South-South Cooperation Comes to WIPO
The role of South-South cooperation in the field of intellectual property (IP) took centre stage at a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meeting last Friday, ahead of the UN agency’s General Assemblies that began this Monday.
Although South-South cooperation has already been established as a priority of the UN system, it is relatively new at WIPO. Last week’s event, which served as the organisation’s First Annual Conference on South-South Cooperation, was held in the context of a WIPO Development Agenda (DA) project that was originally presented by the African Group to the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), which oversees the implementation of the WIPO DA.
The project seeks to share information and experiences about the practical initiatives that developing and least developed countries (LDCs) are taking in using IP for promoting innovation, while also ensuring that it is supportive of broader public policies and development goals.
WIPO DDG: South-South cooperation a “vector of knowledge”
South-South cooperation “is a vector of valuable knowledge to identify how best to use the IP system and achieve broader public policy and development objectives,” WIPO Deputy Director General (DDG) Geoffrey Onyeama said at the beginning of the annual conference.
“It makes sense to share lessons learnt and best practices among countries with similar levels of development and facing similar challenges that may find similar solutions,” Onyeama added.
However, South-South cooperation should be seen as complementary to other cooperation streams, such as North-South or triangular cooperation, rather than as a substitute, the Deputy Director-General underlined.
IP governance, IGC issues areas for future work
The conference also discussed the outcomes of the First Inter-Regional Meeting on South-South Cooperation, held last August in Brazil. At the August gathering, the Brazilian government and WIPO signed an agreement to improve South-South cooperation in intellectual property. The partnership, which has a US$1 million budget, will consist in funding activities such as technical missions and training activities to the benefit of other developing countries and LDCs.
The August meeting also considered three potential areas for South-South cooperation: genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and folklore; copyright; and IP governance.
The topic of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and folklore is currently being examined by WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore, with countries having established last year the goal of engaging in text-based negotiations to reach agreement on an international legal instrument(s) to protect such resources. IGC’s mandate and future work is expected to be one of the many subjects featured at this week’s WIPO General Assembly, after earlier negotiating sessions of the committee showed mixed results. (See Bridges Weekly, 18 July 2012)
Alluding to that context, Natasha Pinheiro Agostini of the IP Division of Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations pointed out on Friday that South-South cooperation could be deepened, in this area, building upon the experiences gained to date by a number of developing countries that have formulated and implemented national laws addressing these issues.
She also underlined the importance of resolving trans-boundary issues, in cases where genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and folklore are held by a single community located in different countries - a topic that is “not tackled adequately internationally.”
Other speakers, including Ahmed Abdel Latif of ICTSD, emphasised the added value that South-South cooperation can bring to IP cooperation in areas such as promoting innovation, capacity building, and the use of flexibilities, limitations, and exceptions in IP rules. [Editor's note: ICTSD is the publisher of Bridges.]
Several speakers also highlighted that South-South cooperation should go beyond the mere exchange of experiences, and should result in the consolidation of best practices and practical solutions to address the challenges faced by developing countries and LDCs in these areas.
The next Inter-Regional Meeting on South-South Cooperation is expected to focus on patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications. Egypt has offered to host the upcoming gathering, which is tentatively slated to take place in May 2013.
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