WIPO Members Step Up To Implement Development Agenda 15/10/2009 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch and William New 1 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 Intellectual Property Organisation members are preparing to take the reins of the Development Agenda as it becomes clear that implementation success will depend on their actions. And their actions must not only be focused on specific projects such as patent databases but also on the broader spirit of the agenda for change at WIPO, key developing countries said. “The Development Agenda is more than the sum of its parts,” said the delegate of Egypt in a closing discussion. “It’s not only about taking each recommendation and implementing it [but] to go into the core of WIPO and IP and bring about a cultural change in the way things are done.” “It is unfair to the Agenda and also to the secretariat” to leave that duty entirely to them, he added. “Ultimately it entails a task before the member states.” A range of stakeholders met at WIPO on 13-14 October at an “open-ended forum on proposed Development Agenda projects.” A number of officials said they were pleased with the secretariat’s efforts on implementation and with it holding the event. But it is up to WIPO members to monitor the effectiveness of the projects being implemented, several developing country delegates said. The danger, one official said, is that the focus will get so specific on the implementation projects as to lose sight of the bigger picture purpose of the agenda. Some officials raised this in reference to patent databases, which are of minimal use to countries lacking the capacity to use them. Member states need to “jump into the driver’s seat” of the 2007 Development Agenda, which is like a “new machine,” said one developing country official, and specifically developing countries need to come up with proposals. “I think we need to wake up,” the official said. Gaining Access to Patent Information There are three new projects to be discussed at the next WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property on 16-20 November, one of which concerns developing tools for access to patent information. Sangeeta Shashikant, legal adviser to the Third World Network, said that the three major elements of this patent information project are the preparing of reports on patent landscaping, the creation of a digitised tutorial on using patent information, and organising conferences (including trainings) on using patent information or skills like creating patent landscapes. “These proposals appear to be premised on the assumption that once patent information is made available to developing countries,” they will be able to boost technology transfer, and that “countries have the technological base and infrastructure to exploit” the information. But there are many problems with that assumption: patents leave out necessary information, some technologies require material transfer in order to be used, and availability of patent information does not equate to permission to use it, she said. In order to be relevant to developing country interests, said Shashikant, WIPO should undertake programmes to help developing countries use compulsory licences as needed to improve access to technology, to document and train in the use of patent oppositions, and to study the degree to which technology transfer is happening under World Trade Organization mechanisms so that WIPO programmes can learn from and improve on problems. The transmission of patent information for food and agriculture cannot be a one-way process, going from the patent system to the users, said Shakheel Bhatti, executive secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A two-way flow of information about genetic resources should be created between the patent system and the international system as represented by the international treaty on plant genetics. And just counting patents is not enough for farmers and agricultural researchers to determine freedom to operate in their particular area, said Bhatti. Patent applicability changes depending on location, and there are a range of intellectual property protections on agricultural products – such as plant breeders’ rights or other forms of plant variety protection – that do not fall under the patent system. IP information must be “tailor-made” and “customised to the needs of the agricultural sector in developing countries and be made available on the internet,” he said, adding later to Intellectual Property Watch that offline communication is also important as most farmers do not have access. This should also include a system for the transfer of plant genetic materials. Precious Matsoso of the Public Health and Innovation programme at the World Health Organization made a similar point about public health. Databases, she said, have limited utility so long as they are presented in a way that is unclear to their users. The WHO determines international, non-proprietary names (INNs) for medicines, and these should be linked to patent information. For example, she said, “Zidovudine” is the INN name for 3′-Azido-3′-deoxythymidine, or AZT, a treatment for HIV/AIDS, but “not many procurement people or medical practitioners will know what it is.” “No one can stop you learning the information that is” in patent documents, said Andrew Czajkowski, who heads the Innovation and Technology Support Section of the Global Information Service at WIPO. They can often provide timely data as well, he added, citing the example of the Apple iPhone’s touch-sensitive technology – which appeared in a patent application a year before the phone itself had been released. Access to Medicines and Counterfeiting A tangential debate arose from the meeting on access to medicines, a critical current debate in Geneva. It arose from a discussion on access to patent information for health technology. A Moroccan delegate in the audience said that in the interest of necessary public infrastructure – such as a highway or a hospital – sometimes private property is expropriated. At an international level, the WHO or the international community could set up a fund to compensate rights holders when their IP needs to be expropriated for the public interest, he suggested. If prices on drugs can be made affordable, then perhaps that would undermine the market for dangerous counterfeits which seek to take advantage of the high price of drugs. But Guilherme Cintra of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations said it was a “dangerous link” to connect high prices and counterfeits, and that there are now some counterfeits of generic drugs as well. He stressed partnerships as a solution to problems. Delegates from Egypt and Pakistan warned about confusing counterfeit with unrelated issues, such as patent problems (noting counterfeit is a registration and trademark concern under the WTO) or affordability. Cintra also said if a drug is not yet approved for marketing, then research and development and clinical trials that can cost a billion dollars and 10 years are also needed, he said. But that price estimate is not the same across all drug developers, said Pascale Boulet of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), which creates programmes for the development of drugs for small-market diseases that do not normally attract investment. DNDi needs only $274 million to develop six to eight new treatments by 2014, she said, adding this is “a big difference” from the numbers quoted by industry. It should be noted that some key stakeholders such as the large health research funds and drug purchasing groups were not present at the meeting. A delegate from Pakistan called on WIPO to do a “realistic, impartial assessment that gives a clearer picture as to how much it costs” to research and develop a new treatment “so prices can be addressed accordingly.” Up to now, cost estimates always come from brand-name industry themselves. Transfer of Technology Separately, Korea presented on the importance of appropriate technology for developing countries, and described how patent information can be useful in this. Korea has begun a database project on appropriate technology, which includes disseminating patent information. Pedro Roffe, senior fellow at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), drew on lessons of past initiatives and current deliberations on transfer of technology particularly under the TRIPS agreement, international environmental agreements and ongoing negotiations on climate change. He said WIPO can contribute to the design of IP regimes that promote pro-competitive environments by facilitating the diffusion of knowledge on matters such as criteria of patentability, exceptions and limitations (e.g., research exemption), appropriate disclosure requirements, and competition policies. Roffe noted that work already is being done in organisations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and said WIPO work should draw on other work and be inclusive, free of dogmas and open to the participation of all relevant stakeholders. 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