WIPO Harmonization Talks Stymied by 'North-South' Divide
The gathering was the second of three sessions of the WIPO Intergovernmental Inter-sessional Meeting (IIM) called for by the General Assembly last October to discuss a proposal from Argentina and Brazil to overhaul WIPO’s mandate to make it more development-oriented. As positions on the various proposals on the table began to emerge, conesus reportedly diverged along North-South lines of developing versus developed countries with some notable exceptions:
The U.S. representative reportedly spoke against most of the development agenda proposals, arguing generally that they are based on two “misconceptions.” They assume that WIPO has disregarded development concerns, and that strong intellectual property protection is detrimental to global development goals, the U.S. argued. The United States also argued that WIPO continues to make its best contribution to development by deepening and expanding rather than diluting its intellectual property “expertise.”
Perhaps the biggest dividing point was whether to move the subject of
development wholly into an existing WIPO committee, the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD). The idea derived from a United Kingdom proposal that argues for the cost-effectiveness and practicality of putting the issue under and existing body with no apparent limit on its mandate.
Questions also remain about legal and political aspects of the committee, a U.K. delegate said, as it currently meets every two years and reports to the WIPO Conference, not the General Assembly as the Intergovernmental Inter-sessional Meeting (IIM) does. The official said the General Assembly includes all governments who are member of at least one WIPO treaty, but that the Conference includes all WIPO members. The PCIPD could be “reinvigorated” with new purpose, he said. But there also appeared to be a lack of clarity among U.K. proposal supporters on whether the PCIPD mandate should be expanded or whether it is sufficiently broad as is.
The PCIPD proposal got significant support from developed countries, both as the Group B industrialised countries, and as a number of individual developed country delegations, including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. But key developing countries, such as Argentina, Brazil and India argued against it, out of concern that the broader, cross-cutting issues of a sweeping development agenda would be dumped into a “garbage can” committee, as a Brazilian delegate put it.
According to the WIPO press release, two new proposals were presented by Bahrain (co-sponsored by Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates and Yemen) (document IIM/2/2, http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_2/iim_2_2.doc) relating to the Importance of Intellectual Property in Social and Economic Development and National Development Programs, and by the United Kingdom relating to Intellectual Property and Development (document IIM/2/3, http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_2/iim_2_3.doc).
These proposals are in addition to previous ones submitted to the first session of the IIM in April by the United States of America (entitled "Establishment of a Partnership Program in WIPO", http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_1/iim_1_2.doc), Mexico (entitled "Intellectual Property and Development", http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_1/iim_1_3.doc), Brazil (co-sponsored by Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, and Venezuela) (entitled "Proposal to Establish a Development Agenda for WIPO: An elaboration of issues Raised in Document WO/GA/31/11", http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_1/iim_1_4.doc), and the United Kingdom (entitled "IP and Development, Observations from the United Kingdom", http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/iim_1/iim_1_5.doc).