U.S. and Brazil Square-Off on WIPO Development Agenda
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The U.S. proposal is in marked contrast to a proposal put forward on day one by Brazil on behalf of 14 countries referred to as the "Friends of Development." The original Friends of Development proposal was introduced at the 2004 WIPO General Assembly last Fall, which mandated that an Intersessional Intergovernmental Meeting (IIM) discuss the proposal and make a recommendation by the end of July for the 2005 General Assembly. The current 20-22 July IIM is the third and final three-day meeting since April.
The U.S. suggestion to move development issues to the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD) reflects a proposal put forward at the April IIM by the United Kingdom. Canada proposed at the last meeting of the PCIPD – which followed immediately after the April IIM – that the body be reorganised to address broader concepts.
Brazil, India and others have argued repeatedly that the fundamental changes they are calling for must reach beyond the PCIPD into a range of committees and procedures at WIPO. “I think the U.S. totally rejects anything that changes this organization’s modus operandi that helps developing countries,” a Brazilian delegate charged. “I hope I am not correct.”
The U.S. delegate assured Brazil that his government has expressed a “willingness to discuss” development issues and fully supports U.N. efforts. But he said the United States disagrees with the premises upon which Friends of Development proposal is based – that WIPO has not dealt with development issues, and that intellectual property rights have not been positive for innovation.
Another area of contention between the United States and Brazil was a proposal put forward by Brazil for WIPO to negotiate an “access to knowledge” treaty. Brazil said there is a problem of the appropriation of publicly funded “basic science” and research by private companies which has the effect of removing the knowledge from the public domain.
The access to knowledge treaty, sometimes referred to as the A2K treaty, would ensure this information remains public, feeding science and research, Brazil said. WIPO must address this problem, he said, adding, “We believe an access to knowledge treaty is the real power tool that WIPO should pursue.” Brazil’s delegate cited “worrisome” legislation in the United States that encourages the transfer of more research from universities to private sector, which he said would lead to more monopolies and less innovation.
The United States said it cannot support the proposal, and that it “strongly disagrees” with the principles underlying it and views it as “unnecessary.” Intellectual property has been a strong driver of innovation rather than an impediment, the U.S. said.
The European Union could be the wild-card in the debate, as the United Kingdom’s statement did not reject the access to knowledge treaty proposal, and said WIPO has a role in the debate. On Thursday, the European Union proposed that talks on a stronger development-oriented agenda for the World Intellectual Property Organisation be continued through 2006.
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