TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June08/17)
28 June 2008
Third World Network

Trade: No change in positions on TRIPS disclosure, "parallelism"
Published in SUNS #6499 dated 19 June 2008

Geneva, 18 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- Positions remained unchanged at a TRIPS Council meeting Tuesday on the issue of amending the TRIPS agreement to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material, as well as whether the three issues of GI register, GI extension and TRIPS disclosure should be included in the "horizontal" negotiations ("parallelism").

According to trade officials, the formal TRIPS Council meeting also discussed information supplied by Viet Nam - which recently joined the WTO - on its intellectual property regime, and submissions from Sierra Leone and Uganda on their technical assistance needs as they prepare to implement the TRIPS Agreement.

Trade officials said that the attempt to include three issues among the subjects to be discussed "horizontally" along with the modalities in agriculture and NAMA was the most discussed topic at the Council meeting.

The three issues are: geographical indications register for wines and spirits, proposals to begin negotiations on extending the higher level of protection given to wines and spirits to other geographical indications, and requiring patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic material or traditional knowledge used in their inventions.

Trade officials said that positions remained unchanged on these.

Tuesday's discussion, they said, raised two questions. One was the debate on the misappropriation of genetic resources and traditional knowledge and whether amending the TRIPS Agreement to require disclosure in patent applications is the most effective solution.

According to trade officials, positions remain unchanged on this.

The other was on "parallelism" - the question whether all three issues of GI register, GI extension and TRIPS disclosure should be included in the forthcoming "horizontal" negotiations.

Trade officials said that those in favour are seeking negotiations based on texts or draft agreements on all three subjects. Those against are of the view that more technical discussion and empirical evidence is needed before moving to "text-based" negotiations.

According to trade officials, speaking for both TRIPS disclosure and "parallelism" were India, Indonesia, the least developed countries (Uganda speaking), Brazil, Ecuador, China, Switzerland (which favours disclosure but not necessarily through the TRIPS), Mauritius (as a member of the African Group and African-Caribbean-Pacific group), Peru, Colombia, Thailand, Nepal, the EU (which favours disclosure but outside patent law), Norway, Venezuela and Turkey.

(In a statement at the meeting, India on the issue of TRIPS/CBD said that the Doha Mandate provides that negotiations on outstanding implementation issues shall be an integral part of the Work Programme. The relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and CBD is a critical implementation issue for developing countries. The objectives of the Disclosure Proposal (IP/C/W/474), of which India is a key proponent, are shared by all Members.

(There is general agreement among members on preventing bio-piracy, erroneously granted patents and enhancing mutual supportiveness between the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD. The Disclosure Proposal seeks to meet these objectives through amendment of TRIPS Agreement to include mandatory disclosure requirements, prior informed consent and access and benefit sharing, thus meeting the three core concerns of the CBD, said India. It must therefore, be recognised that this issue is a critical deliverable for developing countries and an integral part of the development outcome, added India.

(On the issue of "parallelism", India said that there should be no reason why all TRIPS issues, some of which are important implementation issues, should not be considered together for Ministerial guidance.

(Over 100 Members are unanimous that the issues of TRIPS disclosure requirement, GI Register and GI Extension must be included as part of the horizontal process for Ministerial guidance. They are also unanimous that the modalities texts must reflect Ministerial agreement on the key parameters with respect to each of these issues, said India. Pointing out that there has been technical discussions for the last eight years, India said that "at this stage therefore, we strongly feel that text based negotiations must begin immediately." For India, an outcome on this issue is an essential element of any "development package" that emerges from the Round.)

Trade officials said that those who spoke for TRIPS disclosure but against "parallelism" were the Philippines and South Africa.

Those speaking against both were the US, Japan, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Argentina. Their argument was that "disclosure" is not the most effective way of dealing with misappropriation, and that in most cases including the three issues with other subjects would jeopardize the negotiations in agriculture and NAMA.

According to trade officials, Chinese Taipei said that it is still undecided on the issue of "disclosure" but opposes parallelism.

New Zealand, Canada and Australia also rejected some countries' view that "parallelism" is a proposal that only deals with process. They said that the proposal to negotiate geographical indications "extension" assumes a result (that the higher level of protection will be extended beyond wines and spirits).

According to trade officials, Bolivia said that it is against patenting of life and against setting up private rights over nature. Brazil said that the "disclosure" proposal would not affect countries' decisions on whether or not to allow patenting - it would only require disclosure when patents are involved.

As regards technical assistance and technology transfer for least developed countries, Uganda said that it has translated its initial priority needs assessment (document IP/C/W/500) into a "national capacity-building programme" (IP/C/W/510).

Sierra Leone, which also submitted earlier a priority needs assessment, said that it will do the same now that its elections are over.

According to trade officials, earlier in the week, the two countries held consultations with a number of developed countries (including Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada and Norway) and both sides said that the talks were useful.

Uganda, for the least developed countries, said that several more among them are preparing their assessments.

Brazil called for more consistent and meaningful reporting from developed countries on this issue, including specific references to some of the "development agenda" items agreed in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2007. Australia supported this call for more coherence in the work of the two organizations.

According to trade officials, Brazil and the least developed countries (Uganda speaking) also called for better reporting under a separate agenda item dealing with developed countries' incentives for their companies to transfer technology to least developed countries. Trade officials said that a workshop will be held in October (when the next Council meeting is scheduled) to discuss these incentives and a proposed Secretariat paper on the subject.

Viet Nam - which joined the WTO in January 2007 - replied to questions on its intellectual property laws under the standard "review of legislation", which all members applying the TRIPS Agreement have to go through.

According to trade officials, Members continued to disagree on whether the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity should be an observer in the Council, even if invited ad hoc meeting-by-meeting.

Chairperson Ambassador Gail Mathurin of Jamaica agreed to hold consultations. +