The latest briefs from the IP community
By Catherine Saez
A corporate sustainability-centred model of governance is the subject of a new report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative, a UN-private sector initiative.
Published in the margins of the International Corporate Governance Network’s annual conference, the report [pdf], presents a new model of “integrated governance.” It was written by the Asset Management Working Group of the UNEP Finance Initiative (UNDP FI).
UNEP FI is a global partnership between UNEP and the financial sector.
The report seeks to “identify corporate governance practices that could promote a durable culture of sustainability within corporations.”
According to the report, “Integrated governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled, in which sustainability issues are integrated in a way that ensures value creation for the company and beneficial results for all stakeholders in the long term.”
The report underlines the benefits for society that have come from entrepreneurs and corporations, fuelling “unprecedented economic growth and raising billions of people out of poverty by creating job opportunities.” However, it advocates for “the development of a sustainable strategy, one that enables a company to create value for its shareholders, while at the same time contributing to a sustainable society.”
Examples and case studies are included in the report, in particular three case studies of firms that shows elements of integrated governance. These include: US chipmaker Intel, French food-products multinational organisation Danone, and US biotechnology company Biogen Idec.
By Maëli Astruc for Intellectual Property Watch
As the global internet governance landscape started without states in the foreground, the multistakeholder model and the participation of governments in it is still evolving, a recent panel of experts said.
An event co-organised by the Information Society (ISOC) and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) on 12 June alongside the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) +10 High Level Event of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) discussed the evolving internet governance multistakeholder process and assessed the role of governments in that process.
“There is a challenge to reconcile the concept of national sovereignty with the internet model,” said ISOC’s Markus Kummer.
This was underlined by the NetMundial conference in Brazil, according the Geneva Internet Platform’s Jovan Kurbalija. The multistakeholder process was open and inclusive during the preparatory process and discussions, but was undermined in the drafting of outcome documents with a stronger participation of states, Kurbalija said. “Ultimately, the best design process cannot overcome different interests,” he said.
Other panellists discussed different perceptions of the multistakeholder process in Africa, the importance of technical standards and advantages of a multistakeholder states’ delegation.
A summary of the event is available in the GIP website.
By Catherine Saez
The chair of the World Intellectual Property Organization traditional knowledge and genetic resources committee has circulated a draft paper on common issues in the negotiations, in hopes of bringing parties closer together ahead of the next committee meeting in July.
The Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) will meet from 7-9 July. This three-day session is expected to examine issues that cut across the three legs of the current work or the committee: the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions (folklore).
The “informal issues paper” with table [pdf] submitted by committee chair Wayne McCook, ambassador of Jamaica, examines areas such as policy objectives, definition and use of terms, criteria for eligibility, scope, beneficiaries, and the disclosure requirement, and compares the three draft texts of negotiating areas.
The three-day session in July may facilitate the further drafting of texts toward becoming international instruments of protection. The 26th session of the IGC in February produced a draft text on genetic resources (IPW, WIPO, 10 February 2014). The 27th session of the IGC in April produced two draft documents, one on traditional knowledge and the other one on traditional cultural expressions (IPW, WIPO, 7 April 2014).
“These views are merely points of departure, and the Committee might identify other such cross-cutting issues,” the chair’s paper says.
By Catherine Saez
The United States confirmed its opposition to an indefinite extension of a moratorium shielding the World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property from non-violation complaints through a paper presented to WTO members meeting today.
In a paper [pdf] submitted to the Council for the WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement taking place today, the US details the reason why they think non-violation complaints should be allowed under TRIPS.
Non-violation complaints refer to complaints by which a country can bring a WTO case against another country if the complainant country feels it has been deprived of expected benefits by the other country’s action, despite the fact that there is no violation of a WTO rule.
A moratorium currently applies to the WTO TRIPS agreement, preventing members from bringing non-violation complaints under TRIPS. The moratorium has been extended several times, the last time during the December Bali WTO ministerial meeting. However the Bali decision also includes a request that WTO members would try to reach an agreement on whether or not to extend the moratorium indefinitely, or allow non-violation complaints under TRIPS by the next ministerial conference in 2015.
The US and Switzerland are opposing an indefinite extension of the moratorium. Developing countries are worried that such non-violation complaints could restrict flexibilities they negotiated under TRIPS. An example of a flexibility is the use of compulsory licensing.
The Geneva-based Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) announced yesterday that the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) became its seventy-second member.
In a press release [pdf], UPOV said OAPI “operates a plant variety protection system which covers the territory of its 17 member states.”
OAPI member states are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
According to the release, Francis Gurry, director general of UPOV and of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said, “The accession of OAPI is a milestone in the history of UPOV and promises to help strengthen the system of plant variety protection around the world and to broaden international cooperation in this area.”
A few weeks ago, UPOV approved draft legislation submitted by the counterpart English-speaking African intergovernmental organisation, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) (IPW, Development, 15 April 2014).
Civil society has raised concerns about the potential accession by AROPI to UPOV, particularly over the possibility that it could disrupt age-old practices of saving and reusing seeds by local farmers.
By Maëli Astruc for Intellectual Property Watch
The internet is expected to reach 3 billion people globally next year, but “much development work still remains to bring the economic and social benefits of the internet to all people and to make sure everyone has quality access” Kathy Brown, president and CEO of the Internet Society (ISOC), said on today’s release of ISOC’s first annual report on the state of the internet.
The Global Internet Report was released today, finding signs of barriers and discouragement of some from using the internet in the wake of revelations of mass surveillance and lack of privacy. Other issues addressed include affordability and resilience.
ISOC Chief Economist Michael Kende, author of the report, identified two groups of non-users, those who lack physical or material access to internet and those who voluntarily choose not to access for several reasons.
The report (pp. 116-120) mentions that copyright licensing has been seen as a possible challenge, and some content being not accessible depending on the country where the user is located.
The report recommends a “reform of the licensing regime and copyright laws at regional or international levels … helping to equalize user experience around the globe.”
“We hope that this annual new series of reports contributes to how we all focus on the challenges to bring the benefits of the Internet to everyone,” Brown said in a press release.
William New contributed to this report.
By Joséphine De Ruyck for Intellectual Property Watch
Thanks to the latest ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on a long-standing copyright case, millions of internet users across the EU can keep calm and carry on browsing websites.
Yesterday, the CJEU in PRCA v NLA (C-360/13) confirmed the provisional decision of the UK Supreme Court in April 2013 that people who browse the internet – without downloading, printing or storing – do not need permission from the copyright holder because browsing falls under the temporary copying exemption of Article 5.1 of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC).
As the CJEU concluded that “the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website” met the conditions laid down in Article 5.1 as well as Article 5.5 of the directive and “they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.”
In supporting this decision, Jakob Kucharczyk, director of Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in Brussels, highlighted that “any other ruling would essentially mess up the Internet for European citizens and undermine the efforts to enable European technology companies to expand in the Internet economy,” according to a press release.
By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch
Libraries can digitise individual books in their collections without the consent of rights holders, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Niilo Jääskinen, has written in his application in a case (C-117/13) pending at the Luxembourg Court.
The digitisation and national legislation in the the European Union member states to allow for it would not contradict the EU copyright directive (2001/29/EC Art.5 3.n), the Advocate General wrote in the opinion in a case referred to the EU Court by the Federal Court of Justice of Germany.
German publisher Eugen Ulmer KG had filed the complaint against the Technical University of Darmstadt seeking to prevent the university’s library from providing works via electronic terminals. As long as the Library has no licensing contract with the publisher on e-versions of works, the library can make the content available via its e-reading points, the Advocate General wrote. And the publisher cannot oblige the library to sign an e-book contract.
The disputed exception provided for in German Copyright law (§52b) does not include a right for the readers to copy the content on a USB stick, though, Jääskinen said, while paper print-outs are possible. There is no difference between photocopies of pages of works physically present in the library to private paper copies from electronic works, in his view.
Considering that the Advocate General found that the library exception could not be used by libraries to digitise entire collections, libraries still have to make individual decisions. The Advocate General’s opinion is not binding on the Court, which will decide later this year.
The Court’s press release is here [pdf].
In German here.
A new network has been launched with the aim of promoting open policies worldwide. The network brings together dozens of nongovernmental organisations, universities, international organisations, foundatioins and individuals under guiding principles and a work plan.
According to its website, Open Policy Network (OPN) “supports the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies around the world. It does this by:
- mapping the open policy space across open sectors;
- identifying open policy gaps and opportunities within and across sectors;
- communicating the social and economic value of open policy;
- networking together those trying to develop open policies with organizations, communities and individuals who have open policy expertise; and
- curating case studies and open policy exemplars for others to use or adapt.”
In a post on infojustice.org, Timothy Vollmer of Open Policy Network said, “When open licenses are required for publicly funded resources, there is the potential to massively increase access to and re-use of a wide range of materials, from educational content like digital textbooks–to the results of scholarly research–to troves of valuable public sector data.”
At the network’s launch in late May, a first project was announced called the Institute for Open Leadership.
The June edition of the World Health Organization monthly Bulletin is dedicated to public health and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). That was a key issue of the recent World Health Assembly, as the emerging economies gain strength and coordinate their efforts to improve health access for their citizens, particularly as they graduate from global aid projects.
The groundbreaking Copyright Alert System set up a year ago by internet service providers and copyright holders to stop unauthorised music and film downloads, saw 1.3 million alerts sent out in it its first 10 months, according to a new report. And it expects to double in size this year.
The Center for Copyright Information (CCI), the coalition of rights holders and internet service providers operating the alert system, released a report on 28 May. It showed that of the 1.3 million alerts, most were in the “initial educational phases,” and only 265 challenges were filed, with “no findings of false positives.”
The press release and report are available here.
CCI said system is “expected to double in size in the second year of operation and CCI will begin an online awareness campaign to increase public awareness of the system.”
The alert system is the “first voluntary, successful collaboration” between entertainment and technology companies in the US aimed at reducing copyright infringement over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, CCI said. It is “a tiered notice and response system that works in a fair and consumer-friendly manner while encouraging consumers to embrace the growing number of affordable authorized sources of films, music, and television programming content available online and from a variety of different services and formats.”
CCI members include “artists and content creators like the members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as well as independent filmmakers and record producers represented by the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) and the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), and 5 major Internet service providers – AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon,” the organisation said.
At its launch last year, the alert system was hailed as a softer, more consumer-friendly approach to changing behaviours related to unauthorised content (IPW, Copyright Policy, 14 March 2013).
The European Council today agreed on an approach for establishing a new legal framework for protecting trade secrets.
According to a release, the new framework “aims at making it easier for national courts to deal with the misappropriation of confidential business information, remove the trade secret infringing products from the market and make it easier for victims to receive compensation for illegal actions.”
The official Council document, 9870/14, is available here.
The EU release is available here [pdf].
According to the release, under the agreement, the new framework would include the following main features:
Under the agreement, the new framework would include the following main features:
“– a minimum harmonisation of the different civil law regimes, whilst allowing member states to apply stricter rules;
– the establishment of common principles, definitions and safeguards, in line with international agreements, as well as the measures, procedures and remedies that should be made available for the purpose of civil law redress;
– a limitation period of six years for claims or bringing actions before courts;
– the preservation of confidentiality in the course of legal proceedings, while ensuring that the rights of the parties involved in a trade secret ligation case are not undermined;
– the establishment of a favourable regime to employees in what concerns their liability for damages in case of violation of a trade secret if acting without intent.”
The document now goes to the European Parliament, according to sources.
By Julia Fraser for Intellectual Property Watch
At the World Health Organization 135th Executive Board meeting this week, member states discussed improvements to cut down on lengthy World Health Assemblies, and adopted two reports for further discussion on surgical care and anaesthesia, and the health impact of air pollution.
The EB took place on 26 May, ending one day early.
Member states discussed last week’s 67th World Health Assembly and made suggestions to improve efficiency as the Assembly struggled to finish in time this year and delegations were juggling parallel committees and working groups, a difficult task particularly for the smaller delegations.
Many member states suggested methods to limit the number of agenda items. Japan, China and Liberia and others complained of the length of time spent by member states recounting individual country situations that were not conducive to debates, and suggested that country reports instead be posted electronically.
However, others such as Brazil said national realities can be very important sometimes, and the right balance needs to be found. Cuba also suggested documents could be made briefer and highlight key aspects for discussion.
The Board also adopted two reports on “strengthen emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage” available here [pdf] and “health and the environment – addressing the health impact of air pollution” available here [pdf].
These will be put on the provisional agenda for the next Executive Board meeting in January 2015 to discuss appropriate WHO and member state action.
A new document on efforts to find innovative financing for neglected diseases has been made available today at the World Health Assembly.
The document, A67/28 Add.1 [pdf], is a report on 7-10 May meetings of the “demonstration project” stakeholders. It does not provide significant detail on the meetings.
Under the work of the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination, four demonstration project were selected (IPW, WHO, 16 May 2014).
The new document states that there is a $50 million budget line for the demonstration projects and the agreed Global Health R&D Observatory over four years. It is not clear where the observatory will be situated.
“Participants in these stakeholder meetings included existing and potential partners and donors as identified by the proponents of the selected demonstration projects. The same representatives of Member States who had been invited to observe the 10 March 2014 meeting to identify the demonstration projects were invited to attend the stakeholders’ meetings. The proponents described their projects in detail, focusing both on the technical aspects and on the innovative aspects that seek to demonstrate the principles highlighted in the report on follow-up of the report of the CEWG.
An analysis (sponsored by one of the proponents) of the feasibility of pooling financial resources to support all the four projects was presented. Discussion centred on project plans in terms of next steps, resource needs and responsibilities. Participants also discussed ideas for improving implementation and mobilizing political and financial support.
5. Following a joint request from the proponents of the four health research and development demonstration projects, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases is opening a dedicated budget line within its Trust Fund, which will allow potential donors to provide resources for the four projects and for further development of the global health R&D Observatory.
This budget line, which will facilitate implementation of the demonstration projects, will be time-limited (four years), restricted to pooled resources dedicated to the four projects and the R&D Observatory, and will host a maximum of US$ 50 million. Governance of the use of funds will be placed under the oversight of the Joint Coordinating Board of the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.”
According to sources, members of the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee, an external member state body at the World Intellectual Property Organization, are meeting this week to discuss a possible investigation into allegations made involving the WIPO director general.
The committee will “consider how to consider” the possible investigation, one source said. The committee is external to WIPO activities, according to sources.
The suggestion of an investigation was raised at the recent extraordinary WIPO General Assembly. Korea and the United States have signalled a call for the investigation. It is unclear which other countries would be interested.
The allegations about DNA sampling and a business deal involving WIPO Director General Francis Gurry were raised by WIPO Deputy Director James Pooley.
Intellectual Property Watch reporting on the issue is available here.
By Maëli Astruc for Intellectual Property Watch
“Governments have few sources of leverage over increasingly globalised food systems – but public procurement is one of them,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to adequate food states in a new report. The right to food should be included in public food purchasing according to five principles in order to make food systems fairer and more sustainable, he said.
Released on 15 May, the report is entitled, “The Power of Procurement, Public Purchasing in the Service of Realizing the Right to Food,” by Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter. It suggests five principles states should follow.
Those principles are: Source preferentially from small-scale food producers; guarantee living wages as well as fair and remunerative prices along the food supply chain; set specific requirements for adequate food diets; source locally whenever possible and expect from suppliers that they produce food according to sustainable methods; and increase participation and accountability in the food system.
De Schutter gives examples of several national and international programmes that already apply those principles, and analyses economic and legal obstacles to the implementation of those principles. In particular, the report considers compliance of those principles with the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement.
The World Intellectual Property Organization recently published a paper entitled, “Documenting Traditional Medical Knowledge.” With the growing use of traditional and alternative medicines in developed countries, their importance in developing countries’ health systems and the multi-billion dollar potential of benefits for companies, “documenting and protecting these medicines is becoming a greater priority,” the document states.
The paper was authored by Prof. Ryan Abbott, associate professor of law at Southwestern Law School (US) and visiting assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
It provides an introduction to traditional medical knowledge (TMK) and how it is used. It then gives an overview of international and some national regulations related to traditional medicine, and address the relationship between traditional medicine and intellectual property rights.
The rest of the paper is focused on the issue of the documentation of traditional medicine. “TMK holders should ensure they understand both the risks and benefits of documentation prior to taking action,” Abbott writes.
Abbott lists several ways of, and challenges in, documenting TMK, and suggests step-by-step guidelines and some checklists to be applied before, during and after documenting TMK.
By Maëli Astruc for Intellectual Property Watch
A recent book, “The Moral Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights,” by Seven Ang of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, explores the philosophical implications of moral terms included in IP rights statutes.
“The central rules of IPRs – which define the conditions of their existence or acquisition, their extent and their exercise – employ moral terms and ideas,” the author states in the first chapter. The World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), for example, contains in articles 7 and 8 terms such as ‘balance of rights and obligations’, ‘appropriate measures’, and ‘abuse of intellectual property rights’, which have moral dimensions.
Through meta-ethical theories, in particular of R.M. Hare, Ang analyses the moral dimension of various aspects of IPRs, such as their justification, their design, interpretation, exercise and reform. Equal right to freedom and well-being is “the ultimate basis for moral evaluation of our institutions,” he says.
“An implication of this right is that the IPR system must be balanced with participation rights (moral and legal) of the public to a public domain which allows individual to have access to, and use, objects of intellectual property.” Ang adds.
The book is published by Editions Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
A new analysis shows that while the United States government suggests intellectual property enforcement efforts at the border are largely aimed at protecting Americans from health and safety risks of counterfeit goods, the real story is different.
“The Administration’s 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement identifies ‘protection of public health and safety’ as one of its ‘primary concerns’,” says a new analysis posted to the infojustice.org website [corrected] by attorney Jonathan Band of policybandwidth in Washington, DC. “A press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 24, 2014, concerning its intellectual property seizures in fiscal year 2013 suggests that its IP enforcement efforts are largely targeted at preventing the importation of counterfeit products that threaten health and safety.”
“The actual statistics, however, reveal a somewhat different story: that DHS is either exaggerating the danger posed by counterfeit goods to health and safety, or it is not taking that danger seriously enough,” Band writes.
“[F]or the past three years, counterfeit goods threatening safety and security represent significantly less than 20% of the goods seized, measured either by the value of the goods or the number of seizures. Moreover, the percentage of dangerous counterfeit goods is decreasing,” the analysis found. By contrast, the majority of seized goods were luxury goods, like handbags, watches and jewelry.
Read the analysis here.
Today at the World Intellectual Property Organization, Ecuador signed the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, which is administered by WIPO.
Andrès Ycaza, executive director of Ecuador’s intellectual property office, signed the Marrakesh Treaty on the side of an extraordinary session of the WIPO General Assembly, which reappointed Francis Gurry as the head of WIPO.
The signing takes the number of countries that have signed the Marrakesh Treaty to 65 of WIPO’s 187 members. The treaty will enter into force three months after 20 parties have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession, which none has done so far.