WIPO Design Treaty Fate Left To Assembly, Despite Shift On Technical Assistance

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The World Intellectual Property Organization committee on trademarks could not agree this week to recommend the convening of a high-level meeting to adopt a treaty on industrial designs.

The Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) took place from 17-21 March. The decision on holding a diplomatic conference for the design treaty was left to the 8-9 May WIPO General Assembly.

The summary by the chair [pdf] was issued this morning, reflecting differences on whether to recommend the diplomatic conference on a procedural treaty on international registration on designs.

This was followed by informal discussions before delegates reconvened in plenary and conducted some “fine tuning” of the summary, according to meeting Chair Adil El Maliki.

The summary was adopted with minor changes reflected in a final version [pdf], and the meeting ended at midday.

El Maliki is director general of the Morocco Industrial and Commercial Property Office.

Support for African Group Position Shifts

The 54-nation African Group, which along with India, kept the position that the industrial design treaty should include an article about technical assistance and capacity building, seemed to be isolated as many countries which shared its position are now shifting and saying that they are prepared to envisage either an article or a resolution, which would not be included in the text of the treaty. But some of these countries continued to ask that the technical assistance provisions be legally binding. The United States continues to insist on a resolution.

Kenya, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that group did not consider the draft treaty mature enough for a diplomatic conference, since all issues do not have the same legal status, referring to the decision on technical assistance.

South Africa supported the African Group statement and said the issue of the article on technical assistance should be solved prior to the convening of a diplomatic conference and appealed to all delegations that have been resisting an article to show flexibility in the Assembly. “It takes two to tango,” he said.

Uruguay, for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, said the group found the text far better than before. “Technical assistance is in there,” he said, referring to draft treaty language under discussion. “We did say that we wanted to be flexible irrespective of the way this is reflected.”

This was supported by Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago, which said that although the country preferred a legally binding article for technical assistance in the past, after listening to all delegations, it could now be flexible on an article or a resolution.

“We do not want to be seen as a stumbling block to the process as we move forward to a diplomatic conference,” he said, if there is an “effective provision” for technical assistance and capacity building, this is what matters.

Bangladesh on behalf of the Asia Pacific Group said it found the chair’s summary was balanced and factual, and although they had been in favour of a legally binding article, they would now be ready to accept any legally binding provision, whether it is a resolution or an article.

India differentiated itself from the Asia Pacific Group and said that India’s understanding of a legally binding provision would be in the form of an article.

Brazil said the text it is still work in progress and the perception about its level of maturity should be assessed at each step.

EU “Flexible” on Technical Assistance

On paragraph 9 of the chair’s summary, which refers to convening a diplomatic conference, the European Union remarked that all delegations that took the floor at the last session on the SCT, from 4-8 November 2013 had been in favour of convening a diplomatic conference, as noted in the summary by the chair [pdf] of that session. That was supported by the Central European and Baltic States Group, and Japan for the Group B developed countries.

The November chair’s summary said, “Concerning the convening of a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a Design Law Treaty, the Chair noted that all delegations that had taken the floor were in favour of convening such a diplomatic conference. A large number of delegations was of the view that an agreement to address technical assistance in the form of an article in the treaty had to be reached prior to convening such a diplomatic conference.”

Spain said it was concerned about some delegations making the diplomatic conference depend upon obtaining a position, which he said was “a dangerous sort of game.” The Spanish delegate said Spain and the EU were ready to accept an article, “but the fact that the issue has not been yet decided upon does not prevent us from considering that a lot of progress has been made.” The possibility of an article is still left open, he said. Africa, by contrast, has said the decision on article should precede a decision to go forward to a diplomatic conference.

Changes in Chair’s Summary

Two noticeable changes were made in the final version of the summary by the chair, which covered all of the issues on the week’s agenda.

The changes occurred in paragraph 17 on geographical indications, which has been shortened to only state, “A number of delegations expressed support for the proposal to prepare a current survey of existing national Geographical Indication regimes presented by the Delegation of the United States of America in document SCT/31/7. Other delegations did not support this proposal.” That new version disposes of some explanations on the discussions that have occurred on the subject yesterday (IPW, WIPO, 21 March 2014).

In paragraph 8 on technical assistance, a clarification was added at the end of the last sentence now reading, “On this particular issue, other delegations said they were flexible. Some other delegations said that, although they preferred a resolution, they would consider an article, but not as a precondition for convening a diplomatic conference.”

Protection of GIs in the Domain Name System

A number of countries that are proponents of geographical indications submitted a proposal [pdf] to the SCT this week, which will be discussed at the next session of the SCT.

Separately, European Parliament President Martin Schulz has called upon the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to protect GIs on the .wine and .vin domains, according to a release by the European Federation of Origin Wines

The letter [pdf] from Schulz states that GIs “are one of Europe’s greatest assets and as such must be safeguarded.”

“If no clear protection against misuses of our GIs is provided for,” he wrote, “domain names such as “champagne.vin,” “rioja.wine,” “chianti.wine” … and many others may be registered by firms and individuals having no link with the GI in question,” having consequences such as cybersquatting, GI abuses and misappropriation, and unfair competition.

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

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