WIPO General Assembly Wrap: Many Decisions Made, But External Offices, Design Treaty Left Hanging 13/10/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 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)After an intense 10 days of negotiations, World Intellectual Property Organization delegates this week managed to close all items of the organisation’s annual General Assemblies, with major decisions taken, such as the approval of the 2018/2019 budget, and a new mandate and work programme for the committee on the protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. However the inability to decide at the ambassador level which countries would host new WIPO field offices, and on the convening of a high-level negotiation to conclude a treaty on industrial designs, led to some teeth grinding. The WIPO General Assemblies took place from 2-11 October. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry at the late night close of the 2017 Assemblies A summary report [pdf] of the decisions taken during the General Assembly was issued on 11 October, with several items missing as informal discussions were still being carried out, in particular on the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore (IGC), on the convening of a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a design law treaty, and on which countries would host the next WIPO external offices. The budget for 2018/2019 was adopted on 11 October (IPW, WIPO, 11 October 2017), after several informal closed meetings and after some requests by the United States on possible deficits of fee-financed unions were addressed. Fee-financed unions are the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid system), the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague system), and the Lisbon System for the International Registration of Appellations of Origin. It also took several informal closed meetings to come up with a consensual new mandate for the IGC, seeking to accommodate the different proposals and points of views (IPW, WIPO, 12 October 2017) . WIPO EOs: GRULAC’s Flexibility Poorly Rewarded Informal meetings were inconclusive for the issue of WIPO external offices. Delegates at the ambassador level tried late into the night to agree on which countries would host the four WIPO next external offices that have been agreed to. Under the agreement, one country had to be chosen for the 2016/2017 biennium, and three countries for 2018/2019. However, more than four candidates were knocking at the door. It remains unclear to some how important the external offices are for the work of WIPO, and WIPO refuses to offer any guidance on this. The creation of past offices have been largely seen as political as much as practical. During the last Program and Budget Committee meeting in September, Pakistan challenged the use of external offices, and Latvian Ambassador Jānis Kārkliņš, chair of the WIPO General Assembly, said at that time that one element is missing from the conservation, which is the vision of WIPO director general or of the secretariat on the presence of a WIPO network of external offices in the world (IPW, WIPO, 13 September 2017). He remarked on the issue again at the close of the assembly, inviting WIPO to provide comments, which did not come. For the 2016/2017 biennium, Azerbaijan, Colombia (consensus candidate for Latin America), India, Iran, South Korea, Romania, and Turkey were candidates. For 2018/2019, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Oman, South Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates were candidates. The discussions on external offices arose as WIPO announced in 2013 the opening of two new offices, one in Russia, and one in China, without prior member state approval. In 2015, guiding principles on new external offices were adopted, and it was decided that up to three openings would be made available for the 2016/2017 biennium, and up to three more openings for the 2018/2019 biennium. After intense negotiations, at the WIPO 2016 General Assembly, Nigeria and Algeria were chosen for the 2016/2017 biennium. There was then, according to several sources, a “gentlemen’s agreement” that Colombia could host the third external office for the 2016/2017 biennium. Based on that promise, neither Colombia nor any other Latin American and Caribbean country presented their candidacy for the 2018/2019 biennium. On 10 October, Kārkliņš, who also chaired the informal discussions on the external offices, tabled a draft decision [pdf] on the issue, which awarded Colombia the remaining 2016/2017 external office, and left discussions to be continued for the 2018/2019 biennium under the auspices of the chair of the General Assembly. When no compromise was reached on 11 October, in particular because of the resistance of some members of the Asia and Pacific Group, such as Iran, the ambassador of El Salvador on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, remarked that if Colombia was not awarded an external office in the 2016/2017, that would preclude the chance of GRULAC from having an external office also in 2018/2019. El Salvador’s ambassador said having no office in GRULAC is the strange price to pay for having been flexible at the 2016 General Assembly, and added “that is not right.” With the presence of the El Salvador ambassador and the Iran ambassador at WIPO, close to 11 pm, Kārkliņš gave delegations a last chance to agree on a decision language, and moved to informal negotiations. The General Assembly clock was stopped at midnight to allow completion of work within the original timeframe of the meeting, but no deal could be found. In the end, the decision adopted [pdf] only reflects that Colombia can still be in the race for the 2018/2019 biennium, and pushes the discussion to the 2018 General Assembly. Design Law Treaty, Still Stuck, EU to Explore Other Possibilities Informal consultations held to try to reach agreement on the two remaining issues on the way to the diplomatic conference to adopt the design law treaty (DLT) failed this week. In particular consensus could not be found on how to incorporate, following requests in particular by members of the African Group, a disclosure requirement of origin into design law applications. The decision adopted by the General Assembly pushed the discussion to the 2018 General Assembly. Delegations resisting this disclosure request, such as members of the European Union, are arguing that the treaty in question is a procedural treaty, which mostly deals with technicalities such as filling dates requirements, multiple applications, time limits and right of priority. On the last day of the General Assembly, Adil El Maliki, chair of the Standing Committee on Trademark, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT), and also chairing discussions during the assembly, issued his last effort at common language [pdf] to amend the current draft articles [pdf] and draft regulations [pdf] of the treaty. The draft language introduced the disclosure requirement of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions as required by national, regional, and international obligations in a footnote to a new Article 3 (ix) of the current text. The proposed new Article 3(ix) stated that “an indication of any prior application or registration, or other information1, of which the applicant is aware, that could have an effect on the eligibility for registration of the industrial design.” Many countries at the close of the General Assembly lamented the inability to reach agreement on the issue of the DLT. Estonia on behalf of the EU said its members came to the assembly with the aim of breaking the political deadlock, and despite an “unprecedented level of flexibility,” and despite coming very close, consensus yet escaped again. “We are now forced to conclude there are normative issues for which no consensus is possible in the framework of this organisation,” the Estonian delegate said, adding “We will need to look at the broader spectrum of possibilities to see whether a solution can be found.” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in closing remarks admonished member states for continued difficulty in making progress on normative issues. Cut in High-Level Staff Salaries Status Quo Following a decision by the UN International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to ask for a decrease in the amount high-level staff get as a post adjustment to compensate for the high cost of living in Geneva, some delegations asked at the last session of the PBC on the status of the application of that decision in WIPO and that it should be reflected in the budget (IPW, WIPO, 20 July 2017). The WIPO lobby during the Assemblies was festooned with signs opposing the cut. At the last meeting of the Program and Budget Committee in September, Gurry said the ICSC foresees a transition period until February 2018 and the WIPO secretariat is unable at this stage to have a precise estimate of the impact on the budget of the ICSC decision (IPW, WIPO, 11 September 2017). According to a source, the issue was not discussed during the General Assembly. Proposed Cut in Country Contributions a No Go The first draft of the draft program and budget included a proposal by the WIPO secretariat to decrease country annual contributions by 10 percent for the 2018/2019 biennium in the light of the good financial condition of the organisation (IPW, WIPO, 20 July 2017). The proposal did not meet the approval of PBC members, and appears not to have been discussed during the General Assembly. New Observers The General Assembly admitted a number of new observers: The Visegrad Patent Institute, India, in the intergovernmental organisations; the Geneva-based Foundation for a Centre for Socio-Economic Development (CSEND), in the category of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs); l’Association congolaise pour le développement agricole (ACDA), Congo, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT); the New Zealand Institute of Patent Attorneys (NZIPA); and the School of Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin, US in the national NGOs category. The original list [pdf] of submissions for approval by the General Assembly also included the Intellectual Property Centre (IP Centre) based in Uganda. According to the list, the centre was established in 2014 and provides advanced post-graduate education and research training in the field of intellectual property. Latest on Elected Officers On 11 October, a list of elected officers [pdf] was published, including the officers already elected at the beginning of the General Assembly (IPW, WIPO, 6 October 2017). The new additions are: WIPO Conference vice-chairs: Mariya Sirotina, Kazakhstan, and Anatole Fabien Nkou, Cameroon. Paris Union Executive Committee: chair: José Luis Salazar López, Colombia, vice-chairs: Chen Zhuo, China, and Yukio Ono, Japan Berne Union Assembly: chair: Abdelsalam Al Ali, United Arab Emirates, vice-chairs: Tang Zhaozhi, China, and Lilia Bolocan, Moldova Berne Union Executive Committee: chair: Manuel Guerra Zamarro, Mexico, vice-chairs Sumit Seth, India, and Gea Lepik, Estonia Lisbon Union Assembly vice-chair: Csaba Baticz, Hungary Locarno Union Assembly: chair: Jamshed Khamidov Tajikistan, vice-chairs: Song Jianhua, China, and Gustavo Meijide, Argentina International Patent Classification Union Assembly: chair: Marin Cebotari, Moldova, vice-chairs: Hu Wenhui, China, and Daniel Roberto Pinto, Brazil Patent Cooperation Treaty Union Assembly vice-chair Lamine Ka Mbaye, Sénégal Vienna Union Assembly: chair Jung Dae Soon, South Korea, vice-chair: Robert Ullrich, Austria Assembly of the WIPO Copyright Treaty: chair Manuel Guerra Zamarro, Mexico, vice-chairs Zoltán Nemessányi, Hungary, and Kamran Imanov, Azerbaijan Assembly of the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty: chair Maria Inès Rodríguez Argentina, vice-chairs: Yu Cike, China, Zoltán Nemessányi, Hungary Assembly of the Patent Law Treaty: chair: Ljupco Gjorgjinski, Macedonia, vice-chairs: Mohammed Al Balushi, Oman, and Mariya Sirotina, Kazakhstan Assembly of the Singapore Treaty vice chair: Yukio Ono, Japan Image Credits: WIPO 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 Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WIPO General Assembly Wrap: Many Decisions Made, But External Offices, Design Treaty Left Hanging" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.