World Intellectual Property Organization

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INDUSTRY ADVISORY COMMISSION REPORT OF THE INAUGURAL MEETING
GENEVA, FEBRUARY 4 AND 5, 1999

1. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Industry Advisory Commission (IAC) held its first meeting at WIPO Headquarters in Geneva on February 4 and 5, 1999. The list of participants is attached.

2. The Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, opened the meeting. He drew attention to the two constituencies of WIPO-the Member States, on the one hand, and the market sector, on the other hand-and emphasized the importance that he placed on having the direct input of industry into the policy-making process in WIPO. While the Member States retained complete responsibility for making the policy of the Organization and the IAC's role was advisory, Dr. Idris stated that he considered it to be essential that industry's voice be heard in order for the Organization to be responsive to the needs of the market sector.

3. All members of the IAC welcomed the Director General's initiative in establishing the IAC and opening a direct and broad dialogue with industry, and expressed their willingness to contribute actively and constructively to the program of the Organization.

4. The discussions of the meeting focussed on the following matters:

(i) electronic commerce and intellectual property;

(ii) intellectual property and wealth creation;

(iii) the cost of obtaining patent protection;

(iv) change and policy-making at the international level;

(v) the working methods of the IAC.

Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property

5. Following a presentation on the current work program of WIPO in the area of electronic commerce and intellectual property by Dr. Francis Gurry, Legal Counsel, the IAC had a wide-ranging discussion on the impact of electronic commerce and the digital economy on intellectual property.

6. It was agreed that electronic commerce was a broad subject whose impact was being felt on all sectors of the economy. In view of the scale of the subject and the work being carried out in other organizations, it was considered important that WIPO should limit itself to the dimension of intellectual property.

7. The situation of developing countries with respect to electronic commerce was discussed at some length. It was pointed out that the advent of electronic commerce was a source of some anxiety for many developing countries, both because of the potential loss of tariff and taxation revenue and because of lack of infrastructure for, access to and information about developments in relation to electronic commerce. It was considered important not to underestimate the difficulty of the challenges presented for developing countries by electronic commerce. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities of electronic commerce, a careful strategy and plan was needed covering the technological, legal, political, educational and cultural fabric of society. On the other hand, it was emphasized that electronic commerce did not require a sophisticated industrial infrastructure and offered many opportunities for developing countries to take advantage of the direct marketing possibilities of digital networks and of openings for labor-intensive software development.

8. It was suggested that WIPO give consideration to the creation of a virtual market for intellectual property. In particular, consideration could be given to making available information about intellectual property rights for sale or licensing in such a market and facilitating transactions in such rights, as well as to the development or deployment of tools for tracking royalty streams in respect of digital works that were incorporated in other works or modified by other authors or inventors.

9. The effect on intellectual property of the disintermediation being brought about by digital networks was discussed from several perspectives. First, it was pointed out that the Internet was increasing the ease with which infringing goods could be distributed across borders and making the task of detection of infringing products more difficult. Secondly, the more radical effect of disintermediation on historic distribution and licensing channels was discussed, as well as the consequences for the territorial basis of intellectual property rights.

10. The IAC recommended that WIPO address rapidly the issues arising out of the impact on intellectual property of electronic commerce. In this respect, it was conscious that the rapid development of electronic commerce made it difficult not only to develop timely responses to those issues, but also, at a more preliminary stage, to describe and identify the issues themselves. The IAC considered that its members could endeavor collectively to establish a list of such issues. It was agreed that the members of the IAC would work to develop and refine that list over the time before its next meeting.

Intellectual Property and Wealth Creation

11. The discussions were introduced by a presentation by Mr. Roberto Castelo, Deputy Director General.

12. It was generally agreed that a positive relationship existed between the generation, exploitation and protection of intellectual property and the creation of wealth, which relationship was becoming more pronounced and more important as the economy became increasingly knowledge- or information based.

13. It was considered important that the benefits of intellectual property protection be emphasized by WIPO in promoting intellectual property protection, rather than merely the legal obligation of compliance with standards of intellectual property protection. In addition, it was considered that more emphasis should be placed on the exploitation of intellectual property than on mere protection.

14. The IAC recommended that WIPO strengthen its efforts to promote actively the benefits of intellectual property and the role that it plays in economic development to the widest possible audience in society. In particular, the IAC considered

(i) that it was important to demystify intellectual property, which could best be achieved through simple messages and a broad public education campaign;

(ii) that case studies should be developed, with the assistance of members of the IAC, that demonstrated the advantages of intellectual property protection on the level of the individual, the enterprise, the industry and the country;

(iii) that thought should be given to enlisting the support of famous personalities who were scientists, artists, musicians or actors, and who might be willing to lend their names and support to public education campaigns in favor of intellectual property protection.

The Cost of Obtaining Patent Protection

15. Great concern was expressed by members of the IAC at the high cost of obtaining and maintaining patent protection throughout the world and the potentially detrimental effect of that high cost on the efficient functioning of the patent system.

16. The IAC

(i) recommended that WIPO should actively address the question of the cost of obtaining and maintaining patent protection as part of its program;

(ii) deplored the practice in some countries of diverting revenue from patent application and maintenance fees to non-intellectual property related areas;

(iii) recommended that WIPO initiate a process directed ultimately at establishing a system for a global patent or at revising the PCT system so as to facilitate the grant of a patent through the PCT procedure in a simple and timely manner.

Change and Policy-Making at the International Level

17. Lack of time precluded a full discussion of this issue at the meeting. In the preliminary discussion on the question, however, it was noted that the length of time required for the negotiation, conclusion and subsequent entry into force of new international treaties was increasingly incompatible with the speed at which technological developments raised problems or issues that needed to be addressed at the international level. Two suggestions made to shorten the response time at the international level were, first, the establishment of deadlines for concluding negotiations on particular matters and, secondly, the use of small drafting committees or "Chair's drafts" as a device to speed up the development of texts between formal meetings.

Working Methods of the IAC

18. At the suggestion of its members, a list-server would be established by WIPO for the IAC to facilitate communications and work between meetings.

19. It was suggested that WIPO should invite a leading person from business, industry or academia to address the IAC on a specific subject at each of its meetings.

20. It was also suggested that WIPO should invite representatives of organizations or groups that were opposed to intellectual property protection to speak at IAC meetings so that members of the IAC could better appreciate the positions espoused by such organizations or groups and be in a better position to counter arguments against intellectual property protection.

21. It was suggested that consideration be given to convening the next meeting of the IAC on the day preceding (September 13, 1999) the WIPO International Conference on Intellectual Property and Electronic Commerce (to be held from September 14 to 16, 1999), since many of the members of the IAC would in any case be attending that Conference. It was further suggested that the meeting could be devoted to the subject of electronic commerce and intellectual property.

[List of IAC Members follows]

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