10. Before submitting the Draft Agenda for approval, the Chair made several general comments on the work of the Committee. Equal weight and time should be given to all three issues before the Committee: genetic resources, traditional knowledge (TK) and folklore; the Committee was encouraged to deliver tangible results, such as those canvassed in documents WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/4, WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/5 and WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/6. All Committee Members would be given the chance to speak, yet interventions should be brief. Members should try to reach consensus decisions, rather than decide issues on the basis of a majority. Individual Members would not be encouraged to make general opening statements, but were asked to concentrate on the specific documents and issues at hand. The Chair proposed that WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/12 be discussed under Agenda Item 4 (Genetic Resources) after WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/4, and the Draft Agenda (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/1) was adopted on this understanding.
11. The Delegation of Argentina, on behalf of Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, said that it was grateful for the detailed and substantive documentation prepared by the Secretariat, but that very few of the documents were currently available in Spanish. Many of the documents had not been distributed at least two months in advance of the third session, as the WIPO guidelines required.
12. The Delegation of Egypt raised the question of the availability of the documentation in Arabic. The Delegation stated that Arabic was an official language in twenty-two countries. The Delegation stated that this issue had also been raised at the two preceeding sessions and that it would appreciate an explanation from the Secretariat as to why documents were only available in English, French and Spanish. Several other delegations expressed concern as to the unavailability of documentation in Arabic and noted that this concern was expressed on behalf of all Arab-speaking countries.
13. The Delegation of Algeria, on behalf of the African group, stated that it hoped that the third session would demonstrate the same spirit of cooperation as in preceding meetings. The Delegation expressed concern regarding the issue of documentation in Arabic. The Delegation also commented that, on behalf of the African Group, it would later present a position paper on the issues to be discussed by the Committee.
14. In responding to the above, the Secretariat stated that it was highly conscious that certain documents had only recently been disseminated to Committee Members. This was partly because some documentation had been circulated earlier for comment and required input from Members, and much of the subject matter addressed by the Committee was new territory and had required a considerable amount of work by the Secretariat. In the future, the Secretariat would endeavor to send out documentation at least two months prior to the meeting date. Noting the concerns raised by the Delegation of Egypt on behalf of all
Arab-speaking nations, confirmed that the established practice within WIPO was for documentation for all Committee meetings (such as the Standing Committees and the present Committee) to be prepared in the three working languages of the Secretariat (English, French and Spanish). Only for WIPO diplomatic conferences and Assemblies was documentation prepared in the six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). It noted that after coming to office the current Director General of WIPO had extended the interpretation available for Committees to all six official languages, whereas in the past it had only been available in the three working languages. He noted that to translate all documentation into all six official languages for all Committee meetings would involve changes in the structure of Secretariat, the program and budget, and the engagement of a considerable number of language experts. It further stated that such a change would need to be placed before the Program and Budget Committee and approved by the WIPO General Assembly, since the issue would have significant budgetary implications.
15. The Delegation of Egypt stated that it was the first time that it had been informed that the issue of translation within the United Nations was one of budget and that it should have been informed of this at the first session of the Committee. The Delegation reaffirmed the entitlement of Arab-speaking delegations to receive all Committee documentation in Arabic.
16. The Delegation of India, on behalf of the Asian Group, said that the countries of its region were rich in genetic resources, TK and folklore and it was committed to working with all countries for achieving conclusions which moved them towards protection of those resources. The Delegation recalled the position paper submitted at the previous session of the Committee, which reflected the broad convergence of views on those crucial issues and the Group's specific needs and interests. The Delegation was pleased to see that many of the Group's concerns were being addressed in the work of the Committee. The Asian Group commended documents WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/8 and IC/3/9 that sought to clarify the complex elements of a sui generis system and the definitions to be agreed to before these issues could be addressed in the Committee. Concerning legal protection of expressions of folklore, the Asian Group had suggested that WIPO explore practical options for the protection of tangible expressions of folklore through existing intellectual property rights (IPRs), such as copyright, industrial designs, certification and collective marks, and geographical indications, and, if necessary, study the possibility of establishing additional IPRs for handicrafts and other tangible expressions of folklore which were not protected by such existing rights. The Secretariat had conducted a survey on national experiences with the protection of folklore and from the limited information available had concluded that there was currently little practical experience with the implementation of existing systems and measures which countries had established in law. National systems, therefore, needed to be strengthened. But equally, there was a strong need for international protection for expressions of folklore. These suggestions would need to be discussed in detail by the Committee and the suggested tasks approved.
17. The Delegation of China expressed its satisfaction in seeing that, after its two first sessions, the Committee had already started achieving concrete results. The Delegation emphasized some of the important points and supported, in principle, the statement of the Delegation of India, on behalf of the Asian Group.
18. The Delegation of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the contents of document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/3/15, which was circulated to the Committee. The position adopted by the African Group is provided as Annex II of this Report.
19. Mr. Edwin Vasallo, Minister for Economic Services of Malta made a general statement. He referred to the essential role played by the intellectual property (IP) system in the promotion of a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. He had emphasized to Maltese entrepreneurs the essential role of this system for a healthy business environment and a prosperous economy. IP legislation had existed in Malta for over a century and was consolidated when the Industrial Property Office was set up as a distinct entity in 1994. Through this last period, WIPO had co-operated with that Office in raising awareness of the use and value of IPRs and in training staff. WIPO had also assisted in updating IP legislation through consultations. Innovators could now protect their economic rights through an extensive modern legislative framework. WIPO had recently supported a seminar on IP for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), which had been welcomed as timely by many organizations. His government hoped that this past cooperation would continue in the future so as to consolidate what had been achieved. He recorded his personal gratitude to the Director General of WIPO and the Secretariat for their commitment and endeavors in promoting the use of IP, and welcomed the Director General's emphasis on developing IP systems in developing countries and increasing awareness amongst SMEs. Turning to the Committee's work, the Minister referred to the questions that the Committee was aiming to answer. While his country lacked formal innovators, the people were innovators in the informal sense of the word, constantly coming up with new ideas and solutions. His country had a rich and vivid historical heritage, one of the oldest in the world, and a wealth of traditions and folklore, handed down through the generations, drawn from diverse sources and influences. Space was limited, and natural vegetation was under threat. The Committee could therefore understand why he attached great importance to the issues of genetic resources, TK and folklore. Malta was drafting new legislation on plants, seeds and propagating material and was working to conserve local flora. Endemic plants that were near to extinction had been saved through the micropropagation of tissue culture and replanted in nature. Genetically modified organisms were currently banned in Malta, in line with the moratorium imposed by the European Union. The Malta Crafts Council had recently been set up within his Ministry to promote and protect local crafts and the products of Maltese folklore, with a certification system to distinguish authentic Maltese craft products from imitations which had recently entered the market. This system had added value to local products, and enhanced the image of Maltese crafts. Work was in train on a conformity mark for certain crafts sectors to set manufacturing standards. The Crafts Council promoted local traditions and crafts through awareness seminars, targeted marketing, a website, and a Directory of Craftsmen. Regular exhibitions were held, and information distributed to inform locals and tourists about the value of Maltese traditions, especially crafts. Crafts workers registered with the Council received these services at no charge. His Ministry was encouraging innovation within the crafts sector. Yet products made according to local traditions were being copied, manufactured and sold cheaply. The survival of Maltese traditions and folklore required a system to protect TK and folklore. The leeway afforded to counterfeiters should be minimized. An adequate and efficient enforcement system was needed to deter potential infringers and to catch those who did breach IPRs.