WIPO General Assembly Opens; Delegates In Starting Block To Discuss Budget, Normative Work 02/10/2017 by Catherine Saez, 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)The annual World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly opened today for 10 days during which delegates have to agree on budget, and on several decisions which might lead to more normative activities on the part of the organisation, although impatience is not equally shared depending on subjects. Separately, the United States submitted a new proposal on the budget, and the European Union tabled a proposal on a new mandate for the WIPO genetic resources and traditional knowledge committee. The 57th WIPO General Assembly is taking place from 2-11 October. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry addresses the Opening of the WIPO AssembliesCopyright: WIPO. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 IGO License. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in his opening remarks underlined the growing number of accessions to WIPO-managed treaties. He commented on the good financial health of WIPO, driven by rising demand for intellectual property protection. However, he said, none of the WIPO-managed systems are reaching their full potential, with “important parts of the world absent” from WIPO treaties. Gurry commented on WIPO’s involvement in public-private partnerships, as encouraged by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He cited the Accessible Books Consortium, WIPO Re:Search, and WIPO Green. Innovation, which is at the heart of WIPO, he said, is also creating challenges for institutional and governance frameworks throughout the world. He underlined the growing demand from WIPO members for help in judicial administration of IP. The rapid development of areas such as big data, the internet of things and artificial intelligence has “enormous implication and a multiplicity of dimensions,” he said, “many of which lie well beyond the focus of intellectual property, and considerate care will need to be exercised to ensure tat we do not stray from the mandate of the organisation.” “One focus of attention could be the increasing use of artificial intelligence and big data in IP administration,” he said, adding that questions such as how the IP system is performing in relation to those fields and its mission of encouraging and diffusing innovation. “It may be useful to advance our common understanding of the questions through more international exchanges of information on developments and practices, he concluded. US Proposal Questions Allocation Methodology Following a discussion paper [pdf] during the last session of the Program and Budget Committee in September, (IPW; WIPO, 11 September 2017), and non-conclusive efforts by France and the US to propose common language [pdf] on a new methodology of budget allocation based on budget allocation based on each of WIPO administered systems direct expenses, the US tabled a new proposal [pdf] on 29 September (decision paragraphs). At the core of the issue, according to the US, is the over-dependence of WIPO unions on the profit made out of the Patent Cooperation Treaty fees, making for about 75 percent of WIPO budget. The US started to show discontent with the way WIPO unions are financed (unitary system) in 2015 after the adoption of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications. The US proposal, following after the discussion paper, suggests that the Lisbon Union Assembly adopts measures to eliminate the Lisbon’s Union project biennial deficit as described in the 2018/2019 program and budget (CHF 1.364 million, about US$ 1.406 million). It also suggest that a repayable loan from the reserves of the contribution-financed unions be approved for the Lisbon Union in order to fund the operations of the Lisbon System for 2018/2019 in case measures adopted by the Lisbon Union are not sufficient to cover its projected biennial deficit. The US proposal also questions WIPO’s allocation methodology and suggests further discussions between delegations on the topic, and that WIPO reviews potential alternatives for an allocation methodology for the income and budget by union for consideration at the next session of the PBC. IGC: Some Want Diplomatic Conference, Others Say No Agreement On Core Issues On 29 September, the European Union tabled a proposal [pdf] for the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). The African Group had submitted a proposed programme of work [pdf] for the IGC in August. The African Group proposal envisages the convening of a high-level negotiating meeting (diplomatic conference) in the first quarter of 2019 to conclude and adopt a legally binding instrument to protect genetic resources. The EU proposal, however, is based on further studies and examples of national experiences to narrow gaps on core issues, such as definitions, subject matter, objectives, and the relationship with the public domain. The EU proposal suggests a renewal of the IGC mandate, which is expiring. It however indicates that, “The Committee will work to reach overall agreement on all aspects of the mandate on the basis that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” There is lack of consensus on the level of maturity of the discussions among member states, with some developing countries pushing for the convening of a high level negotiating meeting to agree on a binding instrument protecting genetic resources, while some other countries find that there is lack of agreement on basic principles, such as what should be protected, and how. According to the EU proposed mandate, the committee will use “an evidence-based approach”, basing its work on studies and examples of national experiences. “Once agreement has been reached on core objectives and definitions, where appropriate work can progress on the basis of text-based negotiations supplemented by seminars, workshops and roundtables on unresolved issues to take place during the Committee’s sessions,” it says. For 2018, the proposed mandate foresees for the IGC to provide a factual report to the General Assembly on its work up to that time. In 2019, the document says, the General Assembly will take stock of progress made, and decide on whether or not to continue the work of the IGC. Call for Other Treaties Also in line for diplomatic conferences are the design law treaty, and a treaty aimed at protecting the rights of broadcasting organisations. On the design law treaty, differences remain around the possible inclusion of an article on technical assistance in the treaty, and if a voluntary disclosure requirement should be added to the draft text of the treaty. On the broadcasting treaty, there are issues such as what the treaty should actually protect, whether it should cover internet-originated content, or be limited to broadcasting in the traditional sense. Senegal, for the African Group, remarked on the number of items on the agenda which have been longstanding and on the need for forward movement. Japan, for the Group B developed countries, said although WIPO is a UN agency, it should respect its overarching principles and objectives: the promotion and protection of intellectual property, and cooperation among unions. WIPO needs to keep its feet on the ground, the delegate said, and its links to the real world, with innovators and creators. 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