WIPO: Protection Of Country Names Inspires Delegates; Designs Conference Elusive

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The use of a country name by third party with no association with the country can have a severe impact on a developing country’s economy, according to the governments of Jamaica and Barbados. The two Caribbean nations are asking this week that the World Intellectual Property Organization undertake a study on the protection of country names in the context of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT).

During the last session of the SCT in January, Barbados and Jamaica presented a proposal [pdf] with a three-phase work plan. Jamaica then submitted an additional document [pdf] to facilitate the implementation of the work plan.

This afternoon, after the morning discussions, Barbados and Jamaica submitted a revised proposal for a study on the protection of country names [pdf] with terms of reference. This study would analyse “the current legislative provisions and practices in national or regional legislations relating to the protection of country names, in particular in the field of registration of trademarks.”

The delegate of Jamaica said that the country had provided a report with case studies and sets of evidence, enumerating concerns but also steps taken to protect Jamaica’s brand. They identified a list of products and services bearing the name Jamaica which have no association to the country, as well as registered trademarks using the name of Jamaica, he said. The report also states efforts and steps taken by the government and the private sector to establish a nation brand, he added.

Empirical assessment of the impact of the use of country names on developing countries is needed in view of the limitations of the intellectual property system to address the issue, he said. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to produce a reference resource, or joint recommendation which would guide future developments of domestic and international practice, legislation and related jurisprudence in relation to the protection of country names, he said.

During the morning, several countries, such as Argentina, Chile, China, Ghana, Korea, Switzerland and the central European and Baltic states, supported further work of the SCT on country names. However, the European Union had reservations about scope, costs and feasibility of the proposed work programme. The EU said its member states recognise the importance of the subject and are prepared to discuss further but that the committee should focus on industrial designs with the view of convening a diplomatic conference in the near future.

After the submission of the revised proposal by Barbados and Jamaica, the EU said some of the elements still were problematic, such as the scope being too broad, and proposed to discuss with the two proponents informally. The plenary will continue the discussion tomorrow.

EU Pushing for Diplomatic Conference on Designs

After going through the draft articles and the draft regulations of a potential treaty on industrial designs yesterday, delegates could not agree today on whether to make a recommendation to the annual WIPO General Assembly in two weeks on the convening of a diplomatic conference.

Most countries taking the floor said such a treaty would be useful but many of them, including the African Group and the Development Agenda Group said the time was not ripe yet. Group B developed countries were uncharacteristically silent during the discussions on industrial designs and according to one Group B delegate, while the EU is pushing for a diplomatic conference (a high-level treaty negotiation), some other members of the group are not in such a hurry.

The discussion will also continue tomorrow in plenary session said SCT Chair Imre Gonda.

Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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