WIPO Assemblies Approve IGC Roadmap

15 October 2012

The World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) 185 member states brought their annual Assemblies meeting to a close last week, approving a roadmap aimed at moving forward negotiations at the Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions (IGC).

The meeting also resulted in an endorsement of a work plan aimed at intensifying negotiations next year over a legal instrument to improve access to copyrighted material for the visually impaired and print disabled, and agreement to expedite WIPO's trademark body's works on industrial designs.

Based on the outcome of the annual conference, three thematic IGC meetings will take place - one for each area of work - to work on text(s) for an international legal instrument(s) that will ensure the effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. The last thematic session, which is scheduled for July 2013, will be extended in order to review and take stock of the text(s) and make a recommendation to next year's General Assembly, which will decide whether to convene a diplomatic conference.

The work programme resulted from days of "intense and lengthy" informal negotiations that were held during the Assemblies under Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, who serves as the committee's chair. While developing countries - the African Group in particular - asked for additional meetings, developed countries were generally reluctant toward extending the IGC sessions.

The nature of the future instrument(s) sparked debate among WIPO members during the talks, with the US among those noting that a "wide divergence of views" remains with regard to the texts.

"The objectives and the draft articles need further refinement before any instrument can be finalised and a decision can be reached on the nature of these instruments," the Group of Central European and Baltic States (CEBS) added. The EU, for its part, reiterated that the instrument(s) should be "flexible, sufficiently clear, and non-binding."

However, developing countries urged WIPO members to engage in negotiations to achieve binding legal instruments in the three IGC areas of work.

"International binding rules would correct the imbalances of the international intellectual property system that served the interests of some and not the legitimate interests of others," Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries, said.

"WIPO administers treaties, legally binding agreements, not recommendations," Zimbabwe added.

As the nine-day talks came to a close, General Assemblies Chair Ambassador Uglješa Zvekić from Serbia praised delegates for the progress achieved in advancing the UN agency's normative agenda.

"No doubt this was the most productive and constructive gathering, which reached agreements on a number of important issues, ranging from... deliberations on the future which lies ahead of us, to setting criteria and timeframes for the conclusion of works in the normative arena," he said.

More information

For a more detailed report on the outcome of the Assemblies, see Bridges Weekly, 10 October 2012.

ICTSD Reporting.

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