Development Agenda Tops Policy Issues For WIPO General Assembly26/09/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By William New As delegates to the annual World Intellectual Property Organization General Assemblies work through questions of organisational leadership and credibility this week, they may be looking forward to a return to agenda items related to policy.And according to a number of participants, the set of proposals for a WIPO Development Agenda may represent the most active policy item on the agenda. Other issues include the possible renewal of the agenda on patent policy and proposals to reduce patent fees, approaches to protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, and a proposed treaty on broadcasters’ rights or new copyright-related issues. None of this year’s policy issues is expected to be particularly controversial, according to participants.Over the past three years, WIPO members negotiated a set of proposals aimed at improving the benefits and participation of developing country members of the organisation. Final agreement on 45 proposals out of 111 was reached at the committee level at two meetings in 2007 (IPW, WIPO, 18 June 2007). The committee level discussions changed names over the years, most recently called the Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA).The June meeting of the PCDA agreed to recommend to the assemblies to establish a Committee on Development and IP, and that it set a work programme to implement the adopted proposals. An existing committee, the Permanent Committee on Intellectual Property and Development, which was said to be rather undynamic, will cease to exist. PCDA report available here as assemblies document A/43/13 Rev.The assemblies would likely create the new development committee and possibly give it meeting dates during the next year. A work plan will likely need to be drafted before the first meeting, one official said. The committee would immediately implement 19 of the 45 proposals, as agreed by the committee in September. The list of proposals for early implementation, along with secretariat comments.“It will be a historic decision,” said an official from the Friends of Development group. “It’s the conclusion of the first phase of the process. We move now into the second phase, which is implementation.”The list of immediate-action items originated with committee Chair Trevor Clarke, ambassador of Barbados. Several members suggested additions or subtractions at two brief follow-on meetings of the PCDA in September. But the suggestions were dropped after disagreement began to surface, so the list remains as the chair’s, participants said. The early implementation proposals are seen as not requiring additional human or financial resources to implement. But it is generally understood that proposals on the early list have the same status as the remaining proposals, as all were agreed.The focus for proponents of the Development Agenda is on implementation of all proposals. The assemblies are considering additional secretariat budget numbers to support Development Agenda activities. Under the proposed program and budget for 2008-2009, the secretariat asked for more than CHF20 million (under Program 3: Strategic Use of IP for Development), a 16 percent increase over 2006-2007. The Program and Budget Committee recommended the budget to the assemblies (IPW, WIPO, 20 September 2007). There also may be another CHF5 million proposed for the Development Agenda in the WIPO legal reserves.The concept of a WIPO Development Agenda was launched by Argentina and Brazil at the 2004 General Assemblies, later joined by more than a dozen other Friends of Development. The idea has been resisted by developed countries, and by WIPO officials who asserted there has always been an agenda for development there.Patent Committee Agenda and FeesOn patents, the main issues are whether to create a work plan for the Standing Committee on Patents (SCP), and whether to change the fees WIPO charges for processing international patent applications. The secretariat has proposed the establishment of “a report on issues relating to the international patent system covering the different needs and interests of all member states, which would constitute the working document for a session of the SCP to be held in the first half of 2008,” according to assembly document WO/GA/34/5.The report would “contextualise the existing situation of the international patent system, including references to the WIPO Development Agenda process,” and would not contain conclusions, it said. An outline for the report has been circulated (IPW, Patent Policy, 22 June 2007), and the final report would be available by the end of March 2008.On patent fees under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, Brazil on 25 September issued a revised proposal on “broadening the PCT users base and strengthening the system by means of a prudent and sustainable PCT fee reduction for developing countries.” The proposal suggests that a US proposal to cut fees by 15 percent might undermine new projects such as the Development Agenda, but said that some reduction might be in order, especially if it helps developing and least-developed countries.WIPO is different from other UN agencies in that it is funded primarily through fees for its services rather than governments. Brazil cited WIPO statistics from 2006 showing that 91 percent of patent applications came from developed countries, though they represent less than half of the PCT membership. “In this light, Brazil firmly believes that no measure would achieve the stated goal of increasing the value and benefit of the PCT system for developing countries as much as a fee reduction that is specifically targeted to encouraging an increase in the PCT users community originated in those countries.”Brazil offered a formula that it said would effectively reduce the fee for patent filing from CHF 1,600 to CHF 1,000.Traditional Knowledge, BroadcastingOn the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), the committee has recommended through intense negotiations the renewal of its longstanding mandate for another two years. The recommendation to renew with a slightly stronger emphasis on direction toward future work came at its 3-12 July meeting (IPW, WIPO, 13 July 2007). Some developing countries are seeking to negotiate an international instrument on the protection of traditional knowledge, but continue to face resistance from developed countries.The recommended renewed mandate states that, “no outcome of its [IGC] work is excluded, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments.” It also states that, “the committee agreed to work towards further convergence of views on the questions included in its previous mandates.” The committee also is addressing genetic resources issues.At the 18-22 June meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights, members recommended to move talks on a proposed broadcasters’ and cablecasters’ treaty back to committee level for further consideration, a day after rejecting a proposal to elevate the issue to formal treaty negotiations that had been scheduled for November (IPW, Broadcasting, 22 June 2007).Delegates said the treaty negotiation is not expected to be revived at this assembly, some nine years after discussions first began, though WIPO officials and the committee chair said the outcome represented momentum. Some members may state their interest in continuing discussions on the treaty while others may restate their opposition, sources said. Also on the assembly agenda is a treaty negotiation that failed years ago on updating audiovisual protection.The committee is expected in the coming year to begin consideration of new topics, such as exceptions and limitations to treaty terms for members, sources said.Alongside the policy issues, a small group of high-level officials is being formed by the assembly chair to address a call by some member states for WIPO Director General Kamil Idris to step down, in part out of concern that he has lost the ability to govern the organisation (IPW, WIPO, 25 September 2007).William New may be reached at email@example.com. 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