TWN Info Service on WTO
and Trade Issues (June08/24)
Patents committee begins work with usual North-South differences
Geneva, 24 Jun (Sangeeta Shashikant) -- WIPO's Standing Committee on Patents (SCP) began its week-long session on Monday, with many developing countries calling for an in-depth discussion on the "Report on the International Patent System" prepared by WIPO.
Several developing countries were of the view that the Report could be better balanced, could consider additional issues (compulsory licensing exceptions and limitations to patent laws, patents and standards, anti-competitive measures, opposition) and be further revised following comments from members and other stakeholders.
Discussions at the SCP have been at a stalemate for the past few years. Developed countries are pressing for concluding negotiations on a draft substantive patent law treaty (SPLT) based on a limited number of issues of interest to them.
Developing countries on the other hand want the scope of negotiations on the SPLT to be wider, to also include issues of concern to them.
Discussion on a Secretariat report on the patent system was seen by the WIPO General Assembly as a way to build a better atmosphere at the SCP so that it can agree on developing a new work program.
Some developing countries noted that any work programme developed must address issues that concern developing and developed countries.
Group B (composed of industrialized countries) however seemed keen to develop a work programme on the basis of a selected number of issues without engaging on a discussion on all issues in the Report. Their main aim is to initiate processes to further the harmonisation of patent laws. Several of its members put forward improving the efficiency of the patent system (including its search and examination capacity) and reducing the burden of patent offices as reasons for harmonisation.
At past SPLT negotiations, Group B had proposed that the SPLT focus on 4 issues (prior art, grace period, novelty and inventive step). However this approach was rejected by developing countries.
Developing countries have wanted the SPLT negotiations to also include policy space for flexibilities; exclusions from patentability; exceptions to patent rights; anti-competitive practices; disclosure of origin, prior informed consent and benefit sharing in relation to genetic resources and traditional knowledge; effective mechanisms to challenge the validity of patent; sufficiency of disclosure; transfer of technology and alternative models to promote innovation.
Group B also insisted that the work-programme of the SCP should not duplicate work in other WIPO committees in particular work in the Committee on Development and IP (CDIP) and in the Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional knowledge and Folklore (IGC).
Several developing countries have voiced reluctance to move towards the further harmonisation of national patent laws, with some indicating that it was premature to select issues and begin negotiations on harmonisation. Some questioned the very need and benefit of such harmonisation for developing countries.
developed countries' suggestion to limit the mandate of the SCP was
also not accepted by developing countries such as
Monday's SCP meeting,
It said guidelines were needed to enable easy discussions without an attempt to reach agreement or make any hard conclusions. It proposed a "substance driven discussion" - with a view to "progressive development to a new consensus to a work programme for the SCP". This would lead to a discussion on whether there was a need to move forward on harmonizing certain features of the patent law system.
It further said that a case for "change" had to be made and substantiated and this was a "new starting point", adding that it would not support being selective of some issues and narrowing the focus of discussion.
US on behalf of Group B expressed hope for a detailed work plan for the SCP, adding its support for the harmonization of patent laws as this would bring benefits such as increase in the number of applications, reducing backlogs, improving predictability for applications and so on. The adoption of the 45 Recommendations of the Development Agenda augurs will for the SCP.
to cross-negotiations between different WIPO committees by developed
It also referred to the recommendations of the Development Agenda on norm-setting which speaks about promoting flexibility and economic development of developing countries and not constraining policy space for developing countries; and added that SCP discussions had to be compatible with DA recommendations.
It also said that preconceived ideas should be avoided as harmonisation is not the only way to produce outcomes. Other means can be used, like creating user friendly systems that promote the objectives without (necessarily having an) instrument.
Chair, Maximiliano Santa Cruz from
The Chair told members to keep an open mind and to not exclude topics from the discussion including the 45 Recommendations of the Development agenda, adding that the Report could have additional topics added to it. +