US Proposes Suspension Of WIPO TK Committee; Switzerland And Others Counter 11/09/2015 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The normative work at the World Intellectual Property Organization on the protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources, and folklore was suspended last year. In the lead-up to the 2015 WIPO General Assembly, the United States has proposed to discontinue the mandate of the committee working on the subject. The US suggests replacing the committee with seminars, studies, and an experts working group. Meanwhile, Switzerland, on behalf of a group of countries, has proposed that the committee’s work resume. And still other countries may be seeking to make the committee a permanent feature at the UN agency. At last year’s General Assembly, no decision could be reached on the work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) for 2015 (IPW, WIPO, 1 October 2014). Consequently, the committee did not meet in 2015 and its mandate is coming to an end in 2015 and needs to be renewed at the upcoming General Assembly if WIPO members are to continue seeking policy solutions to providing international protection for traditional knowledge (TK), genetic resources (GRs), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). One of the main issues at the IGC is the nature of the international instrument or instruments being developed by the committee and if it should be legally binding or not. Some developed countries, such as the US and the European Union have resisted a treaty. Some developing countries, such as the African Group, asked at the last Program and Budget Committee in July that the IGC become a standing committee (IPW, WIPO, 22 July 2015). They signalled that a proposal toward this end would be forthcoming. Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, Others Push For Renewed Mandate On 7 September, Switzerland on behalf of the Holy See, Kenya, Mozambique, New Zealand, and Norway, submitted a proposal for a renewed mandate of the IGC for 2016-2017. The new proposal is available on the WIPO website here. The proponents suggest that the IGC continue on text-based negotiations “with the objective of reaching an agreement during the 2016/2017 biennium on a text(s) of an international legal instrument(s) on intellectual property, and which will ensure the effective and balanced protection of GRs, TK, and TCEs.” A work programme should be finalised before the end of 2015, “based on sound working methods for the 2016/2017 biennium.” The proposal includes a work programme for three 5-days meeting per year. The proposal also suggests that the IGC “is requested to make a recommendation to the GA [General Assembly] 2017 on the future work, including on convening a diplomatic conference, continuing negotiations, or otherwise concluding the negotiations, on an international legal instrument(s) on intellectual property and GR, TK, and TCEs.” According to the proposal, the new mandate requires the chair of the IGC or a facilitator nominated by the chair, along with member states, “to decide on the topics of negotiation and the type of sessions to be held before the end of 2015.” This approach, says the proposal, “would allow the Committee itself to dictate its own schedule, and would remove potentially contentious issues from the General Assembly’s agenda.” US Proposal On 3 September, the US tabled a proposal [pdf] to be submitted as a working document at the next WIPO General Assembly, taking place from 5-14 October. In its proposal, the US argues that the collapse of the discussions on the IGC is due to lack of consensus on fundamental issues, such as what should be protected, who should be the beneficiaries of the protection, and exceptions to the protection. Given the seemingly irreconcilable issues, the US proposes that seminars, studies, and the establishment of an ad-hoc expert working group replace the IGC for the upcoming biennium. “One of the principal reasons that the IGC has failed to make meaningful progress is that there is no shared understanding of what problem the Committee is trying to solve,” the proposal said. “Some argue that the problem is that knowledge is being used by others without the knowledge holder’s permission, and others respond that not all knowledge is or should be proprietary and that there are already international norms for proprietary knowledge.” The US said seminars and studies addressing specific topics and a cross-regional group of experts meeting “to discuss lessons learned from those seminars and studies” could achieve progress. The expert working group could be asked to find a “mutually acceptable response” to questions yet unresolved, such as the definition of TK and TCEs, when GRs are in the public domain, and what does misappropriation mean. Image Credits: Flickr – Biodiversity International Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."US Proposes Suspension Of WIPO TK Committee; Switzerland And Others Counter" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.