Reform Debate Trips Up WIPO Development Aid Meeting 15/04/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a 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)Members of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on Friday failed to agree on the proper role for a permanent committee on technical cooperation that could impact larger efforts by some to reform WIPO toward development issues. Debate focused on a proposal by developed countries (drafted by Canada) to broaden the scope of the existing permanent committee on cooperation for development related to intellectual property (PCIPD). The issue of expanding the permanent committee is seen as key to the fate of a proposal discussed earlier in the week to reform WIPO to ensure developing countries have the flexibilities and benefits they need from the international intellectual property system. “The whole task of preparing a development agenda and making WIPO more development-friendly is in jeopardy because of the resistance of developing countries to strengthening the PCIPD,” a developed country official told Intellectual Property Watch toward the end of the meeting. After maneuvering by governments in and outside the formal meeting, the chairman declared the meeting suspended. His statement said the purpose of the suspension is to enable the draft report consisting of all the government and non-governmental statements made in the two-day meeting to be prepared by the secretariat and sent to the member countries as well as posted on the WIPO website by 27 April. Members must comment by 9 May, and a revised version will be available by 19 May. The statement says the report could be adopted when the meeting resumes in September with the intent of passing it on for review by the WIPO General Assembly, which meets at that time. A number of developed countries speaking as a group and individually (such as Australia, Japan and the United States) on Thursday and Friday called for the committee to be “strengthened and reinvigorated” to address problems cited by developing countries. Most developing countries, by contrast, devoted their statements in the committee meeting to discussions of technical cooperation. Developing countries generally oppose the “strengthening” proposal out of fear that their broader aims for reform will be relegated to a committee that lacks direct access to the General Assembly, the organisation’s top body which meets once a year in the fall. Currently, the issue of a so-called development agenda is being addressed in an inter-sessional intergovernmental meeting, which reports directly to the General Assembly. But a developed country delegate said in a midday Friday interview that the proposal to bolster the permanent committee would not preclude proposals related to development from being introduced in other WIPO venues. “Any member may raise any proposal” in any forum, he said. The first developing country official in a later interview countered with the concern that if the permanent committee is designated as the locus for development issues, then proposals raised elsewhere could still end up being shunted to the permanent committee if it is strengthened. The official said there are precedents for this happening in WIPO. Another developed country official said the development agenda should not be dealt with exclusively by the PCIPD, but that there is a need for a body like the PCIPD to be charged with pushing the development dimension forward in those other forums. “We don’t object to having the development agenda as an agenda item in another committee”, such as one dealing with patent cooperation, he said, adding that the PCIPD could meet more frequently to review development activities more closely. The Latin American and Asian country groups came out against the proposal for strengthening, one official said. According to a developing country official, Canada put forward the proposal while key opposing delegations like Argentina and Brazil were out of the room in a regional meeting. Those delegations likely would have objected to a proposal reaching beyond the scope of the technical cooperation meeting, the official said. The Canadian proposal draws somewhat from the development agenda proposal, and addresses broad principles and themes related to future work on development. The proposal, drafted during the IIM but not tabled until the second meeting, proposes work to enhance innovation and economic growth, the development of national policies and capabilities, and the role of WIPO. Also dropped from the meeting was a draft meeting summary by the chair. Developing countries said they objected to the summary on the grounds that it is not legally binding and could be used to circumvent WIPO procedure requiring a report agreed to by all participants. More Debate To Come The IIM met Monday to Wednesday this week, reaching agreement to discuss four existing proposals plus any new ones in two more meetings. The next meeting is 20 to 22 June, followed by an unspecified three-day meeting in July. The IIM report to the General Assembly is due by the end of July. Focus will now turn to making proposals “operational and actionable.” Officials indicated afterward that existing proposals may be modified to emphasize areas where there appears to be support, and possibly adding new elements. The IIM chairman said in a press briefing Thursday that the goal of the July meeting would be to finalize the report. But he said it was unclear whether the meeting must reach consensus on the report before it is sent to the General Assembly. On a broader scale, the philosophical debate is about whether WIPO needs to be reformed to help intellectual property better drive development. Government and non-governmental groups addressed this in their formal floor statements. Attending both meetings were seventeen non-governmental groups that were permitted to attend on an “ad hoc” basis after weeks of raising concern about not being allowed to come. A number of groups made floor statements during the meeting. India’s statement was cited by several representatives as significant in characterizing the developing country perspective. India’s representative said in the statement that the proposal for a development agenda “constitutes an excellent starting point for establishing a ‘development agenda’ in WIPO.” The proposal would strengthen WIPO by making it more inclusive, transparent and member-driven, and would move it beyond defining development in terms of a country’s ability to provide protection to intellectual property rights owners. It also would reduce the legal monopoly granted to rights holders, a practice it called “an exceptional departure from the general principle of competitive markets as the best guarantee for securing the interest of society.” If the only justification for the granting of a monopoly is a contractual obligation, such as the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), then the logic of weaker countries assuming greater obligations than they are contractually bound to accept disappears, it said. India added, “The message of the development agenda is clear: no longer are developing countries prepared to accept this approach, or continuation of the status quo.” 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 "Reform Debate Trips Up WIPO Development Aid Meeting" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.