (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 24 March 2006).On 14 June, the proposal by a number of developing countries to amend the TRIPS agreement to include language on biodiversity is to be discussed at the WTO (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 7 June 2006).Another meeting of the TRIPS Council is scheduled for late October.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)Related"Geographical Indications Register Still Stuck As WTO Meetings Continue" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.