No Industrial Design Treaty At WIPO In 2014; Technical Assistance Still In The Way

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A World Intellectual Property Organization Extraordinary General Assembly was convened this week to confirm the re-election of Francis Gurry as director general, but also to decide on convening a treaty negotiation this year to finish a procedural treaty on industrial designs. No consensus was found on the design treaty, leaving the decision to be deferred to the General Assembly in September.

After long hours of informal discussions carried out over the 8-9 May Assembly (following the first morning spent on the re-election of the director general), positions remained deadlocked, forfeiting the prospect of a treaty adoption in 2014.

Francis Gurry was re-elected on 8 May © WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry was re-elected on 8 May
© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod.

Agreement could not be reached on a proposed decision [pdf] by Extraordinary General Assembly Chair Päivi Kairamo, the Ambassador of Finland, issued on 8 May. The draft decision left open two options on how to address technical assistance in the treaty: include it in an article within the treaty, or attach a resolution to the treaty. Either way, it called for the final treaty negotiation (diplomatic conference) to be held by year’s end, in Geneva. The location represented a shift from an earlier plan to accept Russia’s offer to hold it in Moscow.

Informal consultations could not bring proponents of the two technical assistance options closer. Therefore, Kairamo issued another draft decision [pdf] at the end of the afternoon on 9 May, which sent the decision on a diplomatic conference to the next WIPO General Assembly in September. The decision encourages delegations to hold informal consultations prior to the General Assembly “with a view to resolving pending issues.” This decision was adopted by the General Assembly.

The international registration of industrial designs is currently covered by the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, managed by WIPO. The new treaty, which is said to be “procedural,” is seen as a way to simplify and harmonise procedures for industrial design registrations.

The treaty would address questions such as the filing date, the grace period for filing in case of disclosure, multiple applications, the publication of the industrial design, and renewal.

Work on the draft treaty text [pdf] has been going forward during the last sessions of the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) but it hit a stumbling block with the issue of technical assistance.

Missed Opportunity?

The Group B developed countries said “it is very regrettable” that no agreement could be reached on the convening of a diplomatic conference this year, and that one specific element should have prevented the agreement on the “balanced solution to move forward” that had been presented by the chair.

“This fact deepens our regret that some are imposing a condition on the convening of a diplomatic conference preventing us from moving forward,” Japan said on behalf of Group B.

WIPO General Assembly  © WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod.

WIPO General Assembly
© WIPO 2014. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod.

The European Union in its prepared statement expressed regret that the WIPO General Assembly “has once again failed to find agreement on the convening of a Diplomatic Conference to establish a Design Law Treaty, despite the clear window of opportunity and the obvious maturity of the text.”

“It is clear that consensus remains elusive due to a single issue of concern for a limited number of delegations,” the EU delegate said. “In our future discussions we should ensure that we uphold the high level of ambition of our nearly completed work in order to preserve our common achievement.”

Main proponents of an article in the treaty are countries of the African Group. India in past sessions of the SCT also has said it favours an article. According to some sources, the Asia Pacific Group also shares the same view. The African Group insists that technical assistance has to be part of an article, and made it a question of principle, saying that technical assistance should be treated in the same way as any obligation laid out in the treaty. They are tying the agreement on the inclusion of an article in the draft treaty text to holding a diplomatic conference.

Most countries said they could be flexible on the issue, such as the European Union, and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC).

But the United States said that a resolution attached to the treaty would provide a swifter solution to technical assistance and capacity building, implementable as soon as the treaty is adopted, as it can take many years for countries to sign and then ratify a treaty. They oppose an article in the treaty, but would welcome a diplomatic conference to settle the issue, according to sources.

Date, Venue of Diplomatic Conference Uncertain

There is no indication of a possible time in which the diplomatic conference could be convened in the decision adopted by the General Assembly, other than “as soon as practicable at a venue to be decided.”

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, which led to the item being added to the extraordinary General Assembly already arranged to confirm the WIPO director general’s election (IPW, WIPO, 13 December 2013).

The 8 May proposed decision from Kairamo stated that the potential diplomatic conference would be held in Geneva.

General Assembly Reports Adopted

The WIPO members also adopted the draft general report [pdf] of the assembly, which contains statements made by member states during the two days.

The Assembly also adopted the draft report [pdf] containing the chair’s proposed decision on the industrial design treaty.

At the close of the Extraordinary General Assembly, Director General Francis Gurry renewed his thanks to the Assembly for his second nomination and said he felt sorry no positive conclusion could be reached on the design law treaty.

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

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