External Offices, WIPO Normative Work At Heart Of General Assemblies 03/10/2016 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)WIPO General Assembly Chair Latvian Ambassador Jānis Kārkliņš The decision-making bodies of the World Intellectual Property Organization are meeting this week with the hope of advancing discussions of pending potential treaties to protect broadcasting organisations, and simplifying the international applications for industrial designs. Meanwhile, Director General Francis Gurry opened the annual WIPO General Assemblies with a look at the past year and challenges for the future. The 56th WIPO General Assemblies are taking place from 3 – 11 October. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, in his opening speech, said “very good process has been made across the organisation over the course of the past 12 months.” He remarked on the last biennium’s (2014-2015) overall surplus of CHF 70.3 million (US$ 72.3 million). WIPO is faring well in the current biennium, he said, and is foreseen to yield an overall surplus as well. Gurry also noted that the world economy remains risk-prone and the fact that WIPO’s budget is in Swiss francs, meaning that the organisation has to deal with negative interest rates. The global IP systems all performed well, and their geographical coverage continued to expand, although some regions are still under-represented, he said. Beyond those positive developments at WIPO, Gurry said “some of the most important challenges lie, as always, in the advancement of the normative process.” In particular, he cited the proposed Design Law Treaty (DLT), whose conclusion has been held back by disagreements among member states, due to “isolated resistance” to widespread agreement, he said. Consensus on this treaty would build confidence for work needed to be completed in other areas of the normative programme at WIPO, he said. He underlined the potential treaty protecting broadcasting organisations. “While some further progress has been made in the past year in the technical understanding of the issues and in defining a way forward, the time has come, after 20 years, for member states to decide in a definitive manner what they wish to do with this item,” he said. No decision on this item has to be taken at this session of the assembly. Increased Complexity, Role of Multilateralism “I believe that the principal challenge that the organisation faces is complexity,” Gurry said. “The nature of intellectual property itself and its role in an economy in which value resides increasingly in intellectual assets, and in which technology and innovation are developing at accelerating speeds, is now inherently more complex.” “This development is raising fundamental questions about the fitness of old categories to new phenomena, which we see reported on an almost daily basis in many areas ranging from the creative industries to the life sciences,” he said. This complexity is taking place in a world of “great asymmetries in knowledge capacity,” he said. Some WIPO member states have “pre-industrial” economies and may be focused on questions such as the transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture. “They may quite legitimately strive to see the ways in which intellectual property can be relevant to their challenges,” the director general said. Other countries have post-industrial economies where IP is central to their competitive model and competitive advantage, and some other countries have a mixed model, he said. Another type of complexity comes from institutional complexity, he said. A number of IP agendas have emerged at the national, bilateral, plurilateral, regional and multilateral levels, he said. “In an age of globalization, all these agendas affect each other,” he added. “For example, a national law will affect all those trading into that market.” This complexity translates into a broader question of the role of the multilateral system in this new landscape, according to Gurry. He warned against international organisation running the risk of becoming paralysed by an increasingly complex landscape and left as an open question whether those organisations could find ways to contribute to the management of complexity that provide benefits for the full range of a diverse membership. Latvian Ambassador Jānis Kārkliņš is chairing the WIPO General Assembly after Gabriel Duque, Colombian Ambassador, had to resign from the position because of a reassignment outside of Geneva. Today, several officers were named. Acting vice-chair of the General Assembly is Ambassador Juan Raúl Heredia Acosta, deputy permanent representative of Mexico in Geneva. Ambassador Luis Enrique Chavez of Peru is chair of the Coordination Committee, and the second vice-chair of the committee is Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr of Uganda. Marcelo Calero, Minister for Culture of Brazil, is chair of the Marrakesh Treaty Assembly, and the vice-chair of the Assembly is Sumit Seth, first secretary at the permanent mission of India in Geneva. External Offices – Too Many Candidates One of the expected prickly issues of this General Assembly is finding agreement on three countries to host new WIPO external offices. According to a decision at the 2015 WIPO General Assembly, three new WIPO external offices are to be opened in the next biennium. A number of countries have presented their candidacy (IPW, WIPO, 25 August 2016). Algeria has a grand display at this year’s Assemblies The decision included a recommendation that preference be given to Africa. The African Group has chosen two candidates among several African candidates: Algeria and Nigeria. The Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC) has chosen Colombia. However, a number of other candidates are still in line, such as India, Iran, Romania, and South Korea. The African Group reiterated its interest in having two external offices in Africa, as 55 countries were not currently not represented in the network of WIPO external offices. China, which was awarded an external office by WIPO before countries demanded that guidelines are adopted and decisions on external offices go through the General Assembly, said the country has positive feedback on its WIPO external office, according to its translated statement. China called for giving preference to Africa in the choice of new external offices. Group B said the work of external offices should contribute to WIPO’s core objectives. Design Law Treaty Still Elusive? At the WIPO General Assembly each committee report on its activities over the past year. A procedural treaty on industrial designs has been hung up over two issues, which have prevented the holding of a high-level meeting (diplomatic conference) to conclude the treaty in 2016. One of those issues is the inclusion of an article in the text of an article on technical assistance provided to developing countries, which is resisted by some developed countries. The other one is the inclusion of an article about disclosure of source of traditional knowledge in international design applications, also resisted by developed countries, on the grounds that the treaty being discussed is not about substance, but of a procedural nature. Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources Last year’s General Assembly extended the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), after a one year hiatus (IPW, WIPO, 23 September 2016). Gurry, in his opening speech today, said steady progress has been made this year, “but it is clear that a very concentrated effort at a political level will be required in the coming year in order to report positive results to the 2017 Assemblies.” Copyright Committee, Patents On the work of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), dealing in particular with the potential treaty protecting broadcasting organisations, and copyright exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives. No decisions are expected from this General Assembly. It seems no decisions have to be taken either on the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), or the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP). Several developing countries remarked on the need to have regional representation in WIPO staff at all levels. There was unanimous praise for the entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled on 30 September (IPW, Access to Knowledge, 3 October 2016). Geographical Indications, Lisbon Agreement Disputed Discussions are expected to arise in the context of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration, and its Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications adopted in 2015 by a minority of WIPO members. The United States has challenged the process by which the Act was adopted, and the overall Lisbon system as being financially unsustainable. In their opening statement they called for fee-funded WIPO unions to provide for their direct and indirect expenses. They also questioned the automatic administration of the Geneva Act by WIPO, which should be approved on by all WIPO members, they said. UK Brexit, No Immediate Change, IP Fundamental The United Kingdom delegate said the decision by the UK to leave the European Union will have no immediate impact on the UK relationship with the EU because negotiations will take time. “We are the same globally-minded and big-thinking country that we were,” he said, assuring that IP is of fundamental importance to the country for the future. Side Events This Week Side events will be held throughout the duration of the General Assembly. The calendar of the side events can be found here [pdf]. Example events are listed below: A panel discussion on “Women, Innovation and Intellectual Property” will take place at 1pm on Tuesday 4 October, as will a leadership workshop for female delegates on “Empowering Women in IP” between 10am and 4pm on Sunday 8 October. (Advance application is required). On Wednesday 5 October a panel on “Enhancing Patent and Licensing Transparency for Medicines” will be held at 1pm and an exhibition on “Brazil – In the Footsteps of Innovation & Creativity” will be inaugurated at 6pm. At 1pm on Thursday 6 October an information session on “WIPO External Offices” will held in parallel to a panel on “Rights, Camera, Action – Using Copyright and Related Rights to Foster Sustainable Local Audiovisual Content Industries.” At 1pm on Friday 7 October there will be a concurrent panels on “Designing Sui Generis Plant Variety Protection System in Developing Countries and the Role of WIPO” and “My First Work, My First Register: A South–South Cooperation Successful Case.” Image Credits: WIPO, Alexandra Nightingale 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."External Offices, WIPO Normative Work At Heart Of General Assemblies" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.