Gaps Persist On WIPO Development Dimension

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The development dimension of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization is under scrutiny by member states this week, and after a smooth start and a general commitment to work cooperatively and constructively, discussions have demonstrated strongly held positions, leaving countries to try and find common ground.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) 10th session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) is taking place from 12-16 November, with a heavy agenda [pdf] and a long list of projects to review and work programmes to consider. The exercise of the CDIP is to see how WIPO is implementing its Development Agenda recommendations.

On 12 November, member states started to go through the progress reports [pdf] on 13 projects prepared by the WIPO secretariat. Most of the projects were deemed very important by developing countries.

On 13 November, the CDIP continued with the progress reports of ongoing projects. In particular, the project on Intellectual Property and Brain Drain, presented by the project manager, WIPO Chief Economist Carsten Fink. The project aimed at getting a better understanding of the relationship between brain drain (talented individuals leaving the country to seek jobs elsewhere) and IP policies and protection. The project is two-fold: a mapping exercise and the convening of an international workshop to discuss the main findings of the mapping exercise.

Several developing countries expressed concern about the methodology of the project and the assumption that the lack of strong IP rights could encourage inventors to migrate to countries offering stronger IP protection. They said that migration is a complex phenomenon and the lack of IP did not seem a significant factor behind brain drain. Fink said that from WIPO’s perspective, it was important that the project be linked to IP. Since many different international organisations are conducting work on migration questions, it would have been “a little bit problematic” that WIPO addressed the issue from a general perspective.

Coordination Mechanism, Bone of Contention

The rather good-natured discussions took a turn for the worse when delegates started considering the contribution of the relevant WIPO bodies to the implementation of the respective Development Agenda recommendations [pdf]. The thorny subject of that discussion is the coordination mechanisms and monitoring, assessing and reporting modalities adopted by the WIPO General Assembly in 2010.

The coordination mechanism requests that the relevant WIPO bodies include in their annual report to the General Assembly a description of their contribution to the implementation of the respective Development Agenda recommendations. But the fact that the adopted text refers to “relevant committees” has created a divide in the interpretation of the text.

In particular, the WIPO document tabled at this session of the CDIP, which is a compilation of interventions made by countries, does not include the Program and Budget Committee (PBC) and the Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS) to the dismay of developing countries.

Brazil, on behalf of the Development Agenda Group, said the group regrets that the PBC and CWS are not recognised by all member states as relevant bodies in the context of the implementation of the Development Agenda recommendations. At the last session of the CDIP, the Brazilian delegate said, the African Group proposed the elaboration of a report summarising the main points raised by different delegations in other to provide a more meaningful and comprehensive assessment as member states would be able to identify areas where further efforts are necessary and study possible improvements.

Egypt said the current WIPO document “represents a mere reproduction of statements made by delegation before the committees … and contains no added-value.” India said it reiterated its request to have a structured presentation of the report for meaningful analysis of the information provided by the relevant bodies. India also requested that the PBC and the CWS be recognised as relevant bodies in the context of the Development Agenda recommendations, in particular given the fact that the Development Agenda recommendations “represent an integral part of the PBC substantive work with each and every programme indicating its linkages with the Development Agenda.”

A number of developing countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, supported the request of the inclusion of PBC and CWS as “relevant” WIPO bodies and for a structured presentation of contributions.

Belgium on behalf of Group B developed countries said the group reiterated its long-standing position that neither the PBC nor the CWS “are subject to the coordination mechanism.” The coordination mechanism never called on all committees but on relevant bodies, which implies the existence of non-relevant bodies with respect to the WIPO Development Agenda recommendations, he said. The CDIP is not the appropriate forum for this discussion, he said, adding that it is up to the WIPO bodies to determine their relevance.

The Belgian delegate also said the group considered that the existing flexible modalities for reporting were relevant and functioning. Group B was supported by the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Monaco, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Russia.

South Africa, supported by Pakistan and Venezuela, said a list of relevant bodies is necessary and the decision on what committee should report to the CDIP should be taken to the General Assembly level. The discussions are going in circles, the delegate said, and the issue is not being resolved. South Africa also asked that the reporting be “user friendly.”

The CDIP then considered six independent evaluation reports on completed projects. Phase II of the Developing Tools for Access to Patent Information was adopted by the committee on 14 November.

The committee also considered the assessment of a revised version of a study [pdf] on WIPO’s Contribution to the Achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Criticisms were voiced by developing countries on the methodology of the study and the fact that the study is based on WIPO Program Performance Reports (PPR), which are a self-assessment tool of the secretariat, and as such cannot be used as a sole reference of the WIPO contribution to MDGs.

WIPO Technical Assistance; Confusion over New Project

Member states appeared to agree on the necessity to move ahead on some of the recommendations of the External Review of WIPO Technical Assistance in the Area of Cooperation for Development, written by Carolyn Deere-Birkbeck and Santiago Roca. The review [pdf] was presented during the 8th session of the CDIP. It was followed by a management response [pdf], and at the last session, a joint proposal [pdf] by the DAG, the African Group and co-sponsored by Bolivia.

Algeria on behalf of the African Group said the joint proposal was meant to identify recommendations in the Deere/Roca report that could be implemented immediately. Brazil, on behalf of the DAG confirmed that the joint proposal was based on the Deere/Roca report.

Belgium, on behalf of Group B, supported by the European Union, Japan, and Australia, created a slight surprise by proposing to hold a dedicated one day discussion during the next CDIP to review best practices, based on the identification of WIPO and non-WIPO technical assistance, with the view to improve technical assistance and technical cooperation. The debate, he said, should go forward in a balanced and constructive way.

A long discussion followed, with Pakistan proposing that an action plan be set up to take recommendations one after the other and decide which ones met consensus and could be implemented at once. South Africa expressed concern that the Group B-proposed exercise might undermine the Deere/Roca report recommendations.

The chair decided to break the session an hour early to have delegations meet informally to discuss a way forward on the subject.

CDIP Chair Mohamed Siad Doualeh, the ambassador of Djibouti, proposed two concluding remarks after discussion, both of which will have to be amended before submission to the plenary at the end of the week.

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

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  1. [...] One prickly issue was the contribution of the relevant WIPO bodies to the implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda. Developing countries challenged the fact that two WIPO committees were not reporting to the CDIP and asked that the General Assembly be asked to define a precise list of relevant bodies (IPW, WIPO, 15 November 2012). [...]

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