WIPO Development Agenda Implementation: The Ongoing Fight For Development In IP

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As World Intellectual Property Organization members engage this week in discussions about the extent of change to the UN agency’s development orientation, a new substantive proposal for reform has been put forward based on an external review of WIPO technical assistance.

The Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) is meeting from 7-11 May. The committee exists to implement the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda.

In general, it could be said that developing countries, which initiated the movement that led to the Development Agenda, are working to enact a substantive transformation at the organisation, while developed countries are eager to make improvements without drastically altering the agency.

The work in the CDIP addresses a full range of WIPO activities. With a wide range of reports and activities being carried out, a wide range of WIPO professional staff and consultants are cycling through the committee. Projects range from databases, to competition policy, to flexibilities in IP law, to the public domain. Technical assistance is only one aspect, but it reaches into the core of the organisation’s orientation.

The breadth of issues was reflected in opening statements, such as by Iran on behalf of the Asian Group, available here.

On the first day, an attempt was made again by developing countries to create a permanent agenda item on “IP and development,” which developed countries again resisted on the grounds that it is repetitive with the title of the committee itself. But developing countries’ concern is that broader issues of IP and development do not have a place in a committee that spends most of its time working through specific projects. They have raised this issue for several years.

The first day also saw a discussion of the relation of the CIP to other committees and activities within WIPO, which raises recurrent issues of how far-reaching the committee’s work is.

The remainder of the week will focus on the WIPO secretariat’s extensive report on the implementation of the Development Agenda, and numerous project reports as well as evaluations of past projects. There are now some 23 projects completed or in the process of being completed, according to the secretariat.

The timetable for the week (as of 8 May) is available here [pdf].

Deere/Roca Report

A key element of the week’s agenda is to address an external review of WIPO technical assistance called for by member states and co-authored by Carolyn Deere and Santiago Roca. The report found numerous areas for improvement for member states to consider.

Yesterday, the entire day was spent discussing the report, but no decisions were made on how to proceed. The chair is expected to draft a summary of this and other activities by week’s end.

The day opened with a presentation to the plenary by Deere, who outlined a number of key recommendations from the report. These fell into the areas of transparency and mutual accountability, management and strategic planning, effectiveness and impact, good governance, and orientation.

Deere, who is a senior researcher in the Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford University, told the plenary that the report research was completed in August 2011. At the last CDIP in November 2011, the committee set up an ad hoc working group to look at the report and among other things identify where there might be redundancy in the report recommendations and help prepare for a committee decision on how to proceed (IPW, WIPO, 18 November 2012).

Also at the last CDIP meeting, the WIPO secretariat was asked to respond to the Deere/Roca report. The WIPO management response was completed in March and reflects a number of improvements, including many in the past few months, leading to a debate over which Deere/Roca recommendations had already been addressed or whether and how the WIPO secretariat’s claims need to be confirmed.

The secretariat clustered the Deere/Roca recommendations into three categories. Cluster A are those which are “already reflected in WIPO activities, or ongoing reform programs.” Cluster B is made up of those which “merit further consideration.” And Cluster C represents those which “raise concerns as to implementation.”

The management response is here.

Some developing country members said that some recommendations listed as completed in Cluster A may need to be confirmed. Co-author Deere took a similar view on this, suggesting the regularisation of a monitoring mechanism would be helpful. Concern was also raised on the criteria used to place recommendations into Cluster C.

The Group B developed countries generally accepted the secretariat response and moved right into discussing items in Cluster B. But Group B appears to be looking to slow down the work of the committee.

The ad hoc working group only began meeting in March, and was crippled in part by a lack of translation services. After a series of five meetings ending two weeks ago, the group could not reach agreement and left off its work.

The minutes of the ad hoc group meetings are here [pdf], and the report of the group is here [pdf].

New DAG/African Group Proposal

The African Group and the Development Agenda Group (which includes countries from other regions) issued a large, new proposal today on ways to take forward the Deere/Roca report. The new document includes a variety of specific proposals “aimed at improving WIPO’s development cooperation activities.”

The DAG/African joint proposal is available here [pdf].

Under “relevance and orientation,” the groups proposed experts to develop guidelines with details on how to plan and implement more development-oriented assistance. They also call for the secretariat to develop a comprehensive manual on delivery of technical assistance.

The 17-page document also includes proposals for the WIPO program and budget, including moving “funds-in-trust” – targeted funding from governments intended for specific activities – into the regular WIPO budget, programming and reporting processes.

Other proposals lay out steps for addressing: extra-budgetary resources; human resources; expert/consultants; transparency and communication; redesigning the technical assistance database; assessing impact, monitoring and evaluation; IP policies and strategies in countries; provision of legislative and regulatory assistance; IP office modernization, training and capacity building; coordination; and follow-up.

The joint proposal also includes a 25-point appendix of guidance for WIPO, such as ensuring development cooperation assistance is more than just responding to requests, but also a dialogue with appropriate assistance.

A presentation on the new set of proposals was made by Algeria on behalf of the DAG, but it could not be agreed by the committee how to proceed on it. Developed countries suggested they would need time to review the proposal.

Protection and Development

The WIPO Development Agenda’s 45 recommendations reach well beyond technical assistance and development cooperation, but there continues to be disagreement on how far they should go in the organisation’s activities. Last week, for instance, there was disagreement over whether it relates to the WIPO Committee on Standards.

The discussion is reaching into the original purpose of the organisation, as the United States and Japan today raised Article 3 of the original WIPO Convention, noting that it does not mention development but does emphasise IP protection. The United States said a shift from an “IP-centric” to development-oriented WIPO would contravene Article 3.

Article 3 states:

The objectives of the Organization are:

(i) to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among States and, where appropriate, in collaboration with any other international organization,

(ii) to ensure administrative cooperation among the Unions.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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