The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the UN agency responsible for treaties involving copyright, patent, and trademark laws. Although WIPO, like other UN agencies, is charged with furthering humanitarian aims, historically it has created treaties that ratchet up intellectual property rights no matter the consequences to the developing world.
This is changing. Brazil and Argentina, leading a group of 14 countries (with the support of other developing nations such as India, Pakistan, and the African Group), have demanded that WIPO adopt a "development agenda," whereby all of its new treaties will take into account international development goals. Now comes the hard part: turning this proposal into a concrete plan of action.
In July 2005, WIPO's Member States held the last of three Intergovernmental Inter-sessional Meetings (IIMs) on the proposal to establish a WIPO Development Agenda. The goal was to produce a set of specific humanitarian reform proposals to be discussed in the September 2005 meeting of the WIPO General Assembly.
Unfortunately, the US and Japan blocked consensus by the majority of the Member States to extend the discussions for a year with three further IIMs. They want to shift the Development Agenda discussions to the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development Related to Intellectual Property (PCIPD), a limited and less powerful advisory committee. So instead of moving forward with concrete proposals for reform, Member States must wait for a decision by the WIPO General Assembly about the proper forum to hold future discussions.
Despite this procedural stalling, some countries made excellent proposals during these meetings (in particular, see the Group of Friends of Development proposal). A preliminary but substantive debate did take place on a number of key issues identified by the IIM Chair(see Annex 2).
The proposals fell into four main categories:
(1) WIPO mandate and governance: WIPO should amend its constitution to expressly incorporate the UN's Millennium Development Goals, operate in a member-driven manner, and ensure transparency and civil society participation.
(2) WIPO norm-setting: When creating treaties, WIPO should assess the impact on development objectives.
(3) WIPO technical assistance: WIPO should act impartially and take into account countries' individual development objectives when helping implement treaties.
(4) Transfer of technology and access to knowledge: WIPO should promote the transfer and dissemination of technology to developing countries in order to accelerate their economic, social, and cultural development.
EFF has created a table that aims to clarify these complex but important discussions, providing our interpretation of Member States' positions on the proposals that were discussed.(*) That way, you can see where your government stands.
The fight is not over! Next week, on September 16, the third IIM will reconvene for the specific purpose of adopting the report to be put forward to the General Assembly.
What can you do? Contact your government's WIPO representative, either before next week's September 16 meeting, or before the WIPO General Assembly meeting on September 26, and ask him or her to support the proposal to extend the mandate of the Development Agenda IIMs to allow discussions to continue for another year.
For more information, check out the EFF's web page on the WIPO Development Agenda.
*Please note that we are providing this information as a public service to our members and the general public. The table is based on our understanding of Member States' public statements at the IIMs. We have made our best effort to provide accurate information. Any errors are unintentional, and regretted. We welcome correction of any factual inaccuracies from country representatives.