WIPO Talks On Future Of TK, Genetic Resources, Folklore Intensify

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World Intellectual Property Organization committee members have laid out options for establishing an instrument or instruments to protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore. Now they are working to choose among them.

The renewal of the mandate of the World Intellectual Property Organization committee tasked with establishing such instruments seems a shared objective. But the number of sessions of the committee in the next year, and a possible recommendation to hold a high-level diplomatic conference, has kept delegates in intense discussions since yesterday.

The Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) is meeting from 15-24 July. The three last day of the meeting, which was otherwise devoted to discussion on Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs), were set apart to evaluate progress made during the year and discuss the renewal of the committee for the next biennium (2014-2015) along with a work programme.

At the outset of the “stock-taking exercise” yesterday, it appeared clear that developing and developed countries would back a recommendation to the September WIPO General Assembly that the mandate of the committee be renewed for the next biennium. However, developing countries were in favour of also recommending the convening of a high-level negotiation (diplomatic conference), which was deemed premature by most developed countries.

Some developing countries also asked that next biennium there should be three thematic sessions and one cross-cutting session, plus several “intersessional” meetings to advance work on the instrument(s) text(s) to be ready for a diplomatic conference.

Yesterday, after delegates spent the morning in informal meetings to try to breach differences on the future work of the committee, regional coordinators delivered their positions to the plenary, which were unchanged.

According to a developing country source, the three texts – genetic Resources (GR), traditional knowledge (TK), and TCEs, are mature enough to consider convening a diplomatic conference. After 13 years, the source told Intellectual Property Watch, no additional studies or facts will advance discussions, only political will and capacity, fostered by a high-level meeting.

On the other hand, developed country sources said the texts as they currently stand are still not mature enough for a diplomatic conference. One source also said the immaturity of the texts could lead to a failure of a potential diplomatic conference, achieving the opposite effect and delaying further more a solution to the protection of GR, TK and TCEs.

Developed countries also are resisting intersessional meetings. A developed country source told Intellectual Property Watch that other WIPO committees are also demanding their attention.

Last week, negotiations on TCEs were difficult, according to several sources. This might be considered surprising as the TCEs text was once viewed as being the most mature and the “easiest” subject of the IGC, compared to GR. However, TCEs touches on a wide range of subjects, and sensitive copyright issues such as in songs, books, movies, and raise broader concerns than GR where the only serious issue remaining is the mandatory disclosure of GR in patent applications.

After an afternoon of informal discussions with regional coordinators and Jamaican Ambassador Wayne McCook, chair of the IGC, an informal summary of those discussions was released, listing the different options currently being considered.

It reads:

“Renewal of mandate
Renew [improve] mandate for the 2014 and 2015 biennium

Number of IGC Sessions
Option 1: 3 Thematic + 1 Cross-cutting 2014 and 3 Thematic + 1 Cross-cutting 2015
Option 2: 3 Thematic + 1 Cross-cutting in the 2014/2015 biennium
Option 3: 3 Thematic + 1 Cross-cutting in 2014 [and then decide on possible future work]

Length and format of IGC sessions
[3 Thematic sessions each preceded by one day high-level meeting] (suggestion by one group)

Other sessions/meetings
[3 [intersessionals][special sessions][informals], in 2014 [and 2015]]

Reference to a Diplomatic Conference
Option 1: Convene a DC at the earliest in the 2014/2015 biennium
Option 2: Finalize text by September 2014 and convene a DC in 2014
Option 3: Stock-taking and decide [on convening] [whether to convene] at GA 2015”

Differing Views

Yesterday the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) suggested that prior to each of the thematic IGC meetings (GR, TK and TCEs) a high level meeting be convened, which would set political guidelines for the course of the remaining of the meeting.

Group B developed countries said some stock-tacking of progress made on the texts should be undertaken before the 2015 General Assembly. Belgium speaking on behalf of the group said IGC sessions should include some cross cutting concrete examples. This request was also made by the European Union.

Poland on behalf of the Central European and Baltic States Group said a separation should be maintained between the three strands of the IGC and the 2015 General Assembly should decide whether adequate progress has been achieved and decide on further work.

Algeria for the African Group said what was needed was more than renewing the mandate of the IGC. Renewing the mandate for the sake of renewing it was not enough, the delegate said, asking for a real commitment to achieve results by the end of the upcoming mandate.

Belarus for the Eastern European Group said a diplomatic conference could be considered if careful work was being carried out on the current documents, and agreement on those texts was achieved.

The Indigenous Caucus said the group is in favour of the renewal of the mandate, but not in such a hurry that it would compromise the result of the negotiations. They also called for a full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in those negotiations, and to increase the number of indigenous peoples participating.

According to a developing country source, this morning’s discussions on the diplomatic conference were proving fruitless. The plenary is expected to reconvene this afternoon with results from informal discussions. Decision on this topic might be left for the September General Assembly to decide, according to several sources.

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

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