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    WIPO Members Back In Negotiations On Protection Of Traditional Cultural Expressions

    Published on 15 July 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Members of the World Intellectual Property Organization this week are attempting to advance 13-year-old negotiations on the protection of traditional cultural expressions (folklore) to a point where they can enter final high-level treaty negotiations. But some developed countries are putting up resistance to any instrument that would be legally binding, saying it is “premature,” which could change the outcome of the negotiations.

    The 25th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) is meeting from 15-24 July.

    WIPO Director General Francis Gurry opened the meeting by encouraging delegates to carry forward the spirit that was present in Marrakesh, Morocco last month when they successfully completed a treaty on copyright exceptions for the visually impaired.

    “This is an exceptionally important meeting that is taking place now,” Gurry said, encouraging them to “find the means to converge so they can go forward with a good recommendation to the General Assembly.” The annual assembly of member states meets in late September.

    The first five days of this week’s meeting are devoted to negotiating an instrument on traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), looking at issues such as defining what is a TCE, establishing who are the owners, what is the scope of rights, and what exceptions should there be (such as research or public health).

    The final three days of the current meeting will be a stocktaking of the negotiations on all three topics (TCEs, TK and genetic resources) in order to formulate a recommendation to the annual General Assembly in September on whether to proceed to a high-level treaty negotiation known as a diplomatic conference.

    Bangkok Retreat, IGC Chair’s Paper

    A “retreat” involving member states was held in Bangkok, hosted by the Thai government, just prior to this week’s meeting at WIPO. According to the meeting chair’s summary, the 5-7 July informal meeting was attended by 55 participants from 29 countries and organisations. It was chaired by Thailand’s ambassador to the UN, Thani Thongphakdi.

    [Update:] The Bangkok chair’s paper from the event is available here [pdf].

    Participants at the Bangkok meeting identified areas of convergence and pending issues, and made recommendations. For TCEs, this included, for instance, coming to this week’s meeting prepared to explain why certain terms are used or whether alternatives might be possible. They were also encouraged to check with capitals on specific articles in the draft text.

    At the outset of the meeting, the chair, Jamaican Ambassador Wayne McCook, circulated an “informal issues paper,” dated 21 June, which outlined where talks stand. He cited various existing instruments and said that they provide “pockets of protection” but that there is “no comprehensive international legal protection system for TCEs.” The issue paper highlighted areas still lacking consensus in the various articles of the draft instrument text.

    The United States and Japan today said that the many outstanding legal questions about issues such as scope of the agreement mean that it is still “premature” to have a legally binding instrument. But all parties appear committed to some sort of instrument.

    And a key difference among delegates, as in the past, is whether the instruments that emerge from this process should be legally binding or not. Developing countries have long pushed for it, but developed countries do not agree. There is a possibility that the outcome of the years of negotiations could end up as little more than a non-binding declaration on the importance of protection of these areas.

    The process of the week will be to hold negotiations in informal sessions of up to six delegates for each region, alongside the plenary sessions. Next week’s stocktaking is not intended to reopen the draft texts but rather just go through them to consider whether they are ready for diplomatic conference. IGC Chair McCook said delegates should not say the negotiations are non-transparent, despite the smaller informal sessions replacing work in plenary. He said the approach is intended to create a more comfortable atmosphere for delegations to test ideas.

    This is the third meeting of the IGC this year. The committee met on genetic resources in February (IPW, WIPO, 8 February 2013), and on traditional knowledge in April (IPW, WIPO, 28 April 2013). WIPO is budgeting for a diplomatic conference on one or three instruments on these subjects in the next biennium, 2014-2015.

    An underlying aim of the work at WIPO is to encourage innovation while ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits. It has been noted that in somewhat of an opposite situation to most other normative discussions in WIPO, developed countries are the ones insisting on a robust public domain and exceptions and limitations to any protections that might emerge.

    It is still unclear whether or how the existing intellectual property system would apply to these areas. There has been discussion of creating new sui generis rights.

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

     

    Comments

    1. Report Seeks To Advance Discussions On Shared Traditional Knowledge | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] in the first week discussed a draft text for the protection of traditional cultural expressions (IPW, WIPO, 15 July 2013). The final three days of the IGC are devoted to stock-taking to determine the mandate of the [...]

    2. This week in review … WIPO IGC continues negotiations on traditional cultural expressions, indigenous participation severely underfunded | Traditional Knowledge Bulletin says:

      [...] the meeting’s webpage, including link to webcasting … Read the IP Watch article of 15 July “WIPO Members Back in Negotiations on Protection of Tradition… Read the IP Watch article of 15 July “WIPO Scrounges for Funds for Indigenous Participants in Key [...]

    3. The Intergovernmental Committee: Twenty-Fifth Session | WIPO Monitor says:

      […] WIPO Members Back In Negotiations on Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions […]


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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.

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    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.

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