WTO’s Lamy Continues Engagement On Intellectual Property Issues 14/05/2009 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)World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy continues to be engaged on intellectual property issues as WTO members begin to revive broader trade negotiations. This week Lamy hosted the heads of the World Intellectual Property Organization and World Health Organization together, and then chaired a consultation with ambassadors on proposals to amend WTO rules on intellectual property and trade. The meetings were rather routine, sources said, but reflect the ongoing importance of the issues at the highest levels in Geneva. Lamy, who was just re-elected for another term as head of the trade body, met with WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and WHO Director General Margaret Chan on Monday. The meeting had been planned for some time and generally covered topics of common interest, according to sources at the institutions. No details were available on the content of the meetings, but they may have covered issues such as innovation or counterfeit medicines, including the recent flare-up over Dutch seizures of legal generic drugs shipped from India to Brazil. Lamy and Gurry agreed to hold regular meetings in the future, a source said. Gurry is making an effort to not only sharpen the technical expertise of WIPO but to move the patent body out of the strictly technical role it has filled in the past and into broader global policy. WIPO will hold a much-discussed conference on such global issues as climate change and water shortages on 13-14 July. Gurry is said to have proposed this week to appoint a senior official from the World Health Organization as an assistant director general at WIPO (IPW, WIPO, 13 May 2009). Monday also marked the first day for Antony Taubman, who moved from working on global issues at WIPO to head of the WTO IP Division. Chan has some critical IP issues on the plate for next week’s annual World Health Assembly. These include: the increased push to block counterfeit drugs (while keeping open the flow of generic drugs); a mandate to come up with alternative funding for research and development and address other IP issues related to public health; and pandemic influenza (which involves related patent issues). WTO Consultations, TRIPS Council Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Lamy held his third of four consultations with ambassadors of interested governments on two proposals related to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The consultations are being held in March, April, May and June. One subject of the consultations is a proposal from developing countries such as Brazil and India to improve protection of rights over biodiversity. This would include an amendment to TRIPS to include a requirement to disclose the origin of genetic material in patent applications. The other subject is a proposal led by Europe to extend higher level protections of geographical indications enjoyed by wines and spirits to more products. Support for discussing these proposals in a negotiation (though not necessarily for the proposals themselves) is backed by more than 100 countries, according to proponents. Wednesday’s consultation was technical, not political, participants said, and mainly focussed on clarifying the proposals, such the legality. Also participating were representatives of the opposition group of countries such as Argentina, Australia, and the United States referred to as the Joint Proposal group for an alternative proposal they have offered. The consultations are held without prejudice to whether there is a mandate at the WTO to negotiate them or not, a source said. There will be a separate consultation on 20 May on a third current IP issue, a register for GI products, which members are mandated to create during the current negotiating round, launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001. The GI register special session process is chaired by Barbados Ambassador Trevor Clarke. The next meeting of the WTO Council on TRIPS will be held on 8-9 June. So far, the next council meeting is expected to be routine, sources said, mainly because broader negotiating issues at the WTO will not have moved by then. But at the last TRIPS Council meeting, on 3-4 March, a political issue erupted under the “Other Business” agenda item (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 5 March 2009). Brazil and India raised concerns about the Dutch seizures of shipments of legal generic drugs transiting from India to Brazil and other developing countries. The final consultation with Lamy on GI extension and the biodiversity amendment will take place in mid-June, soon after the next TRIPS Council meeting. New Hope for a New Way in WTO Talks This week also saw the first visit to the WTO of new US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who perked up the slow-moving discussions about reviving the Doha Round negotiations that left off in December. Kirk suggested that new thinking is necessary to get talks moving again, though he laid out limitations on his part such as a Congress deeply resistant to domestic agriculture liberalisation. He used a metaphor of not focussing on which mode of transportation is used to get to the destination but rather focussing on what to do at the destination. Kirk said the focus for opening markets for least-developed countries in this round now ought to be particularly on Brazil, China, India and South Africa. But a representative of the US Chamber of Commerce, a Washington business lobby group, told reporters in Geneva that Kirk’s visit “was the beginning of the process of trying to find another way” to conclude the round. “I don’t think it’s feasible or realistic to pick up where they left off in December,” the Chamber source said. But the new “third way” would have to be a compromise, not radical, to get US industry support, he added. WTO members have been informally waiting for the US and Indian elections to be over and their new trade teams to be in place. Most of the US team is now there, but sources say US Ambassador to the WTO Peter Allgeier will be leaving soon, perhaps this summer. 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 William New may be reached at email@example.com."WTO’s Lamy Continues Engagement On Intellectual Property Issues" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.