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WIPO Assemblies Conclude
The Assemblies of the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded on Tuesday, October 5, 2004 following a review of activities over the past year and agreement on the agenda of the Organization for the next year. The WIPO General Assembly, which brings together the 181 member states of the Organization, was chaired by Ambassador Bernard Kessedjian, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
In his closing remarks, Ambassador Kessedjian thanked delegations for their active participation in the work of the General Assembly and welcomed the spirit of cooperation that characterized the talks. He welcomed initiatives taken by various member states, and referred, in particular to talks to enhance the development dimension in WIPO's work. Earlier, Ambassador Kessedjian said "Intellectual property does not only concern a few people - it is a concern for all. It is a powerful engine of growth and progress." He said that intellectual property is an integral part of sustainable development and "its benefits must be equally shared." Ambassador Kessedjian commended member states on the positive results that had emerged which, he said, had added renewed impetus to the future work of the Organization.
The highlights of the meeting that took place from September 27 through October 5, 2004, include (according to the order in the proposed agenda):
The General Assembly approved the Program Performance Report for the biennium 2002-2003, and noted WIPO's achievements in spite of the financial constraints of the Organization. The Program Performance Reports are submitted to member states on an annual and biannual basis within the context of WIPO's results-based management framework introduced in 1998, and inform WIPO member states of results achieved by WIPO along the criteria established in its Program and Budget. During the Assemblies, member states underscored in particular WIPO's achievements in promoting intellectual property as a tool for social, economic and cultural development worldwide. Many member states expressed appreciation for WIPO's wide range of technical and legal assistance in fostering an intellectual property culture, the modernization of intellectual property infrastructure, human resources development and implementation of international treaties. They requested that WIPO continue to support their intellectual property development and provide expertise to contribute to their national capacity building and the integration of developmental aspects into intellectual property policies. Member states also noted the Program Implementation Overview, which contained information on the implementation of major activities during the first six months of 2004.
Member states reviewed the status of consultations on outstanding issues relating to the protection of audiovisual performances and decided on future action on this question. A number of countries urged for the early resolution of the outstanding issues so that a new treaty could be established. Member states agreed to keep the subject under review at their annual meetings in 2005. International discussions on the protection of audiovisual performers rights date from the early 1990s. In 2001 a diplomatic conference on the protection of audiovisual performances made significant progress in shoring up the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances, but did not reach agreement on the fundamental questions of whether and how a treaty on performers' rights should deal with the transfer of rights from the performer to the producer. The adoption of a new instrument would strengthen the position of performers in the audiovisual industry by providing a clearer legal basis for the international use of audiovisual works, both in traditional media and in digital networks. Moreover an international instrument would contribute to safeguarding the rights of performers against the unauthorized use of their performances in audiovisual media, such as television, film and video.
The WIPO General Assembly asked a subsidiary body on copyright to pursue its efforts towards the eventual conclusion of an international instrument on the protection of broadcasting organizations to update international intellectual property standards for broadcasting in the information age. The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, which will meet again in November 2004, will continue to seek consensus on this question. If sufficient agreement is reached, the General Assembly could decide on the convening of a diplomatic conference, which is traditionally the last step in the treaty-making process. The process of updating the intellectual property rights of broadcasters, currently provided by the 1961 Rome Convention on the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, began in earnest in 1997. A growing signal piracy problem in many parts of the world, including piracy of digitized pre-broadcast signals, has made this need more acute. (Please see PR/2004/386).
Member States agreed on the convening of a diplomatic conference on the revision of a key international treaty that will further simplify and streamline procedures relating to the registration of trademarks. The Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) will update the existing treaty bringing its procedures in line with technological advances in telecommunications in the past decade. The Diplomatic Conference, which is traditionally the last step in the treaty-making process, will be held in March 2006. Two further sessions of the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) and one session of a preparatory meeting will be held prior to the Conference to continue work on outstanding issues. The revision of the TLT envisages the inclusion into the treaty of provisions on electronic filing of trademark applications and associated communications, provisions concerning the recording of trademark licenses, relief measures when certain time limits have been missed, and the establishment of an assembly of the contracting parties to enable the updating of administrative provisions regulated under the treaty.
The General Assembly reviewed the work of the WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE) and encouraged the ACE to continue its work. The ACE was set up by WIPO member states in 2002 as a forum for discussion of enforcement matters with a mandate to provide technical assistance and coordination, cooperation and the exchange of information on questions of enforcement. (Please see Update 227/2004)
The General Assembly reviewed the work of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), in view of the expectations that this key forum should accelerate towards international outcomes on the issues under its mandate. The review was based on a progress report (document WO/GA/31/5) which the Assembly had commissioned when granting a fresh mandate to the IGC in 2003. The review welcomed the progress made towards a set of concrete outcomes, in the form of provisions on the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and expressions of folklore/traditional cultural expressions. These provisions were considered as a step towards a shared international perspective on the objectives and the core principles of protection, with the goal of safeguarding the interests expressed by traditional and indigenous communities. The report noted that such provisions could form the content of any international instrument in this area. Draft texts for these outcomes have been prepared and circulated for consideration by the IGC in November (see documents WIPO/GRTKF/IC/7/3 and WIPO/GRTKF/IC/7/5). The review also addressed activities beyond the IGC, including capacity-building initiatives and an active program of cooperation, coordination and dialogue with other UN agencies in this field, with representatives of indigenous and local communities and with civil society.
The General Assembly also considered a key aspect of the linkage between the patent system and legal regimes governing access to genetic resources and equitably sharing benefits from the use of these resources. A number of countries have amended patent laws to require patent applicants to provide specific information about genetic resources or TK used in a claimed invention. A range of WIPO member states have also called for changes in international standards with the same objective. This issue has been raised in several WIPO forums, as well as other international organizations. WIPO earlier prepared a technical study on the issue at the invitation of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). When it met earlier this year, the CBD COP expressed appreciation for the study and invited WIPO to examine and address some specific aspects of the issue (document WO/GA/31/8). The General Assembly has now agreed upon a comprehensive work program for preparing this further contribution to the work of the CBD. The response would build on proposals by member states, and would be reviewed at an intergovernmental meeting in May 2005, drawing together member states, intergovernmental organizations, and accredited NGOs. The CBD COP has signaled that it would provide further feedback to WIPO once this additional material had been received from WIPO. This continuing partnership and policy dialogue between the two bodies, also recently articulated in a cooperation agreement, is intended to promote the CBD objectives of conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing. WIPO and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) will shortly release an in-depth study, jointly commissioned, on the role of intellectual property in benefit-sharing under the CBD.
Member States discussed a proposal by the delegations of Japan and the United States of America relating to a new workplan for the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) as regards the draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT). The proposal was to give priority at this stage, in the SCP, to four prior-art related issues and to defer discussion of other issues of substantive patent law pending resolution of that initial package of issues. While the proposal was supported by a number of delegations, it was opposed by a number of others, in particular, on the grounds that a reduced set of provisions would exclude from the discussions certain areas of interest to them (for example, general exceptions, provisions on the transfer of technology and on the protection of public interest issues, such as public health, biodiversity and nutrition). Following the discussion, the General Assembly adopted a statement recognizing that the proposal submitted by the delegations of Japan and the United States of America had found no consensus and stated that the dates of the next session of the SCP should be determined by the Director General following informal consultations that he may undertake.
The WIPO General Assembly agreed to further examine a proposal originally presented by a group of developing countries to enhance the development dimension in all of WIPO's work. Taking into account activities already carried out by WIPO in the area of development, which received the support and appreciation of the developing countries, the General Assembly decided to convene inter-sessional intergovernmental meetings to examine the proposals originally submitted by Brazil and Argentina as well as additional proposals of member states. The meetings will also be open to WIPO accredited intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A report on these issues will be presented to the General Assembly in 2005 for its consideration. This decision also calls for the organization, in cooperation with other multilateral organizations, of an international seminar on intellectual property and development, open to all stakeholders, including NGOs, civil society and academia.
Member states of the Assembly of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Union took note of progress in the reform of the PCT, amended certain regulations in line with the reform process and agreed on priorities for future work. The PCT Assembly also took note of the status of the evolution of PCT information systems, particularly in relation to the electronic processing of international applications under the PCT. Member states further reviewed recent WIPO initiatives to improve the collection and publication of industrial property-related statistics with a view to improving the availability and usability of patent statistics. A WIPO-OECD Workshop on the Use of Patent Statistics will be held at WIPO on October 11 and 12, 2005. The PCT Assembly also discussed a proposal on the adjustment of PCT fees and agreed that consideration of this question should be referred as soon as possible to the WIPO Program and Budget Committee and, if necessary, to an extraordinary session of the PCT Assembly.
WIPO member states were also briefed on the status of recommendations approved by member states in 2002 to amend the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to provide protection for country names and for the names and acronyms of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). These recommendations are currently being considered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Center is the leading provider of services for the resolution of disputes arising from the abusive registration of Internet domain names. (Please see PR/2003/363)
In line with the Organization's commitment to transparency and inclusive debate, the WIPO Assemblies also agreed to grant observer status to the Commonwealth Secretariat as an international intergovernmental organization and to a number of non-governmental organizations. These include: the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Civil Society Coalition (CSC), the European Generic Medicines Association (EGA), the Federation of Scriptwriters in Europe (FSE), the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFIIe.V.), the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSF Europe), the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) and the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (ORIGIN). This decision is in accordance with a set of principles covering the admission of such organizations as observers established by WIPO member states in September 2003. Organizations granted observer status are invited to attend the meetings of WIPO Assemblies and other meetings of direct interest to them.
Three additional national non-governmental organizations considered to be in a position to offer constructive and substantive contributions to the deliberations of WIPO Assemblies, were granted observer status in conformity with a decision by WIPO member states in October 2002. These include, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation (JIII) and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA).