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IP-Watch interns talk about their Geneva experience in summer 2013. 2:42.

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The Politicization Of The US Patent System

The Washington Post story, How patent reform’s fraught politics have left USPTO still without a boss (July 30), is a vivid account of how patent reform has divided the US economy, preempting a possible replacement for David Kappos who stepped down 18 months ago. The division is even bigger than portrayed. Universities have lined up en masse to oppose reform, while main street businesses that merely use technology argue for reform. Reminiscent of the partisan divide that has paralyzed US politics, this struggle crosses party lines and extends well beyond the usual inter-industry debates. Framed in terms of combating patent trolls through technical legal fixes, there lurks a broader economic concern – to what extent ordinary retailers, bank, restaurants, local banks, motels, realtors, and travel agents should bear the burden of defending against patents as a cost of doing business.


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    GI Experts Speak Of Value But Concede International Accord Hard To Reach

    Published on 1 April 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Bangkok, Thailand – Experts on geographical indications ended two days of discussions here by acknowledging greatly the benefit of GIs to national economies and cultural heritages, but conceded that it has been tough to reach a multilateral agreement on the protection of this type of intellectual property. [Updated]

    The Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications, co-organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization and Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, ended on 28 March without coming up with concrete steps on how to advance the current stalled negotiations on an international agreement on GI.

    “I think the issue is emotional from what we can see in the past two days,” said Loretta Dormal-Marino, deputy director general for international affairs at the European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development. She said debates on GI protection have amounted to an “ideological battle” between its proponents and opponents.

    Craig Thorn, senior advisor at the United States’ Consortium for Common Food Names, said he believes the stalemate could be resolved if both sides became more flexible. The US, which does not have a GI law, prefers to protect GIs under its trademark system.

    However, Dormal-Marino, saying that “GI is a much powerful tool than trademark for IP protection,” told the meeting that the European Union would continue to pursue a multilateral agreement while negotiating GI protection under its bilateral talks with various non-EU governments.

    GIs are protected under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Two GI issues are being debated at the WTO: creating a multilateral register for wines and spirits; and extending the higher (Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement) level of protection to other products beyond wines and spirits. Negotiations have been conducted under both the WTO and WIPO.

    Geographical indications or GIs are names of places, or in some countries also words associated with a place, used to identify products that come from these places, signifying the product’s quality, reputation or other characteristics. Examples are “champagne”, “tequila” or “roquefort”.

    Thu-Lang Tran Wasescha, counselor in the WTO Intellectual Property Division, told the meeting negotiations for the protection of wines and spirits and other GI products have encountered with “constructive ambiguity”, with no clear definition for such terms as a “multilateral” system of register, what would be “eligible” under such protection, and which countries are seen as “participating in the negotiations.”

    She said a GI name in one country could be regarded as a generic name in another, which would refuse to grant protection to products using such a name.

    Marcus Höpperger, director of law and legislative advice division in WIPO’s Brands and Designs Sector, said the sticky issues in the current GI debates remained scope of protection, GI names being seen as a generic term, and the relationship between GIs and trademarks.

    [Updated] Matthijs Geuze, head of the Lisbon Registry at WIPO, said that negotiations on GIs at WIPO meanwhile are not stalled and are moving forward. Talks are advancing on a draft revised Lisbon Agreement and could conclude in 2014 or 2015, he said. The next session of the Lisbon Working Group will take place from 29 April to 3 May, and the working document for the session requests the group to, where possible, recommend the Lisbon Union Assembly to take the necessary decisions allowing the holding of a diplomatic conference in 2014 or 2015. In its last meeting in December, the working group made significant progress on the scope of protection (IPW, WIPO, 7 December 2012). The next meeting is expected to address two other divisive issues: how to deal with generics and with prior trademarks, he said. [end update]

    Earlier in the symposium, speakers from both developed and developing countries talked in great detail about how GI products have contributed to their countries’ gross domestic product (GDP), employment and the livelihood of their farmers or producers who make the products.

    Alan Park, legal advisor for the Scotch Whisky Association in the United Kingdom, said GI protection is also a protection of jobs and cultural heritage, and told the meeting the UK sells more than one billion bottles of Scotch whisky a year, 90 percent of which is exported. Its export value in 2011 amounted to over US$6.6 billion. He added that the whisky supports one in 50 Scottish jobs and is among the UK’s top five manufactured exports.

    Hasita De Alwis, director for promotion at the Sri Lanka Tea Board, said Ceylon tea, which has a certification mark, is Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner, generating an annual income of US$1.5 billion amounting to 2 percent of this South Asian nation’s GDP. He said the tea industry in his country directly or indirectly employs two million people, accounting for 10 percent of its population.

    After obtaining a certification mark for Ceylon tea domestically in 2010, Sri Lanka Tea Board has tried to obtain a GI protection or a certification mark for the tea in 20 foreign countries. It has so far succeeded only in Jordan and Lebanon while the US has argued that the name is a generic one. Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest world tea producer after China, India and Kenya.

    Larry Sait Muling, senior director for marketing and commercialisation division at the Malaysian Pepper Board, said Sarawak pepper, a product registered in 2003 under the GI law of Malaysia, is able to penetrate high-end markets around the world, though Vietnam is the world’s largest pepper producer. “Farmers directly benefit from our GIs,” he said. “Whatever benefit we get, it will go to our farmers.”

    Cheng Yiqun, of Legal Affairs Division, Trademark Office of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told the meeting that GIs in China are protected under its trademark system. By the end of December 2012, her trademark office had registered or preliminarily approved 1,754 GIs, including 42 GIs from abroad. She also said GI protection has benefited China’s economy and farmers.

    The two-day symposium also heard stories from countries which are still learning to get started with GI protection for their farmers’ products.

    Getachew Mengistie, an intellectual property lawyer from Ethiopia, told the meeting that while African nations have many products that could be registered as GIs – such as coffee from Ethiopia, tea from Kenya and vanilla from Uganda – their producers were still not aware of its value and the governments lack any legal mechanism for such protection. He called for support from national governments and international organisations to help African producers to put in place a GI protection.

    The meeting also heard that GI protection, which traditionally covers mainly agricultural goods, has been extended to various non-agricultural goods and even services.

    Massimo Vittori, secretary general of the Geneva-based Organisation for an International Geographical Indications Network (Origin), discussed non-agricultural products. He said India, for instance, has registered 178 GIs, of which about 120 are non-agricultural products, while Höpperger of WIPO said Brazil has registered a service as a GI.

    Sinfah Tunsarawuth may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     


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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.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    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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