WIPO Ponders New Negotiating Style; DDG Positions Opening; Patent Filings Falter 29/01/2009 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 The World Intellectual Property Organization saw record patent filings again in 2008, but the rate of growth is slowing, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said Tuesday. Meanwhile, the WIPO secretariat is privately exploring with member governments ways to break through a longstanding deadlock in policy negotiations underway at the UN institution, and Gurry is on the verge of inviting member states to submit nominations for his future cabinet. The process of naming the new top officials of the organisation during 2009 begins with an invitation from the director general that is expected within days, according to an informed source. Currently, there are four deputy directors general positions to be filled, as the positions held by Australia (Gurry), France, India and the United States will come open this year. There also are several assistant director general positions at WIPO. The invitation for nominations marks the start of a new political season at WIPO as member states negotiate privately among themselves and with the director general (who himself took office in October) until finally the director general makes his recommendations to the WIPO Coordination Committee, the member-state executive body. He is expected to make the recommendations around April, and the committee likely will meet in June, the source said. Typically, the committee accepts the director’s recommendations, and then the full WIPO membership approves them at the annual assemblies in September. Linking Policies to Break Logjams? Meanwhile, WIPO is in the early stages of pondering the usefulness of linking negotiations and activities in several key policy committees in order to break deadlocks occurring in those committees. This includes committees dealing with copyrights, patents, trademarks, and genetic resources and traditional knowledge, according to a preliminary secretariat document. Specifically: the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC); the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights; Standing Committee on the Law of Patents; and Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications. The draft document, shared with WIPO member regional group coordinators in December and obtained by Intellectual Property Watch, highlights blockages in these committees in recent years, such as: the IGC’s failure to move to conclusions after 13 meetings, the copyright committee’s failure to break through on an audiovisual performances treaty or on a broadcasters’ rights treaty; and the two-year hiatus of the patent committee due to differences over harmonisation of patent laws. The brief text also points to areas of progress, such as improvements to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and the Madrid System for the international registration of marks. In the PCT, which allows a patent application filed in one country to apply in signatory nations, several new tools were added such as the Supplementary International Search system. In the Madrid System, a safeguard clause provision was adopted. Increasing Global Relevance Perhaps more importantly, the secretariat document acknowledges that many of the top intellectual property issues being addressed at national and regional levels are not being addressed in WIPO committees despite containing international elements. Examples are online peer-to-peer file-sharing, liability of internet service providers, and user-generated content. The document also notes the substantial cost of maintaining committees. Governments have encouraged WIPO to put recent internal problems behind it, the document said. Governments are therefore being encouraged to address the problem of deadlock, with several proposed approaches. These include a possible cross-sectoral agreement on policy (normative) work that brings all members into the discussion, and could have objectives and timelines possibly for adoption at the next annual WIPO assemblies in September 2009. Another possibility would be an agreement to move on one or more technical issues that are less political, such as attorney-client privilege or improvements to access to materials by the visually impaired. These types of deals could act as stepping stones to greater confidence and more substantive work, the secretariat suggested. Several government officials familiar with the proposal said it is too early to offer a reaction as a more detailed information is expected soon from the secretariat. But several officials expressed concern that WIPO avoid getting bogged down in the type of debates the World Trade Organization has encountered in the Doha Round of trade talks. Patent Filings Reflect Economic Slowdown Meanwhile, WIPO is facing the prospect of a slowdown in its revenues as the number of international patent filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty slow. In 2008, there were an estimated 164,000 applications, a record number, which represents a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year. But the average rate of growth in the previous three years was 9.3 percent. “This might constitute the first impact of the global economic crisis,” Gurry told reporters Tuesday, adding that WIPO will monitor the situation closely this year, not surprising given that the PCT represents more than 70 percent of its annual income. “2009 is not going to be a good year and it’s not going to be a good year for the PCT,” Gurry said. The UN organisation will reduce its expenditures and implement cost-containing measures, he said. Tighter company budgets could mean more patent applications are only filed for national protection, he noted. As an historic reference, it was said the 1933 level of US patent filings was down 30 percent from the level of 1929, the year the economy entered a tailspin. But WIPO is not expecting that, he said, as there are differences now such as more variation in economies and more emphasis on technology and innovation. The top five countries for PCT patent filings were the United States (32.7 percent of total), Japan (17.5 percent of total), Germany (11.3 percent), Korea (4.8 percent) and France (4.2 percent). China (3.7 percent) was sixth and passed the United Kingdom (3.4 percent). China is expected to pass France in 2009, Gurry said. For the first time, a Chinese company was the top patent applicant, as Huawei Technologies published 1,737 applications in 2008, passing Panasonic of Japan, which had 1,729. There was a 22 percent rise in applications for business methods, and a 20 percent rise for nanotechnology. The highest number of applications were filed for medical technology (12 percent), computer technology (8.5 percent) and pharmaceuticals (7.9 percent). Asked whether WIPO had any way of reflecting the increasing focus at the national and regional level on patent quality rather than quantity, Gurry said every agency is still grappling with how to measure quality. William New may be reached at email@example.com. 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 "WIPO Ponders New Negotiating Style; DDG Positions Opening; Patent Filings Falter" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.