WIPO Approves CHF64 Million Conference Hall; Intensive Informals Held On Traditional Knowledge25/09/2009 by Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch 1 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.How to handle the deadlocked negotiations on traditional knowledge remains a sticky decision at this year’s World Intellectual Property Organization General Assemblies, with four proposals on the table and informal meetings ongoing in advance of a formal discussion next week. Meanwhile, WIPO member governments this week agreed to fund a CHF64.2 million franc (US$62.4 million dollar) WIPO conference centre aimed for late 2012. The future mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Folklore (IGC) is in question as delegates have been unable to agree on the ultimate goal of the committee’s work, a programme for that work, and a timeframe in which it must be completed.At press time, more informal meetings of “regional coordinator-plus-one” were scheduled for this afternoon, and a possible draft “non-paper” coming from the meeting chair, Argentina Ambassador Alberto Dumont. The meeting is scheduled to run into this evening, with the possibility of a session tomorrow, Saturday, some participants said. [Update: A concern was raised this afternoon about the representation of the Asia Group in the informal meetings on traditional knowledge, according to a source. Yemen currently holds the presidency for the Asia Group.]The African Group in October 2008 submitted a proposal [pdf] to the IGC calling for text-based negotiations with the goal of creating an international, legally binding instrument to protect traditional knowledge, genetic resources, and traditional cultural expressions. It also set a tentative deadline for submitting a text for such an instrument as 2011, and laid out a work programme by which that could be achieved.Some countries were not amenable to this outcome and at both the 13-17 October meeting of the IGC the 29 June to 3 July meeting no agreement was reached.The African proposal remains largely as it was at the last IGC meeting in July, according to sources, and is being supported by a large number of developing countries. While the African proposal contains other details, text-based work, a legally binding instrument, and a work programme with a timeframe are seen as the three critical issues for those supporting the African proposal, say sources.There are also three other proposals on the table. One from the European Union – similar to a document [doc] they submitted to the July meeting – contains in its preamble the affirmation that “indigenous and local communities have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural heritage” and urges the IGC to “prepare a declaration” on the importance of protecting against misappropriation of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.In parallel, the latest EU document, available here [pdf], calls for continued IGC work, with no outcome prejudged, but with a work programme and timeframe that would include three IGC sessions a year.There are also new proposals from the US and Australia, not previously tabled at an IGC. The US proposal, available here [pdf], calls for a renewed mandate asking for the committee to “accelerate” work “towards further convergence,” but makes no recommendations on specific timeframes or goals save that there should be progress reports submitted to the 2010 and 2011 General Assemblies. It specifies that no outcome of the continued deliberations should be excluded, including the possibility of an international instrument (though “legally-binding” is not in the US text).The Australian proposal, available here [pdf], contains “a commitment to text-based negotiations,” and calls for a clearly defined work programme and timeframe, but “without prejudice to the outcome,” including the possibility of a legally-binding instrument. It asks that a “text for an international instrument/instruments” be submitted to the 2011 General Assemblies “if appropriate.”Several governments opened the 22 September to 1 October meetings with a call to move longstanding IGC talks to something concrete like a binding treaty or other instrument.The opening statement by Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Azevedo said, “The fundamental objective of the Development Agenda – of extending the benefits of the intellectual property system to countries and communities excluded from innovation” should guide the assemblies’ work on IGC. He added the “hope that the IGC will be given a fresh and strong mandate calling for the negotiation of legally binding instruments.”Indonesia also affirmed in its statement that “it is in the very interest of Indonesia that international legal protection is applied to [the IGC] to prevent further misuse and misappropriation.” It added: “The contours of such [an] agreement have already been made available through the various deliberations of the IGC what we need now is political will for its concretisation.”A delegate from Namibia told Intellectual Property Watch that continuing negotiations is not problematic, but “we must have something concrete on the table,” with an objective and a deadline. “We are fed up with talking and want to talk on basis of a text,” the delegate added.WIPO Conference Hall Work a Year AwayThe conference hall project [pdf] is slated to start in January 2011 and run until the end of 2012. It is expected to cost a total of CHF64.2 million Swiss francs, which includes CHF50.3 million for construction costs plus CHF13.9 million for “honoraria and other official fees.” The WIPO proposal says that of the CHF64.2 million, CHF4.2 million were approved by the assemblies on 12 December 2008 (IPW, WIPO, 11 December 2008), to cover “phase one” (mainly honoraria for the architect, pilot and other specialists), which involved a feasibility study. The new conference centre is in addition to the multimillion-dollar building construction currently underway at WIPO.WIPO may have anticipated the victory, as the architectural firm, Behnisch Architekten of Stuttgart, Germany, set up a table in the WIPO lobby shortly afterward to distribute small plastic models and information about the new conference hall. William New contributed to this report. 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