WIPO Enforcement Committee Gives Development Concerns Centre Stage

11 November 2009

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Advisory Committee on Enforcement met from 2 to 4 November to discuss the involvement of right holders in enforcement and how the organisation can promote an environment of respect for intellectual property rights. The talks were driven by a consideration of Recommendation 45 of the WIPO Development Agenda, which states that intellectual property enforcement should be approached "in the context of broader societal interests and especially development-oriented concerns."

The Committee's discussions centred on eight expert papers and three concept papers put forward by Brazil, Pakistan and the group of developed countries.

A study from Carsten Fink, currently WIPO Chief's Economist, provided insight on available piracy figures and proposed a new methodology for the analysis of IP enforcement costs and benefits. The paper was published by ICTSD before Fink had taken up his current position (ICTSD also publishes Bridges Weekly). Another study by Sisule Musungu, head of the Geneva-based NGO IQsensato coincided with Fink's paper, stating that providing more accurate data to institutions and countries would allow for improved policies.

Pakistan's paper, "Creating an Enabling Environment to Build Respect for IP," highlighted that stronger laws do not always lead to better enforcement. The paper suggested that intellectual property rights can gain respect if developing countries are allowed improved access to protected materials. Brazil's paper stressed the importance of customised IP programmes for individual countries based on their economic and social needs and capacities.

These papers reflect the growing demand for balanced discussions at the multilateral level to address IP enforcement alongside a broader range of public policy concerns, including economic and social development.

Such insights led the committee's discussion of its future agenda. The meeting concluded with a strong sense among delegates that the analysis of intellectual property enforcement should be re-evaluated, in terms of both methodology and data. The committee specifically agreed to consider, at its next session, an elaboration of several issues raised in Fink's study, including a literature review of methodologies and gaps in the existing studies and the identification of different types of infractions and motivations for IPR infringements, taking into account social, economic and technological variables and different levels of development. Along similar lines, the committee also agreed to work to develop analytical methodologies that measure the social, economic and commercial impact of counterfeiting and piracy.

Participants left encouraged by the talks and said they thought the meeting had a positive outcome.

This upbeat spirit is significant as other initiatives on enforcement outside the realm of the multilateral system are running into increased controversy in relation to their public policy implications.

The WIPO Development Agenda (DA), which was established in October 2007, consists of a list of 45 recommendations on how the organisation can better integrate development concerns into its activities.

ICTSD reporting; "IP enforcement work at WIPO gets boost from developing nations," IP-WATCH, 6 November 2009; "Positive outcome reached at WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement while ACTA looms in the East," KEI, 2 November 2009.

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