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    No Agreement For WIPO Committee On Traditional Knowledge And Folklore

    Published on 18 October 2008 @ 4:53 pm

    Intellectual Property Watch

    By Kaitlin Mara
    Late Friday evening, weary government officials had to admit they had reached a deadlock in negotiations on international protection of traditional knowledge and folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

    “No agreement,” said the meeting’s chair, Rigoberto Gauto Vielman, leaving the closing plenary.

    The lack of an outcome from the weeklong meeting of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore signals deeper differences among WIPO membership over protection of these areas.

    The mood was one of frustration and exhaustion Friday as remaining delegates shuffled out of the meeting, some wondering what had happened to a week that at its beginning – with the encouragement of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry to move to concrete progress, two detailed analytical background papers from the secretariat, and a proposal from the African Group for stimulating new ideas – seemed poised to be a productive one.

    But after a day of opening statements and discussions in the plenary sessions reverting to a rehash of positions that were largely unchanged from past IGC meetings, it became clear that progress during the thirteenth IGC meeting from 13-17 October would have to be made in the area of future work, and in particular on a mandate repeated at last month’s general assemblies to find a way to accelerate the Committee’s work. At the twelfth session of IGC in February, the committee agreed to consider a decision on possible intersessional work as a means of acceleration.

    And success on this matter, while elusive, still seemed nearly within grasp all week. Even going into the final plenary session, meeting Chair Rigoberto Gauto Vielman told Intellectual Property Watch “I think they’ll succeed.”

    The mandate to accelerate still stands and the work of the IGC will resume when the committee reconvenes in March for a regular meeting, where the possibility of intersessional work can be again discussed. The WIPO Program and Budget Committee had allowed for four IGC meetings between 2008 and 2009, and two meetings remain in the coming year.

    Some participants tried to make the best of the outcome. “There was no bad faith or ill will,” said Gauto during the meeting’s close, according to a source. “We do not have to speak of failures.”

    “Nothing is better than a bad deal,” said a representative from Bangladesh. And a delegate from Kenya said there was still hope for the next meeting. Another African delegate said “we all tried our best.” Many delegates simply expressed regret that no consensus had been reached.

    What stalled this week’s meeting was disagreement on two competing proposals on future work: one submitted by the Africa group early Monday morning 13 October and one tabled by Gauto at midday on Friday. The chair’s text adhered closely to a text circulated by France, which sources said was on behalf of the European Union, in informal sessions earlier on Friday.

    Group B, the developed nations, expressed support for the chair’s text, calling it “progress” from the Africa proposal, according to sources. The majority of the Asia group supported the African text as a basis for negotiations, according to a source, though they were willing to also discuss the chair’s text. The group of Latin American and Caribbean states did not have a unified stance, but most supported intersessional work.

    Key disagreements were over the composition of the proposed three working groups, timing of the sessions, and whether or not to make the three meetings concurrent. The three working groups would focus on issue areas: one on traditional knowledge, one on traditional cultural expressions, and one on genetic resources.

    The African proposal calls for working groups limited to experts. Having the groups open would just become another IGC, said an African delegate, who added that Africa was after “real discussions among experts” aiming toward something “concrete and substantive, not declarations.” A GRULAC member said the reports from experts meetings in Geneva could be nonbinding but could help spark new ideas for the stuck IGC.

    But some member states are wary about not having a representative in the process. A delegate from Latin America said that not knowing the experts, their profiles, or who would choose them was a problem.

    According to sources, Mexico had presented in informal sessions a compromise solution that would have involved inserting the African Group’s proposal for an expert group comprised of 37 nominated experts into the chair’s text, with the caveat that no member state be prevented from sending representatives if they wish to do so.

    There also were discussions over timing, with some members saying intersessional meetings would be too expensive and with others not pleased with an idea presented in Friday morning’s informal sessions of holding expert group meetings during the week of the next IGC, as the working groups would then cut into the time available for full IGC plenary sessions. Some developed nations had said they would be willing to extend the length of the next IGC by several days as a compromise.

    The idea of holding the three working group meetings concurrently, which first appears in the chair’s text, is problematic for small delegations, not all of whom have enough experts to attend concurrent sessions.

    Competing Texts

    The text circulated by France suggested three “informal working groups” – one on traditional knowledge, one on traditional cultural expressions (folklore) and one on genetic resources – meet immediately before the next IGC meeting, which would only be two days long. The first three days of the normally five day IGC would be devoted to the working groups, with the last two devoted to the IGC plenary sessions. The groups would be open to any member state or civil society group interested in participating. The chair’s text builds on this, changing the title of the informal groups to “informal expert working groups,” and specifying that the groups would meet in parallel during the first three days.

    The African Group, which drafted its initial proposal before the IGC and met bilaterally with other regional groups all week in an attempt to create a proposal acceptable to the entire coalition, also submitted a final proposal on 17 October reflecting changes made throughout the week.

    The 17 October African text calls for three working groups, but specifies that the meetings not be held concurrently, that they be prior to the next session of the IGC and each last five days, and that they be limited to a group of 37 experts. This proposal also had the official support of Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand.

    A revised text, entitled “draft decision on future work” and released late on Friday evening proposed the compromise of replacing the next IGC with an “Extraordinary Expert Session of the Committee” allowing for consecutive meetings of three expert groups, each for two days, and with the composition of the groups to be decided by the chair in consultation with members. But many members were not happy with this proposal. “It means we lose an IGC,” said a delegate from Latin America.

    At a plenary session on Friday afternoon, the chair called for states to lay out the points they needed to insist on, and the areas in which there was flexibility.

    This frustrated one delegate, who said that that discussion should have been held early in the week, not so late in it. A separate delegate wondered, in conversation with Intellectual Property Watch, whether there had been politics behind the process, and a representative from Zimbabwe questioned in plenary whether there had been procedural oversight or a deliberate attempt to stall the process, sources said.

    Delegates pointed to a similar situation in the Development Agenda negotiations in 2006 in which the same chair late in the meeting introduced a proposal that did not appear to reflect compromise, or the wishes of many developing countries (IPW, WIPO, 30 June 2006).

    Kaitlin Mara may be reached at kmara@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Dr. Amy Eisenberg says:

      Dear Colleagues

      Please let there not be an impasse regarding TK. Tibetan people and other indigenous groups are losing their lives to protect their traditional culture. We must look at the larger picture and not arm wrestle. TK must have a viable place on the conference table and in the field. Peoples’ lives are dependent on this.

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Amy Eisenberg
      Sonoma County Indian Health Project

    2. The Intergovernmental Committee: Thirteenth Session | WIPO Monitor says:

      […] No Agreement for WIPO Committee on Traditional Knowledge and Folklore […]


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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