WTO Meeting Reopens Discussions On Geographical Indications Register12/12/2006 by William New, 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)IP-Watch is 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. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate.By William New Informal consultations on 11 December on World Trade Organization negotiations to create a multilateral register for geographical indications produced little progress but showed a willingness by all sides to continue talking on the issue, participants said.The discussion took place in a special session of the WTO Council on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). WTO members are mandated to come up with a register for geographical indications, which are products with names based on geographical regions or characteristics, such as certain wines.The European Union, Switzerland and some other countries have sought a TRIPS amendment to add a mandatory register for wines and spirits (already given extra protection under WTO rules). In the consultation, they pushed for more progress and called for a chair’s text on the issue, sources said. They did not change their position on the issue, and Europe still considers the issue important for progress in the overall Doha Round negotiations, sources said.But according to sources, Chairman Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan said he could not draft a compromise text as the governments remain too far apart. The chair held consultations since the last meeting on the issue in July and will continue to do so. One source said the issue was characterised as going through a “soft restart” after the July suspension of WTO negotiations. The chair aims to hold another “information-sharing” meeting in late January.Countries opposed to stronger protection for geographical indications, such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile and the United States (sometimes referred to as the “joint paper group” for an earlier proposal), opposed a chair’s text, and put forward two suggestions on a way forward, according to an official from one of the countries. They proposed that a summary of arguments made by delegations on the various points be added to the WTO secretariat’s side-by-side comparison of proposals from last year [document PN/IP/W/12]. The suggestion would create a new column in the side-by-side text.The group also suggested consultations on the meaning of “facilitation” as the mandate in TRIPS Article 23.4 calls for:“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.”A key difference in perspectives is on the legal effect of the register, described by one Geneva source as deciding whether the registration of a term creates an obligation for others to protect it or whether it would just be for reference. The discussion over the meaning of facilitation relates to legal effect, an official said.The other key difference remains that Europe has had difficulty getting other countries to agree that the register should be mandatory instead of voluntary, and how participation should be defined. For instance, the question is whether it should apply only to countries choosing to register the protected terms and who consult the register, or to all members.A third existing proposal from Hong Kong intended as a compromise would place limits on the EU proposal and apply registered terms in countries choosing to participate in the system.The chair said discussion should be opened up to consider ideas beyond the existing proposals, and all sides appeared to loosely support the suggestion, the sources said. But the European Union argued that the discussion should not revert back to a discussion about the mandate of the register.William New may be reached at email@example.com. 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