WIPO IT Committee’s Proposed Broad Mandate Raised Questions12/11/2009 by Kaitlin Mara, 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.Countries were split on North/South lines at a recent meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization Standing Committee on Information Technology (SCIT) over whether to accept a proposed broad agenda for future work that some feared would open the door to policy discussions beyond its mandate. At issue was the formation of new technical working groups to discuss standards and global IP infrastructure, with industrialised countries arguing that the group is a technical body and with developing countries worried that the vague mandate of one of the proposed working groups risked back-door harmonisation, according to several sources.Originally intended to manage a WIPO information network that was discontinued in 2003, the SCIT had divided its work between two working groups: on Information Technology Projects and on Standards and Documentation. The information technology working group has not been needed since the information network was shut down.A proposal to replace the SCIT with a two independent, new bodies to address the coordination and development of global IP infrastructure was floated before the committee at its 26-30 October meeting.The proposed new bodies would be a Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS) and a Committee on Global IP Infrastructure (CGI). The standards committee was to continue in the same vein as the earlier working group on standards and documentation, revising and developing WIPO standards related to IP information documentation and dissemination.But it was the mandate of the CGI that caused consternation among developing countries. Tasked with discussing everything that did not fall under the mandate of the CWS and to meet “whenever necessary” to do so, the CGI’s mandate [pdf] as proposed was not detailed. Suggested matters for discussion included the development of good practice as well as tools for improving international cooperation on IP.The proposal for the CGI calls for it to “deal with a number of matters that no longer have a home amongst the various committees” at WIPO, including “patent information, the policy of offices with respect to the commercial or free availability of patent information, machine-assisted translation and software tools for digitisation of industrial property information.” The document said that the CGI “will not deal in any way with legal norms.”Developed countries felt new SCIT-replacing committees represented organisational (and not political) changes, according to a source. But developing countries objected to the creation of the CGI until more information could be provided by the secretariat as to its intended mandate, several sources said.Recent discussions over coordination of global IP infrastructure have raised for some the spectre of increased patent law harmonisation, which many developing countries and civil society believe is not beneficial for development goals.During the SCIT meeting two approaches were offered. The first was for the report of the meeting to indicate that “no agreement” could be reached on the CGI formation, and to record views expressed during the meeting, an African Group delegate told Intellectual Property Watch.The second was to acknowledge the needs of delegations to have more information, and for the secretariat to prepare a document describing further the new committees’ intended functions so that delegates could discuss it at a meeting in Geneva in April, in time to send recommendations to the next General Assemblies on how to proceed, the delegate added.Agreement on this latter option broke down over a clause asking the secretariat to bear in mind the principles of the Development Agenda when writing the report, and over whether to name countries that had sent proposals for the CGI’s work, which the African Group delegate said had only been submitted by the Group B developed countries.The future work of the SCIT and the formation of the CGI is therefore still unclear. As of press time, the WIPO secretariat had not yet released a report of the meeting and could not provide any information on the decisions taken.Coordinating IP infrastructure is one of the key future challenges for the IP system, said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry at a symposium on the issue in September (IPW, WIPO, 21 September 2009), with other attendees mentioning improved searches and common technology platforms and other plans for sharing work as potential solutions.But coordinating IP infrastructure gets into substantive issues, as categorisation and search mechanisms may determine what is taken into account when deciding to grant a patent application, said South Centre Executive Director Martin Khor in a recent interview with Intellectual Property Watch.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)RelatedKaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WIPO IT Committee’s Proposed Broad Mandate Raised Questions" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.