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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar07/03)

2 March 2007

 

The meeting of the WIPO Committee on Development Agenda ended on a very positive note with Members agreeing to 24 proposals as part of the initiative to mainstream "Development" in all of WIPO's activities. This conclusion comes after a week long of intensive informal sessions among WIPO Members.

These proposals "will form a part of the final list of agreed proposals to be recommended for action to the 2007 General Assembly, after the June 2007 session of the PCDA", states the "Summary of the Chair" that prefaces the 24 proposals.

For more than two years WIPO Members have been engaged in often acrimonious deliberations, mainly on North-South lines, and caught in wrangles over procedural matters on how to proceed with the 111 proposals on the "Development Agenda". However, last week's meeting which ended with a spontaneous round of applause, seemed to mark a turning point in the Development Agenda process and possibly in WIPO's history.

Below is a SUNS report on some of the deliberations that took place during negotiations as well as the 24 agreed proposals.

Best Wishes
Sangeeta Shashikant
Third World Network
Tel: +41 (0) 22 908 3550
Fax: +41 (0) 22 908 3551
Email: ssangeeta@myjaring.net

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WIPO COMMITTEE AGREES TO 24 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA PROPOSALS

Published by SUNS #6199 Tuesday 27 February 2007


Geneva, 26 Feb (Sangeeta Shashikant) -- A WIPO meeting has agreed to 24 proposals as part of the Development Agenda initiative. It is the first set of agreed proposals and another meeting in June will consider another set of 71 proposals.

The 24 proposals were agreed to last Friday at the end of a week-long session of WIPO's Provisional Committee on the Development Agenda (PCDA). Most delegations and NGOs believe that this marked a breakthrough in the developing countries' efforts to mainstream "development" into WIPO's activities.

These proposals "will form a part of the final list of agreed proposals to be recommended for action to the 2007 General Assembly, after the June 2007 session of the PCDA", states the "Summary of the Chair" that prefaces the 24 proposals.

The Summary which is mostly factual in nature also notes the strong reservation made by Colombia in respect of a proposal pertaining to norm-setting, i. e. "consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO's normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implications and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain".

For more than two years WIPO Members have been engaged in often acrimonious deliberations, mainly on North-South lines, and caught in wrangles over procedural matters on how to proceed with the 111 proposals on the "Development Agenda". However, last week's meeting which ended with a spontaneous round of applause, seemed to mark a turning point in the Development Agenda process and possibly in WIPO's history.

James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, an activist that has been following the WIPO processes, said that agreement on WIPO reforms were "broader and more substantive than had been anticipated" and that "some of the measures signal important changes in this controversial UN body".

An Indian delegate called it a "very significant forward movement". A Brazilian negotiator was very encouraged by the outcome. Both said that it was important to maintain this spirit in the next meeting of the PCDA.

India had organized an informal meeting of several WIPO members in New Delhi prior to last week's PCDA. The meeting discussed the first set of proposals (known as Annex A) that was the basis of last week's WIPO session.

The next Development Agenda in June will consider 71 other proposals (known as Annex B), most of which had been presented by the Group of Friends of Development (GFOD) as well as the Africa Group. While supported broadly by developing countries, many of these proposals had been opposed by the US and the EC in previous meetings.

Discussions on the Annex B proposals such as on a Treaty on Access to Knowledge will be a "startling departure from WIPO's longstanding efforts to focus largely on expanding the scope and enforcement of intellectual property rights," said Love.

Several participants at the meeting noted the "member-driven" process at the week-long meeting as the government delegations engaged in informal consultations among themselves. A certain delegate even called it "unorthodox" for WIPO, which is known as an institution that is more "Secretariat driven". In many other WIPO processes, it is the Secretariat that prepares papers, proposals and even the negotiating texts.
Members at last week's meeting worked in groups to rationalize and narrow differences on the 40 proposals of Annex A. The proposals are contained in six clusters - Technical Assistance (Cluster A); Norm Setting, Flexibilities, Public Policy and Public Domain (Cluster B); Technology Transfer, Information and Communication Technology and Access to Knowledge (Cluster C); Evaluation and Impact Studies (Cluster D); Institutional Matters including Mandate and Governance (Cluster E); and Other Issues (Cluster F).

Mid-way through the week, the Chair, Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados, requested several delegations to coordinate discussions on the different clusters, in an attempt to reach a consensus on the list of agreed proposals. Plenary meetings were then held to discuss the new draft proposals prepared by the consultation groups.

This method worked, leading to the agreement by Friday evening, an outcome that actually surprised the delegates themselves as well as NGOs, all of who had been too used to non-outcomes in previous meetings of the Development Agenda.

The cluster on technical assistance, according to some delegates, was the most difficult one to reach agreement on, with more than 9 drafts prepared. That cluster contains the most number of proposals.

In many parts of the text (in particular, in the first three proposals of the cluster), the words "inter alia" was inserted at the request of Group B (comprising industrialized countries).

For example, where the proposal stated that "WIPO technical assistance shall be development oriented, demand driven and transparent", the words "inter alia" were added. The final proposal read "WIPO technical assistance shall be inter alia development oriented."

Similarly, the third proposal originally mentioned "development-oriented IP culture", but the final text states "inter alia development-oriented IP culture".

According to some delegates, the inclusion of "inter alia" is an attempt to dilute the essence of the proposal, to make it less specific to "development" and more broadly applicable to other areas as well.

On the proposal that WIPO shall display general information on all technical assistance (TA), the African Group raised their concern that confidentiality in providing technical assistance is not breached. A delegate from the GFOD indicated that TA can be provided on a regional basis and therefore in the interest of transparency, information was a prerequisite. Finally, the proposal that was agreed to is in proposal 5 below.

The GFOD also raised concerns about a proposal that originated from the US, i. e. to have an Internet-based tool to facilitate the strategic use of IP by developing countries to match IPR related development need with available resources. The concern was that technical assistance would in effect be privatized.

The final text (see proposal 9 below) includes the recommendation of the GFOD, i. e. that the database has to be created "in coordination with Member States", an attempt to provide more oversight on the process by Members.

Cluster B on "Norm-Setting, Public Policy and Public Domain" also attracted a lot of attention. This cluster deals most with giving guidelines for the substantive rules and treaties of WIPO.

There was some concern when the Chair announced that an individual country Kyrgyz Republic would be coordinating discussions on that Cluster, with the Chair providing oversight. The first document prepared by the Kyrgyz Republic was, according to several participants, poorly worded as it diluted the essence of what was the intention of the original proposals.

The Chair, Trevor Clarke, himself conducted informal consultations specifically on that cluster. The final outcome in Cluster B was received with satisfaction by many delegations as well as public interest NGOs.

The Cluster eventually contained only two proposals, but they are seen by developing countries as crucial ones. The first states that WIPO's norm-setting activities shall be inclusive and member-driven; take into account different levels of development; take into consideration a balance between costs and benefits; be a participatory process (which considers the interests of all WIPO Member States and other stakeholders); and be in line with the principle of neutrality of the WIPO Secretariat.

If finally adopted by the WIPO General Assembly, this proposal could become an important development principle that can be used in future WIPO negotiations that set new rules or review existing ones, as well as the basis for other actions.

The second Cluster B proposal asks members to consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO's normative processes and deepen the analysis of the benefits of a rich and accessible public domain.

Colombia registered its strong reservation on this public-domain proposal.

During discussions on Cluster C on Technology Transfer, a sticking point was whether to mention "flexibilities" in the text (see proposal 13 below).

Group B was not in favour of including any mention of the term "flexibilities" in the proposal. Switzerland argued that the idea of technology transfer should not be linked to the use of "flexibilities". Brazil in particular successfully insisted on retaining "flexibilities" in the text, in the context of technology transfer.

Proposal 14 (on encouraging cooperation with R&D institutions in developing countries) initially was addressed to developed countries. The final text is addressed to "Member States" more generally in the recognition that some developing countries may also have some capacity on R&D that they could share with others.

Cluster D on assessment contains agreed proposals requesting WIPO to develop a yearly review and evaluation mechanism to assess all its development-oriented activities and to undertake new studies to assess the economic, social and cultural impact of the use of intellectual property systems in states that make a request.

Much time was also spent discussing a proposal pertaining to WIPO assisting African countries to reduce the brain drain. Several members argued that this was not within the mandate of WIPO. However, the final outcome reflects the concerns of African countries in proposal 20.

In Cluster F was the single proposal to approach intellectual property enforcement in the context of broader societal interests and especially development-oriented concerns, with a view that IP enforcement should contribute to the promotion of innovation, technology transfer, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge, in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.

The following is the set of 24 proposals that were agreed to:

CLUSTER A: TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND CAPACITY BUILDING

1. WIPO technical assistance shall be, inter alia, development-oriented, demand-driven and transparent, taking into account the priorities and the special needs of developing countries, especially LDCs, as well as the different levels of development of Member States and activities should include time frames for completion. In this regard, design, delivery mechanisms and evaluation processes of technical assistance programs should be country specific.

2. Provide additional assistance to WIPO through donor funding, and establish Trust-Funds or other voluntary funds within WIPO specifically for LDCs, while continuing to accord high priority to finance activities in Africa through budgetary and extra-budgetary resources, to promote, inter alia, the legal, commercial, cultural, and economic exploitation of intellectual property in these countries.

3. Increase human and financial allocation for technical assistance programs in WIPO for promoting a, inter alia, development-oriented IP culture, with an emphasis on introducing intellectual property at different academic levels and on generating greater public awareness on IP.

4. Place particular emphasis on the needs of SMEs and institutions dealing with scientific research and cultural industries and assist Member States, at their request, in setting-up appropriate national strategies in the field of IP.

5. WIPO shall display general information on all technical assistance activities on its website, and shall provide, on request from Member States, details of specific activities, with the consent of Member State (s) and other recipients concerned, for which the activity was implemented.

6. WIPO's technical assistance staff and consultants shall continue to be neutral and accountable, by paying particular attention to the existing Code of Ethics, and by avoiding potential conflicts of interest. WIPO shall draw up and make widely known to the Member States a roster of consultants for technical assistance available with WIPO.

7. Promote measures that will help countries deal with IP related anti-competitive practices, by providing technical cooperation to developing countries, especially LDCs, at their request, in order to better understand the interface between intellectual property rights and competition policies.

8. Request WIPO to develop agreements with research institutions and with private enterprises with a view to facilitating the national offices of developing countries, especially LDCs, as well as their regional and sub- regional IP organizations to access specialized databases for the purposes of patent searches.

9. Request WIPO to create, in coordination with Member States, a database to match specific IP-related development needs with available resources, thereby expanding the scope of its technical assistance programs, aimed at bridging the digital divide.

CLUSTER B: NORM-SETTING, FLEXIBILITIES. PUBLIC POLICY AND PUBLIC DOMAIN

10. Norm-setting activities shall: be inclusive and member driven; take into account different levels of development; take into consideration a balance between costs and benefits; be a participatory process, which takes into consideration the interests and priorities of all WIPO Member States and the viewpoints of other stakeholders, including accredited inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations; and be in line with the principle of neutrality of the WIPO Secretariat.

11 . Consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO's normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implications and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain.

CLUSTER C: TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER, INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICT) AND ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE

12. To request WIPO, within its mandate, to expand the scope of its activities aimed at bridging the digital divide, in accordance with the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) also taking into account the significance of the Digital Solidity Fund (DSF).

13. To explore IP-related policies and initiatives necessary to promote the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the benefit of developing countries and to take appropriate measures to enable developing countries to fully understand and benefit from different provisions, pertaining to flexibilities provided for in international agreements, as appropriate.

14. To encourage Member States, especially developed countries, to urge their research and scientific institutions to enhance cooperation and exchange with research and development institutions in developing countries, especially LDCs.

15. Facilitating IP-related aspects of ICT for growth and development: Provide for, in an appropriate WIPO body, discussions focused on the importance of IP-related aspects of ICT, and its role in economic and cultural development, with specific attention focused on assisting Member States to identify practical IP-related strategies to use ICT for economic, social and cultural development.

16. To explore supportive IP-related policies and measures Member States, especially developed countries, could adopt for promoting transfer and dissemination of technology to developing countries.

CLUSTER D: ASSESSMENT, EVALUATION AND IMPACT STUDIES

17. To request WIPO to develop an effective yearly review and evaluation mechanism for the assessment of all its development-oriented activities, including those related to technical assistance, establishing for that purpose specific indicators and benchmarks, where appropriate.

18. With a view to assisting Member States in creating substantial national programs, to request WIPO to conduct a study on constraints to intellectual property protection in the informal economy, including the tangible costs and benefits of IP protection in particular in relation to generation of employment.

19. To request WPO to undertake, upon request of Member States, new studies to assess the economic, social and cultural impact of the use of intellectual property systems in these States.

CLUSTER E: INSTITUTIONAL MATTERS INCLUDING MANDATE AND GOVERNANCE

20. To request WIPO, within its core competence and mission, to assist developing countries, especially African countries, in cooperation with relevant international organizations, by conducting studies on brain drain and make recommendations accordingly.

21. To request WIPO to intensify its cooperation on IP-related issues with UN agencies, according to Member States' orientation, in particular UNCTAD, UNEP, WHO, UNIDO, UNESCO and other relevant international organizations, especially WTO in order to strengthen the coordination for maximum efficiency in undertaking development programs.

22. To conduct a review of current WIPO technical assistance activities in the area of cooperation and development.

23. To enhance measures that ensure wide participation of civil society at large in WIPO activities in accordance with its criteria regarding NGO acceptance and accreditation, keeping the issue under review.

CLUSTER F: OTHER ISSUES

24. To approach intellectual property enforcement in the context of broader societal interests and especially development-oriented concerns, with a view that "the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations", in accordance with Article 7 of the TRIPS Agreement.

 


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