WTO Ministerial TRIPS Chair Floats ‘Elements’ As Main Issues Start To Move 25/07/2008 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)[Update: Ministers reached a tentative deal Friday night on some aspects of agriculture and NAMA, and will take up services on Saturday, according to ministers.] By William New Word went out Friday evening that there may have been some progress on the main issues under negotiation at this week’s World Trade Organization ministerial in Geneva. Hours beforehand, the chair of the intellectual property issues presented four possible elements of an agreement on IP issues, an official said. Still, consultations on IP issues were cancelled Friday as seven key governments continued their work, according to participating officials. At press time, ministers were meeting in the “Green Room.” A consultation on IP issues may be held Saturday afternoon, depending on the Green Room progress, a source said. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who consulted with all sides of the issue over the past several days, on Friday informally presented four elements of an agreement, according to a government official. The IP issues are: the establishment of an international register of wines and spirits geographical indications – product names associated with places and characteristics; the possibility of extending higher level GI protection to products other than wines and spirits; and a proposed amendment to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that would bring it in line with obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adding a requirement for disclosure of origin in patent applications. The GI extension and TRIPS CBD amendment do not have clear mandates to be negotiated in this round. For proposed extension of higher level protection for geographical indications to other products than wines and spirits, Støre suggested working toward adequate protection of other GIs, and to work toward a “joint action,” the official said. He also proposed to arrive at a solution in a dedicated session in the ministerial that would take place at the end of the round; and to intensify consultations under combined TRIPS special sessions that have been to now separate. The special sessions on GI register have been led by Pakistan Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad, and the special sessions on GI extension and CBD amendment have been led by WTO Deputy Director General Rufus Yerxa on the behalf of Director General Pascal Lamy. For the proposed biodiversity amendment, Støre proposed the same except the first, which would instead by to work the basis of commonly shared objectives based on paragraph 5 of the Lamy report on GI extension and the CBD amendment to the Trade Negotiations Committee on 9 June (WTO document WT/GC/W/591, TN/C/W/50). Paragraph 5 states: “There is important common ground on key underlying objectives, notably the importance of the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD being implemented in a mutually supportive way, the avoidance of erroneous patents for inventions that involve the use of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge and securing compliance with national access and benefit-sharing regimes.” It also cites “wide acceptance” for patent offices having information available to them, and it cites differences in approaches to achieving these objectives. Proponent countries had an initial negative reaction to the elements from Støre, an official said, in part because it lacks a clear mandate, remains unclear what the joint action refers to, and common shared objectives could have different interpretations. Støre did not make a separate list for the GI register, the official said. There is an agreed mandate in this negotiating round to establish the GI register, but the other issues remain under debate. Støre scheduled to meet Friday with four members from each side of the IP issues – Brazil, India, European Union and Switzerland on one, and apparently Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the United States on the other. This would have been followed by a larger meeting adding Peru, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, and the African Group on one side, and Argentina, Canada and Japan on the other. But the meeting is postponed pending what happens in the Green Room, the official said. The seven countries meeting this afternoon on the main issues, reportedly Australia, Brazil, China, India, European Union, Japan, and the United States, were said to have made encouraging signs of progress, according to WTO Spokesperson Keith Rockwell. There are about 35 ministers attending the mini-ministerial this week in Geneva. Minutes after they concluded their work, members moved into a “Green Room” meeting, a limited gathering in a small room with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. The Green Room is a smaller group of countries – but larger than the so-called WTO “G-7”. Støre was seen heading upstairs in WTO headquarters just prior to the start of the Green Room process. Støre had scheduled a meeting of members most concerned with the IP issues for Friday afternoon, but it was postponed, officials from those member states said. Støre told Intellectual Property Watch late Thursday that movement on IP issues would depend on progress on the main issues in the Green Room, which are agriculture and non-agricultural market access. William New may be reached at email@example.com. 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