Committee Agrees WIPO Strategic Plan To 2021: Possible Rethink For Policymaking 31/08/2016 by Alexandra Nightingale for Intellectual Property Watch and William New 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)Anticipating a degree of uncertainty ahead for the global economy and intellectual property system, the World Intellectual Property Organization in its new six-year strategic plan looks at likely future policy debates, a focus on infrastructure and training, and possible ways to bring about better negotiations at the UN agency. fountains at WIPO The Medium-Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) 2016-2021, which sets out the organisation’s strategic direction for the next six years, was agreed in committee on 29 August. Agreement was found after a compromise led by Switzerland on provisions relating to the 2015 Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications. The WIPO Program and Budget Committee (PBC) is currently underway, meeting from 29 August to 2 September. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry introduced the MTSP on the first day of the weeklong meeting, highlighting that the plan’s “purpose was to provide some visibility around the medium-term strategic direction of the organisation.” Gurry invited member states to consider the document as “an indication, or an attempt to indicate the strategic direction which will be followed by the organisation in the course of the next six years.” He quickly added that six years in today’s world is a very long period of time in view of the accelerated pace at which change occurs, and therefore it would be difficult to have complete visibility within such a time period. Moreover, the present external environment which the MTSP covers is not only changing rapidly but poses further challenges with respect to a continuing underperforming world economy and slow recovery from the global financial crisis as well as limited capacity to reach agreement at the multilateral level in the normative area, he said. Nonetheless, Gurry said, that the MTSP aims to set out “the context of the strategic goal and indicate the variables in that context and the way in which the circumstances are changing [to] then suggest strategies that would be appropriate to adopt in view of those circumstances for the achievement of the relevant strategic goal.” The MTSP 2016-2021 follows the same nine strategic goals laid out by its predecessor Medium-Term Strategic Plan 2010-2015, which can be found here [pdf]. Overall Strategic Goals Major orientations of the 2016-2021 strategy can be found in the foreword by the director general. These include for example the improvement of the Global IP Systems (Patent Cooperation Treaty, Madrid system on trademarks and the Hague system on designs) and the expansion of the membership to the treaties, as well as notably bringing “any large economies not yet party to the PCT into the PCT system.” In terms of the global IP infrastructure, databases, platforms and systems will continue to be developed and expanded. For instance, PATENTSCOPE will seek to include non-patent literature, and Technology Innovation and Support Centres (TISCs) will continue to be established. WIPO said that unless member states say otherwise, it will continue to address IP protection in a non-normative way through the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE), and work on “information exchange, legislative assistance and capacity building, and international cooperation activities.” Strategies to address global policy issues include strengthening institutional arrangements for attracting extra-budgetary funding. Potential for any further public-private partnerships, like Re:Search or Green, will be “cautiously explored.” Furthermore, “any such additional PPP would seek to be supportive of the Sustainable Development Goals,” in particular the objective of innovation in SDG 9. To improve communications between WIPO, its member states and all stakeholders, WIPO’s website will be renovated further and the move towards digital publications will continue, with an open access policy, the plan states. Reform in Norm-Setting: The End of Committees? One of WIPO’s principal roles over the years has been to provide a forum for international treaty negotiations, and it will continue this focus, but with cognizance of inefficiencies and a need for reform. A focus will be on ratification and implementation of three international agreements concluded in the outgoing period. These include: the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (the Beijing Treaty), the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakesh Treaty) and the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement) In addition, the plan raises concern about the negative impact on the image of the organisation of by longstanding, unresolved negotiations. Members have been negotiating for years on prospective treaties on broadcasting, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions (TCEs or folklore), and genetic resources. Other ongoing negotiations are on design law and exceptions and limitations to copyright. But the plan notes that given the continued increase in importance of intellectual property and knowledge, and technology penetration and change, “multilateral agreement will continue to be difficult to achieve.” Therefore, WIPO said future policymaking could be reconsidered. “[I]t will be important that the Organization consider, over the next period, the nature of future normative exercises in which it wishes to engage,” it states. “One area where views amongst Member States are least divided is the procedural functioning of the intellectual property system. This area may provide an opportunity for action on the part of Member States.” WIPO also raised the possibility of changes in the way negotiations are conducted at the institution. The organisation may need to consider “the modalities by which normative issues are identified and carried forward,” it said, which could spell a change to the committee-based approach. “The current system of committees is considered by some to involve inefficiencies,” the plan says, “and it will be for the Member States to decide whether it should be the subject of evaluation, discussion or revision in order to improve its performance.” Swiss Solution Member states took to the floor to thank the secretariat for preparing the MTSP and offer their support for the plan. The most heated discussion around the MTSP, as indicated in some countries’ opening remarks for the week (IPW, WIPO, 29 August 2016), surrounded provisions in the plan relating to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement. The United States, which is not a Lisbon member, stated that it could not support the MTSP as drafted and objected to WIPO administering the Geneva Act (strengthening protection of geographical indications) of the Lisbon System. It argued that the Lisbon System is not part of the WIPO global IP system in the absence of agreement by all WIPO member states. Japan and Australia announced their support for the US position. France, a beneficiary of the Geneva Act, meanwhile expressed regret as to the pessimism towards the Lisbon Agreement and was of the view that it is administered by WIPO. It said that members were making efforts to address the financial situation in response to the question of financial sustainability that needed to be settled and dismissed concerns as to the status of the Lisbon union. Support for France’s position was shown by Switzerland, Iran, Portugal and Hungary. In view of the disagreement, Switzerland pointed to the fact that the MTSP was not in any way binding and proposed a solution found in 2010 to a similar situation. Therein, a delegation’s disagreement and objection to an element in a document would be reflected in the minutes of the meeting, and subsequently the delegation could refer to such objections in the future without any need to change the document. Furthermore, comments by delegations would be attached to the MTSP in the annex where they would be visible and could be taken into account in the future. The US and France agreed to the suggestion made by Switzerland to follow 2010 procedure, leading to approval of the MTSP. The US got agreement that it would submit a more elaborate statement than it had read out during the session. Don’t Forget the SDGs Separately, amongst other topics raised by member states was the inclusion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support for the implementation of SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Development, in particular SDG 9, which aims to foster innovation. Some discussion was held as to which other SDGs to take into account. Brazil contended that SDG 9 should not be dealt with exclusively. Alexandra Nightingale is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch. She completed her Bachelors in Law at the University of Sussex and holds an LLM degree in International Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. During her Masters, she developed a strong interest in Intellectual Property, particularly patents and the aspects relating to global health. Her research interests now also include geographical indications and trademarks. 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