Bridges Weekly Trade News DigestVolume 16Number 40 • 21st November 2012

WIPO Ctte Agrees to Host IP and Development Conference in 2013

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Members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have agreed to convene an international conference on intellectual property (IP) and development in 2013, officials announced last week. However, persistent disagreements among delegations slowed other areas of discussion during the five-day meeting of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), delaying agreement on a Chair’s summary until late Friday.

The CDIP, which met from 12-16 November in Geneva, is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the 45 Development Agenda (DA) recommendations that aim to mainstream development into WIPO’s work. This session marked the fifth anniversary since the WIPO General Assembly’s adoption of the DA.

“Significant progress has been made in this committee. However, there are issues in which all membership do not see eye to eye,” said WIPO Deputy Director General Geoffrey Onyeama at the opening of the session. “We need to make progress on those issues and, more broadly, on the objective that we all subscribe to, that is the advancement of the role of intellectual property in development.”

IP and development conference approved

A potential conference on intellectual property (IP) and development under the aegis of the CDIP has been on the table since 2011, following a proposal by the Development Agenda Group (DAG), a coalition of like-minded countries supporting a development-oriented perspective on intellectual property issues.

After a round of informal consultations last Thursday, WIPO members agreed to convene an  “International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development” in Geneva in the second half of 2013. Several delegations - such as Brazil and Egypt - stressed that such a conference should be open not only to WIPO members, but also to civil society and academia in order to ensure the event’s “inclusiveness.”

Two complementary proposals - tabled last week by the DAG and the African Group - suggested that the conference’s main focus should be on “Designing a Development-Oriented IP System” appropriate to countries’ development levels in order to meet national needs and priorities. Additional suggested themes include the relationship between IP rights and public health, creativity, and environmental issues - such as food security, genetic resources, and traditional knowledge.

However, the committee could not reach a definitive agreement on the content of the conference, deciding instead to discuss the matter further during upcoming informal meetings.

Talks on flexibilities to be resumed next year

Delegations also discussed future work on four patent-related flexibilities: plants’ exclusion from patentability, patentability of software-related inventions, criminal sanctions in patent enforcement, and security exceptions to patent rights.

A new document submitted last week by the secretariat described the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents’ (SCP) previous work on these four flexibilities, finding that the SCP has addressed the former two in part, while the latter two “have hardly been addressed at all.”

Developed countries argued that “two of the four flexibilities have been studied extensively and thoroughly at the SCP,” and therefore members should avoid duplicating work among different WIPO bodies. However, developing countries requested that work be continued in this area and possibly extended to other flexibilities.

“Issues are not a monopoly of any forum and the work on these flexibilities has never been done under a development perspective,” concluded Venezuela.

The discussion on flexibilities is slated to continue at the CDIP’s next session in 2013.

CDIP “third pillar” stirs renewed controversy

During last week’s meeting, WIPO members again found themselves at odds over a developing country proposal to create a new standing item on “IP and development-related issues” in the committee’s agenda.

The 2007 GA decision mandates the committee to elaborate a work programme for implementing the DA recommendations; to monitor, assess, discuss, and report on the implementation of all recommendations adopted; and to “discuss IP and development related issues as agreed by the Committee.” According to developing countries, the CDIP’s mandate has been only partially fulfilled.

“The CDIP has an important role to play not only in monitoring the implementation of the DA, but also regarding the third pillar of the decision establishing the committee, which should serve as a permanent base to discuss IP and development,” Brazil said. “We need to set a standing item to have meaningful discussions on new issues apart from project implementation.”

Given the longstanding debate on the subject, the South African delegation proposed that the issue be returned to the GA for clarification - a suggestion that was opposed by several developed countries, which argued that a standing item was unnecessary. Ultimately, no agreement on the issue was reached.

External review of WIPO technical assistance inches forward

An external review of WIPO’s technical cooperation also featured during last week’s discussions, with members ultimately deciding to continue talks on the subject at the next CDIP meeting. The review had found shortcomings in various aspects of the organisation’s technical assistance activities - a finding that prompted an extensive debate at the CDIP’s previous session. (See Bridges Weekly, 16 May 2012)

WIPO members have now asked the secretariat to prepare a document for the committee’s next session “identifying those recommendations that are in the process of implementation, and report on the progress thereon.”

ICTSD reporting; “CDIP Agrees To IP And Development Conference; Other Tough Issues Kept Open,” IP WATCH, 17 November 2012; “Gaps Persist On WIPO Development Dimension,” IP WATCH, 15 November 2012.

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