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Ten Questions About Internet Governance

On April 23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance,” also known as “NETmundial” in an allusion to the global football event that will occur later in that country, will be convened. Juan Alfonso Fernández González of the Cuban Communications Ministry and a veteran of the UN internet governance meetings, raises 10 questions that need to be answered at NETmundial.


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    WIPO 2012 Assembly Opens With Talk Of More Treaties

    Published on 2 October 2012 @ 2:01 am

    By for Intellectual Property Watch and

    Citing changing trends in intellectual property and the rise of IP as a major economic driver, the World Intellectual Property Organization, sounding upbeat after the well-received Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, is setting its sights on the conclusion of three long-delayed treaties.

    In his opening speech at the 2012 WIPO General Assembly, Director General Francis Gurry urged member states to work together to repeat the diplomatic success in Beijing last June. Many member states at the opening of the 1-9 October assembly lauded the work of the WIPO chief. He was particularly credited for paving the way for the culmination of the Beijing Treaty, touted as the first treaty on substantive intellectual property law since 1996.

    Gurry asked member states to help WIPO finalise the treaty on industrial design formalities; the treaty on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions; and an instrument on exceptions and limitations for the visually-impaired and print-disabled.

    “This [industrial design treaty] is not a substantive treaty, but a business facilitation treaty that simplifies formalities,” Gurry said.

    On the proposed treaty on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional expressions – a prospective legal instrument favoured mostly by developing and least developed countries, Gurry said that some progress has been made in the past two years.

    “[B]ut there is still some distance to travel,” he said. “The immediate task before the member states is to design a process for the next 12 months that will lead to a positive outcome and result at the 2013 Assemblies. To achieve that outcome, an intensive process and a great deal of commitment and engagement on the part of all delegations will be required.”

    Game Changers

    Gurry said the present global IP landscape is being shaped by at least three developments. These are the rise of new markets for IP activities, led by China, South Korea and emerging economies; the increase in international patent applications; and the growing focus on IP and innovation as driver of economic growth.

    “While many parts of a successful innovation ecosystem, such as a good education system, lie beyond the competence of WIPO, intellectual property is an essential part of such an innovation ecosystem,” Gurry said. “IP captures the economic value of innovation. It provides a secure environment for taking an idea through the complex journey to commercialization.”

    The downside of this particular development, Gurry said, is the fact that IP has become a “battleground” for competition. “This is what we are witnessing with the so-called ‘patent wars’ in the smart phone industry and, more generally, in the ICT sector, both areas where investment in innovation has been considerable and where it has been innovation that has enabled market leadership to be established and the accompanying rewards to be harvested.”

    This, he said, calls for the reinforcement of a rules-based international system. “Rules should provide an even playing field and should save us from the temptation to lapse into forms of technological protectionism or mercantilism.”

    More WIPO Offices

    With IP now being increasingly decentralized, more member states have started to request external offices in their home countries or regions. China and the United States are leading the lobbying for new external offices.

    Peru supported neighbor Chile as the host of a new Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) office, saying that WIPO has not allocated enough resources, resulting in fewer staff in its region handling growing patent requirements. Egypt, speaking for the African group, said Africa needs two external offices in the region.

    Gurry said on the push for new offices: “I believe that we should advance on this question in a cautious and measured way. We have, over the past year, strengthened the operations of our existing external offices in a number of ways and I believe that this action has produced convincing results.” There are currently WIPO offices in Singapore and Rio de Janeiro.

    The WIPO chief also stressed the need to consider the plight of developing and the least developed economies in face of rising IP focus, which he admitted to be “extremely challenging.” To address this, he said WIPO is continuing its various projects related to technical assistance for national IP offices.

    Gurry also noted that for the past year, WIPO was able to maintain a healthy financial condition despite the challenging economy and was able to make progress in its construction projects.

    The chair of the General Assembly, Uglješa Zvekić, Serbia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said, “I implore member states to reach higher level” toward effective compromise rather than dwell on ideological interests. He stressed the need for trust and confidence, and encouraged member states to “have faith in WIPO as an institution, but also in each other.”

    Several appointments were announced today: Singapore Ambassador Fook Seng Kwok will chair the powerful Coordination Committee for the next year. The committee is an executive body of member states. Paul Salmon of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will chair the Berne Executive Committee. A chair was also named for the Paris Union. Vice-chairs are still needed, and will be addressed in a meeting of regional coordinators on Wednesday morning.

    The United States in a statement [pdf] on behalf of the Group B developed countries hailed the director general’s work in “maintaining the organisation’s rightful place as the global IP authority.” The group emphasised efforts to increase transparency and accountability at WIPO, welcoming the changes to the Internal Audit Charter. It also noted that WIPO’s expected revenue level had been reached and the outlook for the months quite positive, and that while it is too early to know what savings will be had from cost efficiency measures, they appear to be “on track.” Group B also said it would have preferred to be informed much earlier about problems with the building construction at WIPO.

    WIPO Inc.?

    Group B also proposed that next year’s General Assembly include a one-day session hearing from industries, aimed at fostering a new, more inclusive approach to industry relations.

    “With approximately ninety-three percent of WIPO’s income derived from fees paid by businesses,including SMEs, seeking to protect their intellectual property, Group B believes that these businesses should be involved more in what the Organization does, or at least better informed,” Group B said.

    The statement of Egypt on behalf of the African Group called for the future mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) should include three sessions, and stocktaking process to the 2013 General Assembly with the aim of a diplomatic conference in 2014. It applauded the AV treaty and the SCCR workplan with a visually impaired treaty in 2013. On industrial design it said a balance is needed between costs and benefits. They said it is important to establish a working group to review proposals on governance at WIPO, that the Coordination Committee should hold more meetings, and stressed the importance of the definition of development expenditures at WIPO.

    Hungary on behalf of the Central European and Baltic States noted last week’s World Trade Organization public forum raising questions about the multistakeholder process, and said the AV treaty “has certainly reaffirmed WIPO’s lead in international treaty-making.” But, the group is disappointed that the positive spirit of Beijing is “eluding” the membership now, it said. It made an appeal to advance instruments based on maturity without creating “artificial linkages” between activities. Priorities for the group include the design treaty – where it said remaining differences could be settled in a preparatory conference – broadcasting, the Patent Cooperation Treaty working group, and other issues. But it said the IGC proposals need “further elaboration” which could be solved by continuing discussions. The group supported the Group B proposal for more industry involvement.

    The Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), represented by Peru, said it could support the roadmap for the visually impaired treaty, which members have an “unavoidable duty” to complete. It also said extra sessions are needed for negotiations in the IGC. In addition, GRULAC said more staff and funding are needed in the region, and more attention to linguistic needs of member states.

    The Central Asian and Eastern European states mentioned technical assistance, support for a diplomatic conference on an industrial design treaty within two years, and the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE). It also welcomed the Beijing Treaty, and called for a diplomatic conference on a treaty on broadcasters’ rights in 2014. It also mentioned “appropriate” exceptions for visually impaired readers, a balanced program for the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), and welcomed work toward instruments in the IGC.

    Cyprus on behalf of the European Union said intellectual property is key to sustainable growth and jobs, and that WIPO needs to concentrate on the IP system. It highlighted broadcasting and copyright limitations and exceptions, and said the design treaty is feasible and it is desirable to call for a diplomatic conference.

    The EU recommended to postpone the next meeting of the SCP, originally scheduled for late November, pending consultations. The group stalled on the question of future work at its last meeting, and some officials told Intellectual Property Watch that it might be more productive to work out some differences in consultations before reconvening so soon. It also helps busy delegates from having three WIPO committee meetings in a row at that time.

    The United States ambassador in her statement [pdf] praised the “excellent” work being done at WIPO, and called for WIPO to host an industry stakeholder day next year so governments can hear about the “real world.” The US also called for more whistleblower protection at WIPO, as employees should be able to report corruption or other problems without fear of retaliation.

    The US also noted that WIPO was cleared by the UN as well as the United States’ own review of WIPO’s technical assistance computer shipments to sanctioned countries like Iran and North Korea, but said “the fact is that no one knew that” before or during the provision of assistance. It noted that US-designed technology was among the shipments without its knowledge.

    Zimbabwe later criticised the concerns countries and WIPO Staff Council [corrected] raised about WIPO technical assistance, saying it had tried to paint the assistance as negative and calling it “bordering on blackmail.” Zimbabwe also stressed the importance of concluding the various treaties under consideration, saying failure to do so “would mean continuously denying millions of poor people access to education and also their economic rights over the protection of the genetic resources, traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.”

    “We have never denied the need to protect the economic rights of the rights holders, but we are calling for a balance between the rights of rights holders and public interest,” he said. Earlier he said, “we cannot but express our concern over the slow progress and lack of political will by some countries to conclude treaties of interest to developing countries.”

    India in its statement raised concern about attempts to strengthen IP rights at the bilateral, plurilateral or regional level, as it believes in “the greatest good for the greatest number” of people, which is achieved through multilaterism. It also referred to need to coordinate with agencies working on issues such as public health and climate change and called for discussions of technology transfer at WIPO, in conjunction with other fora such as the UN climate change body, the World Health Organization or Food and Agriculture Organization. It further said that much work remains to do on ensuring access to medicines for all.

    India also said it recognises that IP rights are one of the most important aspects of the “innovation ecosystem,” but that it “must ensure that monopoly situations which may hinder competition and access to technology are not created.”

    [Update] Iran in its statement praised WIPO and supported a development-oriented IP system. But it also fired back about the concerns of WIPO computer shipments to the country, suggesting that the concerns were more a matter of manipulation based on national laws.

    “Unfortunately, we have recently witnessed that certain countries have made blatant attempts to manipulate the current procedure of WIPO for providing technical assistance to IP offices of member countries,” Iran said. “Clearly, they are trying to turn the organization into an instrument for extraterritorial application of their domestic laws.

    “We are confident,” Iran continued, “that WIPO, as a technical UN specialized agency, in conformity with its founding Convention and guiding principles and regardless of any irrelevant considerations, will continue to discharge its responsibilities to effectively promote IP by providing support and technical assistance to its members, in particular developing countries.”

    Brazil, in a statement on behalf of the Development Agenda Group, noted that implementation of the Development Agenda “is still a work in progress,” adding that the Beijing Treaty is a big achievement as it is the “first post-Development Agenda” treaty at WIPO. The group also expressed support for the conclusion of the treaty for the visually-impaired and of the industrial design treaty.

    At the end of the first day of the assembly, delegates were treated to a performance of classical Indian dance staged by the Omkara School of Indian Dance. The performance was co-organised by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva.

    Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

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

     

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    1. Intellectual property rules must provide even playing field to support … – UN News Centre says:

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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

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    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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