WTO Members Continue Debate On Geographical Indications Register 17/12/2007 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)By William New Members of the World Trade Organization on Friday continued a longstanding debate over the creation of a register for geographical indications (GIs), products whose names derive from places. Debate centred on a recent compromise proposal from European countries driving the effort to establish the register, who received new support from countries seeking a separate biodiversity amendment to international trade rules. The 14 December informal meeting among key players on the GI issue did not result in significant breakthroughs and one official said it will inform this week’s high-level meeting of the WTO General Council. Other sources said consultations on the issue with Chairman Manzoor Ahmad, the ambassador of Pakistan, would continue in the new year. The new draft proposal for a register offered by the Europe Union included several changes over a previous, rejected version, according to participants and a copy of the proposal. For instance, the EU would leave open the decision of which products would be covered by the register, rather than ordering that it cover all products. Currently, wines and spirits receive higher level GI protection than other products, but the EU had originally proposed the register cover other products as well, which met with resistance. In addition, the new proposal would remove an 18-month deadline for any challenges to be filed, leaving it open-ended. Furthermore, it would reduce the administrative burden of making countries monitor all registrations in order to oppose a registered name. Finally, the EU suggested that participation in the register would change from a system with participating members being those who notify a GI to the register to members who are above a certain share in world trade. One participant said Switzerland supported the register but not the proposal for the use of world trade share as the measure for participation. This was not confirmed at press time. A group of countries with fewer GIs to protect again opposed the EU proposal despite the changes, sources said. The group of 17 supporting a 2005 “joint proposal” for a voluntary register of wines and spirits GIs entered in a database includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. On Friday, at least one opponent government said the new EU proposal is “more similar than different to the last proposal,” and raised several concerns. These include that the scope would not be limited to wines and spirits, and that participation would not be voluntary. It also includes legal concerns about territoriality, the effect in other countries of registration in one country. Meanwhile, new support for the EU effort appeared from countries seeking an amendment to the WTO to require patent applications to include the disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. Those supporting the linkage of the two issues include Barbados, China, India, Morocco, and Turkey. A developing country official said countries were pleased with the EU’s removal of an “onerous administrative burden and costs.” One source said Brazil, which backs the origin disclosure proposal (sometimes referred to as the CBD proposal for its relation to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity), also supported the register proposal, but another source said Brazil’s support for the linkage included concern about the EU proposal. Brazil could not be reached for comment. US-EU Deal on Online Gambling Separately at the WTO, the United States and European Union reached an agreement Monday on a compensation package from the US following its withdrawal of commitments related to Internet gambling made under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), according to an EU release. The US compensation has to offset its commitment so that the “overall level of its market access remains the same.” The EU did not name the value of the compensation package, but said the bilateral agreement provides EU services suppliers with “new trade opportunities in the US postal and courier, research and development, and storage and warehouse sectors. Concessions also were made in the US testing and analysis services sector, the EU said. The agreement is to be certified by the WTO, following which the European Commission, the EU regulatory arm, will seek a non-discriminatory policy related to online gambling in the United States, ensuring foreign firms receive fair treatment. William New may be reached at email@example.com. 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