TWN Info Service
on WTO and Trade Issues (Sept09/23)
countries voice "development concerns" over WIPO
Geneva, 28 Sep (Sangeeta Shashikant) -- Several key developing countries have voiced a variety of development-related concerns at the annual meetings of the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the WIPO management as well as the organization's programmes and activities.
These concerns surfaced in opening statements made by developing countries during the first three days of the annual WIPO Assemblies, which is meeting from 22 September to 1 October. A high-level Ministerial segment was also held on the first two days of the Assemblies.
The opening statements of Ministers, Ambassadors and Heads of Delegation of several key developing countries broadly stressed on the need for WIPO to contribute towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); to realign WIPO's mandate to the broader objectives of the UN; on conducting impact assessments of WIPO's works; and the need for systemic changes in WIPO that would ensure greater transparency of WIPO's activities, accountability to its Members and refocus its culture to one with a development orientation.
The opening statements also addressed several key issues that are before the WIPO Assemblies for discussion. These include renewal of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore; the work-programmes of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE); the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP); Patents Committee (SCP); Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Working Group; and the Copyright Committee (SCCR).
The Deputy Minister, Ministry of Trade and Industry of South Africa, B. M. Ntuli, emphasized that WIPO should be guided by development-related commitments and resolutions and contribute to the MDGs. As a standard setter on intellectual property (IP), WIPO has a significant role in ensuring that IP rules support development objectives. Ntuli added that international treaties require balancing of Members' interests on a fair and equitable basis. A one-sided approach undermines the value and benefit that countries expect from participating in WIPO and that such treaties must have a positive impact on developing countries.
The South African Minister stressed the importance of UN agencies dealing with development issues to operate in a coherent manner. Despite the conclusion of the WIPO Development Agenda (DA), Members should not be afraid to revisit WIPO's mandate to properly align it with the broader objectives of the UN. The Minister added that WIPO should play a meaningful role in advising Members about the implications and dangers of renouncing rights provided for by the TRIPS Agreement.
With respect to the IGC, Ntuli said that it was unfortunate that there was no breakthrough on the matter. Ntuli supported renewal of the IGC's mandate according to the African Group's proposal (which sought text-based negotiations and international legally-binding instruments), adding that there was a sentiment that the matter was not taken seriously by WIPO. In relation to the ACE, Ntuli cautioned against focusing on enforcement issues. The ACE should not be implemented in a manner detrimental to developing countries or undermines their ability to advance pertinent development issues.
The Minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing of Tanzania, Dr. Mary M. Nagu, raised the issue of IP and access to medicines. She said that access to patented and branded drugs, due to their associated costs, is beyond the ability of the majority of those in need and that access to generic antiretrovirals (ARVs) through the TRIPS Agreement's flexibilities is the only available option. She also referred to the Doha Ministerial Declaration that extended the transitional period for LDCs to implement the TRIPS obligations on pharmaceuticals from 2006 to 2016, saying that this had an advantage for the LDCs that have started manufacturing generic ARVs for domestic use and export.
The Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry of Zambia, Richard T. Taima, said that the IGC deliberations demonstrated that some developed countries were opposed to any effective means of protecting genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore. He appealed for agreement on a legally-binding framework on the matter.
On the road map for the PCT, he cautioned against harmonization of substantive laws, mandatory effects of international search reports in the national phase and legal presumption of validity, adding that the Secretariat should clarify certain terms in the road map, especially the general principles that were envisaged to guide the future functioning of the PCT within its existing legal framework.
[The road map (PCT/WG/2/3)
titled "The Future of the PCT" is a Secretariat document.
It sets out principles and actions for reform of the PCT system. At
the May meeting of the PCT Working Group, several developing countries
voiced concerns over harmonization of patent application, search and
examination procedures, which resulted in deferment of the consideration
of the road map. See SUNS #6698 dated 12 May 2009].
Referring to a statement made by Director-General Francis Gurry in his opening remarks in which he asked "... what does a Member State get out of being part of this Organization," Ambassador Azevedo said "Developing countries ask themselves the same question."
The Brazilian envoy said that the answer is to be found in the DA, and stressed that a key element to strengthening the role played by WIPO is to make progress in the implementation of the DA. Adjustments will have to be made in the very way in which WIPO has traditionally operated. In this context, Ambassador Azevedo stressed that a change in the organisation's culture will have to take place with the aim of not only providing for greater transparency and accountability across WIPO, but also allowing Member States to have a higher degree of control over the activities of the organisation.
He also pointed
to the need for a systemic approach leading to the mainstreaming of
the DA recommendations into the work of all WIPO's Committees. Towards
To a large extent, the DA constitutes uncharted territory within WIPO, thereby requiring Member States to adopt a path-finding mind-set. "We have the challenge of learning on the run'. That is why methodologies used for implementing and monitoring the Agenda must remain flexible and open to adjustments as we make progress," Ambassador Azevedo said.
With respect to
the IGC, the Brazilian envoy expressed hope that the IGC will be given
a fresh and strong mandate for the negotiation of legally-binding instruments.
On copyright matters,
In relation to ACE,
Ambassador Azevedo said that results in combating infringement of IP
can only be effective if they are sustained over time and if they touch
on all the dimensions of this complex question, and contribute to the
achievement of the objectives of the international system of IP as defined
by the TRIPS Agreement. Against this background, it is imperative, for
instance, to prevent abusive enforcement measures that do not respect
the principle of territoriality and that create barriers to the legitimate
trade of generic drugs, thereby de facto denying the right of access
to medicine, said Ambassador Azevedo. He also signalled that
"It is naturally to be expected that this recent change in the nature of the discourse on IP should be reflected in WIPO's work," he added. The adoption of the DA and the first steps towards its implementation are but the beginning of the path towards realizing this aim, he further said.
In this regard, Ambassador Badr raised three points:
(i) the need for a firm conviction that the linkage of IP to development and implementation of the DA relate to all activities of WIPO including its substantive norm-setting committees, and do not relate only to technical assistance and capacity-building programmes. In this context, he referred to the ongoing quest to conclude an international legally-binding treaty or treaties for the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
(ii) to consider institutional reform of WIPO that encompasses its governing bodies and the various committees, including substantive committees, in a comprehensive framework that reflects the active participation by developing countries, and is guided by the principle of a member-driven Organization, since WIPO is considered to be among the oldest Specialized Agencies of the UN and as such, it is currently bequeathed with an institutional structure that reflects conditions that existed several decades ago.
(iii) in the midst of increasing challenges facing the international community, whether in development, or public health, or climate change, there is a need to consider how IP policies can contribute to their resolution, while ensuring that these policies do not contradict development and public policy priorities. Therefore, WIPO should broaden its research base in this area and adopt an objective and critical methodology, which reflects the positive and negative impacts, as well as the opportunities and constraints, that link IP policies with these global challenges.
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