Talk Of Treaties, Revenue Increase, Development As WIPO Annual Assemblies Kick Off
By Rachel Marusak Hermann for Intellectual Property Watch and William New on 27/09/2011 @ 10:26 am
The annual World Intellectual Property Organization meeting of member states kicked off yesterday with hope among participants that the next year could bring a return to positive revenues, a settling of internal dissension, and some of the first treaties at the UN agency in nearly 20 years.
Discussion in the coming two weeks will focus on spending on development activities, internal reform and construction, and possible future treaty negotiations in areas such as audiovisual performances, limitations and exceptions to copyright, additional rights for broadcasters, protection of traditional knowledge, folklore, and genetic resources, and improvements in industrial design.
“A nascent confidence in the organisation’s capacity to agree is appearing,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry emphasised during his opening remarks at the General Assemblies, running this year from 26 September to 5 October. Gurry highlighted several areas where consensus appears to be prevailing in the organisation’s operations.
Serbian Ambassador Uglješa Zvekić was appointed chair of the 49th WIPO General Assemblies.
In a united front, the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) seeks approval on the renewal of its mandate for the next biennium (IPW, WIPO, 22 July 2011 ). Renewal of the committee’s mandate has usually been difficult in the past. Director of the Traditional Knowledge Division at WIPO, Wend Wendland, believes that the mandate is “likely to be endorsed” by the Assemblies’ close.
The IGC’s objective is to agree upon a text of an international legal instrument (or instruments) to ensure the protection of genetic resources (GR), traditional knowledge (TK) and folklore or traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).
Pending the renewal of its mandate, the committee has agreed to accelerate work, with three sessions planned before the next General Assemblies in 2012. According the committee’s proposed mandate, their next meeting would be an extended session in February and would be devoted GRs, the most controversial of the three IGC themes.
As experts continue to debate the impact of intellectual property (IP) on biodiversity (IPW, Biodiversity/Genetic Resources/Biotech, 15 September 2011 ), genetic resources remain a point of contention among member states. Consequently, negotiations on this topic are the least advanced of the IGC themes. South African Ambassador Abdul Minty made note of this during his opening statement on behalf of the Africa Group.
“Whereas there is progress in the negotiations on TCEs and TK as illustrated by the texts developed, unfortunately the same cannot be said about GRs. The African Group is concerned about the lack of political commitment in the negotiations on genetic resources. In our view, any further procrastination on the negotiations on mandatory disclosure requirement is undermining the letter and spirit of the mandate of the IGC.”
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) is one that is seeing significant movement on its agenda. For years, it focused mainly on trying to agree on a treaty on broadcasters’ rights, which remains on its agenda this week. But in the past couple of years since it was agreed to put aside that effort, several other items have come to the fore.
A proposal to negotiate on limitations and exceptions to copyright aimed at protecting the public domain and access to knowledge, continues to receive strong attention from many countries. In particular, the last SCCR meeting came close to agreement on a text for exceptions for visually impaired readers (IPW, WIPO, 24 June 2011 ).
There is a feeling that the text is nearly finished and that the will exists to resolve the outstanding issues, an observer said. Numerous countries mentioned the goal of completing it in their opening statements. The next SCCR meeting will be in November and the assemblies could enable a quick conclusion.
A surprise top candidate for a diplomatic conference – highest level negotiation – in 2012 is one on protection of audiovisual performances. Negotiations on that treaty collapsed in 2000, and only this year have been resurrected with the apparent agreement of the final outstanding issue on transfer of rights between performers and producers. The assemblies may call for the diplomatic conference this week.
In what has become rare in the current economic climate, WIPO presented a healthy financial report. With increasing demand for WIPO services (e.g., international patent applications, international trademark registrations, multiple country industrial design registrations, and the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre), Gurry said the organisation has maintained its forecast of a 4.7 percent increase in revenue. By way of caution, however, the WIPO Program and Budget Committee proposed to lower expenditure to a 3 percent increase and to continue to monitor the data and adjust accordingly.
The Program and Budget Committee met just prior to the assemblies. Their report is here .
The WIPO secretariat proposed a 1.9 percent increase in the development expenditures budget. Many of the regional groups applauded the budgetary increase as a sign of the organisation’s commitment to support the use of the IP system in the least developed and developing countries.
The Development Agenda Group (DAG), however, expressed some skepticism regarding the true value of the increase. “While the group warmly welcomes the upward revision in terms of 21.3 percent of the budget being allocated to development expenditure as compared to 19.4 percent in the last biennium, it is important to arrive at an objective assessment of the precise extent of resources being spent on development-oriented initiatives and activities,” India said on behalf of the DAG.
“In the absence of such a precise definition, inflated figures could lead to misleading impressions that a large percentage of WIPO’s budget is being spent on development-oriented activities,” he said.
Brazil in its statement also was positive but raised some concern about the proposed development budget for the 2012-2013 biennium. The Brazilian ambassador called for improving monitoring tools and reassessing performance indicators in order to make corrections if required. He also noted the agreement in the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda that WIPO committees will provide descriptions of their development work to the assemblies, which he said should include the Program and Budget Committee.
While WIPO has not negotiated a major “game-changing” policy treaty since its 1996 so-called internet treaties – on copyright and recordings – it did successfully negotiate the Development Agenda in 2007. It also negotiated the 1999 Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, the 2000 Patent Law Treaty, and the 2006 Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.[Updated]
The work of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), which is overseeing implementation of the Development Agenda, will be under scrutiny during the assemblies as well.
India said in its statement that the Development Agenda replaced the notion that IP is good in itself with the notion that IP is good for countries in different situations. They urged the WIPO Global Issues Division to report on its activities regularly.
Group B developed countries expressed support for the PBC budget recommendations with an eye toward savings and efficiency gains.
Standards, Industrial Design, Geographical Indications
There are a number of other areas on the wish lists of WIPO member states for the coming year. For instance, Italy encouraged stronger engagement at WIPO on geographical indications, agricultural product names that derive from specific regions or characteristics. The delegate mentioned a new focus being placed on the WIPO-managed Lisbon Agreement on International Registration of Appellations of Origin.
France mentioned its wish to move to a diplomatic conference on industrial design when the time is right.
Several developed countries mentioned their interest progress being made on the committee on standards and IP, which hit a stalemate last year.
Calls for IP Balance, Non-Politicization of WIPO
Opening day statements from a number of governments praised the current positive environment at WIPO and cited work that is progressing. But they also ranged in focus. India called for continued attention to an “equitable” IP system that balances rights of innovators with costs to society of granting them monopolies. They acknowledged that innovation is at the heart of economic growth, and said India is committed to the multilateral process at WIPO.
Morocco said it believes that there is a move toward a balanced regime for IP.
France said it must ensured that WIPO retains its “nature” above all else, keeping high standards of IP, and must not be allowed to become “overly politicised.”
Gurry, in his opening remarks, also highlighted the adoption of a substantive work programme by the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), for the first time in years.
In general, he laid out three overarching themes to his strategic plan: the agency’s policy work, the financial condition of the organisation, and the formal inauguration of a large, new office building adjacent to the WIPO headquarters, just off Geneva’s Place des Nations. Gurry said some 500 staff have moved there from rented quarters. Now attention will turn to completing a new conference hall on the site, with the hope of holding the 2013 assemblies there (instead of in the nearby Geneva conference centre as this year).
[Update:] During the country statements, Australia announced that it had made a significant donation to the WIPO Voluntary Fund to support the participation of indigenous and local communities in the work of the IGC.
Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: http://www.ip-watch.org
URL to article: http://www.ip-watch.org/2011/09/27/talk-of-treaties-revenue-increase-as-wipo%e2%80%99s-general-assemblies-kick-off/
URLs in this post:
 WIPO General Assemblies agenda is here: http://www.wipo.int/about-wipo/en/assemblies/2011/agenda.html
 IPW, WIPO, 22 July 2011: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/07/22/wipo-traditional-knowledge-committee-on-way-to-new-mandate/
 IPW, Biodiversity/Genetic Resources/Biotech, 15 September 2011: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/09/15/experts-still-divided-on-influence-of-ip-on-biodiversity-conservation/
 IPW, WIPO, 24 June 2011: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/06/24/wipo-committee-sees-breakthrough-on-audiovisual-treaty-after-11-year-delay/
 report is here: http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/details.jsp?meeting_id=22205
 WIPO Committee Makes Last Run At Folklore Treaty Text Before Annual Assembly: http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/07/06/wipo-committee-makes-last-run-at-folklore-treaty-text-before-annual-assembly/