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Archived updates for Tuesday, June 07, 2005

WIPO Harmonization Talks Fail to Reach Consensus

The meeting of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) at the World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO, which has been attempting to negotiate a Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) for years, failed to reach a consensus last week. The meeting began and ended with two primary and differing proposals on the future of patent harmonisation at WIPO, and countries generally lined up along “North-South� (developed and developing country) lines. “This is a serious setback for the proponents of patent law harmonisation� because of the lack of agreement on how to proceed, one developing country official said afterward.

According to Intellectual Property Watch, the United States will now consider ways to move on harmonisation outside of WIPO. “The U.S. is disappointed that there was no agreement to move forward with substantive patent law harmonisation on prior art issues in WIPO,� said Brigid Quinn, deputy director at the office of public affairs of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “We think that such an approach would benefit all countries by allowing them to rely more on examination work performed in other countries under common examination standards," she added. “The U.S. intends to pursue harmonisation of prior art issues within the group of developed countries, and will evaluate in the future whether an agreement may be possible in WIPO at some point.�

The official WIPO press release tried to cast a more-positive light on these events:
This meeting of the SCP was devoted solely to the consideration of options
for the future work of the Committee. Talks focussed on whether discussions
should be limited to six issues pursued in parallel processes (prior art, grace
period, novelty, inventive step, sufficiency of disclosure and genetic
resources) - whereby the first four would be considered in the SCP and the
latter two in the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and
Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) - or whether the
draft SPLT should be discussed as a whole, and also include further issues,
inter alia, clauses on public interest flexibilities, transfer of technology and
the disclosure, in patent applications, of the source of genetic resources.
While delegations recognized the importance of the work of the SCP and
emphasized that the work on patent law harmonization should progress taking into
account the interests of all parties, they did not reach agreement as to the
modalities and scope of the future work of the Committee.
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