Technical Assistance Shows North/South Divide In Design Treaty Talks At WIPO

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The issue of technical assistance and capacity building established a clear divide during World Intellectual Property Organization discussions on a potential new treaty on industrial designs today.

The delegates attending the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) meeting from 10-14 December were expected to start discussions on technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) based on a WIPO secretariat document and an African Group proposal [pdf].

The European Union also tabled a proposal [pdf] today with quite a different approach than that of the African Group. The EU presented a non-binding resolution whereas the African Group is requesting articles to be added to the future treaty.

The African Group proposal requests an addition to the draft treaty text of four articles pertaining in particular to special treatment for developing countries and LDCs, technical and financial assistance, and capacity-building. The articles, the Egyptian delegate said on behalf of the group, are an important component of the future treaty, and answer the recommendation of the WIPO General Assembly last October. They would provide incentive to developing countries to use and benefit from the treaty, and facilitate the developing countries applicant to file industrial design applications abroad, the delegate said.

The EU proposal is a “resolution by the diplomatic conference supplementary to the treaty on industrial design law and practice.” It says that technical assistance should be aimed at a “consistent and proper application” of the treaty, and enable countries that are members to the future to take full advantage of its provisions. Technical assistance should be provided at the request of “the recipient States taking into account their level of technological and economic development.”

Article A of the African Group proposal states that developing countries should benefit from a fee reduction of at least 50 percent and LDCs benefit from a fee waiver.

Article B asks that WIPO provide “targeted legal and other forms of support to strengthen the national capacity” of developing contracting parties, to facilitate the implementation of the treaty. Article B also asks that WIPO and developed member states, “at the request of interested Contracting Parties that are developing countries, provide full financial support for all activities and measures that have to be taken by those countries” to implement the treaty and its regulations, for “at least the first five years from the date the Treaty enters into force for the relevant Contracting Party.”

The EU said it fully acknowledged the need of developing countries and LDCs with respect to technical assistance in the implementation of a future designs formalities treaty so that the global system can benefit all users. However, the delegate said, in addressing technical assistance, the SCT should build on best practices and lessons learned from the implementation of technical assistance measures in other areas of WIPO’s work. Technical assistance should be demand-driven, following the recommendations in Cluster A of the WIPO Development Agenda, and country-specific, she said.

Binding or Non-Binding?

Most developing countries who took the floor this morning were in support of binding provisions included in the treaty text. Peru on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), Nepal, Brazil on behalf of the Development Agenda Group, South Africa, Argentina, Tunisia, Algeria, Iran, Nigeria, and India supported the African Group proposal, and China said binding provisions should be agreed to be included in the treaty text.

Belgium on behalf of Group B said technical assistance should be in line with best practices and lesson learned in other treaties and the wider WIPO framework of tech assistance and be driven by principles of efficiency and effusiveness to use available resources in the best manner possible. Fee reduction is also not appropriate in the context of a formality treaty, the delegate said. This statement was supported by Canada. Japan said it supported the EU proposal, as did the United States, and Finland.

Some developing countries argued that they only received the EU proposal in the morning and had not had time to analyse it for further discussions. The EU said the English version of its proposal was distributed yesterday afternoon and sent by email to group coordinators. The African Group proposal was issued on Monday.

At the end of the morning session it was proposed by meeting Chair Imre Gonda that both proposals be tabled as official documents at the next meeting. At press time, delegates were in informal consultations to discuss the study on the Potential Impact of the Work of the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) on Industrial Design Law and Practice.

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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