WTO Talks On Geographical Indications Unable To Achieve Lift-Off 04/03/2011 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments 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. World Trade Organization members on Thursday combed through a composite text displaying the different views on a mandated multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications on wines and spirits. The composite text was developed last week as the result of several informal meetings. Countries now have clarified their inputs to the document and tried to define what next steps should be taken to refine it, but discussions were difficult, according to participants. WTO members were gathered at a session of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council devoted to geographical indications and designated as special session of the Council. Geographical indications are place names used to identify products coming from those locations or having special local characteristics, for example, tequila. Delegates were presented a composite text [pdf] on 28 February compiling the results of small group consultations trying to find language representing the different positions of countries. At the same time, a revised version [pdf] of a previous text was submitted by Canada on behalf of a coalition of countries opposed to a binding register of geographical indications, and referred to as the Joint Proposal, according to sources. The revised text includes language on special and differential treatment. According to the WTO, the composite text has over 200 pairs of brackets, representing areas of disagreement. Those brackets show the difficulty of finding agreement on a common language but still could reflect a way forward, where discussions on the subjects have been wedged for years. However, some sources told Intellectual Property Watch they felt positions had not changed and seemed even more fixed. The composite text has been built block after block, according to areas of discussions identified by Darlington Mwape of Zambia, chair of the special session. Each of those areas was discussed in drafting groups to combine text coming from different proposals already on the table for some years (IPW, WTO, 28 January 2011). This restart of discussions on the multilateral system are the result of a push to conclude the WTO Doha Round of trade liberalisation this year, and the need to produce a first draft text by the end of March, as indicated by WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. The six focal points of this discussion were the following: notification, registration, legal effects and consequences of registration, fees and costs, special treatment for developing countries, and participation. Some delegates showed puzzlement early in the meeting over the new document presented by Canada as the Joint Proposal proponents had participated in the drafting sessions of the composite draft texts, and could have included appropriate language in the resulting draft texts, according to sources. A Joint Proposal member said that the composite document was for the moment just a discussion document as opposed to the latest version of the Joint Proposal, which restates the language of the second version and includes a provision for special and differential treatment in the TRIPS agreement. The new Joint Proposal also follows a structure that is closer to the one of the composite documents, for easier reference, according to sources. The other major group of countries is backing a proposal based on an amended European Union proposal and defending a registration of GIs that would require all WTO members to consider and treat the GIs in the register as prima facie evidence (first evidence). GIs having been registered would then be considered automatically to meet the definition of a geographical indication. This group is known as the W/52 Group. Several sources from the W/52 Group told Intellectual Property Watch that the group would soon publish an updated version of its proposal as well. During the session, Mwape described the ongoing drafting as “fragile and delicate,” according to a WTO official. The composite text now includes a section on special and differential treatment for developing and least-developing countries, mainly on the extra time awarded to those countries to implement the multilateral system of notification and registration. Another addition to the composite text is a section on fees and costs with two bracketed proposals, one, that the cost of setting up and administering the register of GIs be borne by the central budget of the WTO secretariat, and the other that the registration be subject to the payment of a fee. During the session, countries restated their positions for the record, according to a WTO official. According to a developing country source from the Joint Proposal group, the extension of the higher level protection granted to wines and spirits in the TRIPS agreement to other products as proposed by the W/52 group is undermining further discussions as it is considered by some as not part of the mandate of the special session. Some countries have linked this extension to a separate proposed amendment to TRIPS agreement Article 27.3(b) to include a mandatory disclosure requirement of the source of genetic resources in patent applications. The issue is linked to a TRIPS Council discussion about the relationship to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, as explained in a note [pdf] from Lamy from 2008. Lamy’s office is conducting informal consultations on the subject. According to the WTO, Mwape restated that the mandate of the session was to negotiate on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of GIs for wines and spirits. Mwape complained about time spent on the extension issue in the drafting groups. According to a source, Mwape will hold informal meetings as soon as 4 March and will announce how to proceed after those consultations. He should announce further meetings over the coming weeks, said a WTO source. Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WTO Talks On Geographical Indications Unable To Achieve Lift-Off" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.