WIPO Assembly: Potential Design Treaty Misses Train To Russia In June, Still On Track For 2014

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It took World Intellectual Property Organization members long hours in informal consultations over the past two days and far into last night to try solving two outstanding issues in the extraordinary session of the organisation’s General Assembly. Yet another extraordinary session is on the way in May to try to agree on the convening of a diplomatic conference – a high level treaty negotiation – on industrial designs later in 2014.

The extraordinary session of the WIPO General Assembly took place from 10-12 December. The draft report [pdf] of the session as well as a draft general report [pdf] including the detailed reporting of the session were released late yesterday afternoon, and approved.

Designing an Industrial Design Treaty

No agreement could be found on the issue of how to deal with technical assistance and capacity building in the draft industrial design treaty text, and the Assembly could not decide on the convening of a diplomatic conference in June 2014.

At the heart of the problem was the insistence of the African Group that the provision on technical assistance and capacity building be legally binding, as in an article. This was resisted by the United States, which preferred a milder language such as “legal” or “normative” (IPW, WIPO, 12 December 2013), under the form of a resolution for example, and opposed the “legally binding” terms.

The matter was pressing since a diplomatic conference was eyed for June 2014, to be hosted by Russia. An African Group member told Intellectual Property Watch that the group wanted technical assistance and capacity building to receive equal treatment comparable to all other provisions of the treaty. Industrial design is typically an issue found more in developed economies.

A stern-faced Marcello Della Nina from Brazil, who had conducted consultations before the start of the extraordinary session of the General Assembly and during the 3-day meeting, reported to the plenary that “we came extremely close to a consensus” but at the end it was not possible to reach one.

A draft decision [pdf] was thus submitted to the effect that the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Trademark, Industrial Designs, and Geographical indications (SCT) would continue work on the draft treaty text, and the WIPO General Assembly should take stock of the text and progress made and decide on convening a diplomatic conference.

All delegations expressed disappointment that no consensus could be reached after hours of discussions and negotiations.

Both the United States and the African Group defended their positions and said they had shown maximum flexibility, to no avail.

The Asia and Pacific Group said it was disappointed, but the group’s preference is to have an article in the proposed treaty on technical assistance and capacity building, which would be legally binding. Iran said technical assistance and capacity building is a concern of developing and least-developed countries and expressed gratitude to the African Group for having shouldered a difficult task on behalf of those countries.

Russia Proposes Extraordinary Assembly in May

Russia, which had proposed to hold the June 2014 diplomatic conference, tried to save the day by suggesting that an extraordinary General Assembly in May could decide on convening a diplomatic conference, which could be still held in December 2014. Several delegations expressed interest in this suggestion, and with some other delegations requesting textual change on other matters, a new version [pdf] of the draft decision was issued.

In particular, the new version added the mention of an extraordinary session of the General Assembly in May 2014 to take stock of and consider the text, progress made, and decide on convening a diplomatic conference in 2014 in Moscow.

Yet another text [pdf] was issued with further details on the May 2014 extraordinary session of the General Assembly, and stating that should the May session of the Assembly decide to convene a diplomatic conference, a preparatory committee would be held immediately after that session of the General Assembly

Adoption of Resolution on New WIPO Offices

At long last, delegates late yesterday agreed on a resolution [pdf] on the establishment of new WIPO offices in countries, which clearly did not satisfy member states fully.

Five new WIPO external offices were proposed by WIPO at the July Program and Budget (PBC) meeting, one in China, one in Russia, two in Africa, and one in the United States. The China and Russia offices – which already had signed contracts with the WIPO secretariat – were agreed upon this week. The fate of the three other offices remained uncertain, although the agreed budget has allocated funds for additional external offices (IPW, WIPO, 10 December 2013).

German Ambassador Thomas Fitschen, acting as “friend of the chair” and facilitator of the informal consultations which kept delegates away from the plenary room, explained that the obvious differences in opinion on the proposed guiding principles could not be breached in such limited time as the last day of the General Assembly.

A set of guiding principles [pdf] was put forward by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), Group B developed countries, the Group of Central European and Baltic States, and India at this General Assembly in the hope of reaching consensus on the subject, to no avail.

Member states all agree that guiding principles for the opening of further WIPO external offices are necessary, said Fitschen, but are divided on the proposed text. Some countries support the text without change, others want to keep the text but want additional provisions, some members cannot agree to the guiding principles as they stand, he detailed.

The decision [pdf] that has been adopted is to continue open-ended consultations on the proposed guiding principles regarding WIPO external offices, taking into account all proposals and related documents, and all positions and concerns expressed by member states during the PBC and Assemblies meetings. The result of those open-ended consultations will be provided for consideration and recommendation by the PBC and a decision at the General Assembly in September 2014.

This decision, he said, has been carefully crafted, following consensus gained in consultations but “many delegations have sacrificed a lot” in the process.

Algeria, on behalf of the African Group, said the group accepted the decision “with a heavy heart.” The delegate said no objection had been voiced to the opening of two new offices in Africa in the next biennium and hoped that all member states engaging in open-ended consultations will do so with this understanding. “We are trusting member states” hoping that no delegation will question the opening of those two new offices in Africa, she said.

Japan for Group B insisted on the importance of “sound guiding principles” on which any further decision will be taken, and on the necessity of avoiding imposing a burden on the organisation’s financial resources.

Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of GRULAC, which has been an ardent proponent of the opening of a new external office in Latin America beyond the existing Brazil office, said the group accepted this outcome and was ready to go back to the drawing table.

China supported the decision and said any political decision should include the opening of two new offices in Africa. Russia said there are two elements to the discussion, one being the preparation of guiding principles and the other one referring to the decisions to be taken on numbers and locations of those external offices. Russia, the delegate said, “will give all due attention” to the question of the opening of two new offices in Africa.

Global Challenges Division to “Inform” SCP, CDIP

The proposal [pdf] by the General Assembly Chair Päivi Kairamo of Finland for the Program and Budget for the 2014/2015, which was adopted on 10 December (IPW, WIPO,10 December 2013), included a paragraph on the WIPO Global Challenges Division.

The Global Challenges Division, which is part of the Department for Traditional Knowledge and Global Challenges, “is responsible for addressing innovation and IP at the nexus of interconnected global issues, in particular global health, climate change and food security,” according to WIPO. The three subject areas were chosen in the light of particular challenges met by developing countries in those areas and “because solutions from innovation-driven initiatives are feasible.”

However, a number of developing countries expressed concerns at the last session of the Program and Budget Committee on 9-23 September, that programme 18, including the Global Challenges Division, was not subject to the oversight of member states in a committee (IPW, WIPO, 12 September 2013). The Development Agenda Group proposed then that the programme 18 report to the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), an idea supported by the Asia and Pacific Group, and the African Group.

But Group B developed countries showed some reluctance at the prospect, and several developed countries said that the PBC is an adequate committee to discuss programme 18.

The part of the adopted decision reads : “The Assemblies……noted the comments made by Member States on the request for additional information concerning the IP and Global Challenges program (Program 18) and requested the Program to inform Member States at the 20th session of the SCP [Standing Committee on the Law of Patents] on the patent-related aspects of its activities and to inform Member States at the 13th session of the CDIP [Committee on Development and Intellectual Property] on the development-related aspects of its activities.”

A developing country source told Intellectual Property Watch that although the decision did not instruct the division to report but to “inform” member states at the CDIP, it was still an important step forward.


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

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  1. […] Russia had proposed to host the diplomatic conference to adopt the treaty, which was originally foreseen for June 2014. Given the lack of agreement at the last WIPO Extraordinary General Assembly in December 2013, Russia proposed to host the diplomatic conference in December 2014 and added this item to the extraordinary General Assembly already arranged to confirm the WIPO director general’s election (IPW, WIPO, 13 December 2013). […]

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