World Intellectual Property Organization

Results of the 2005 Assemblies of WIPO Member States

November 2005

WIPO Director General Kamil Idris and Ambassador Enrique Manalo of the Philippines (Photo Mercedes Martínez Dozal)
WIPO Director General Kamil Idris and Ambassador Enrique Manalo of the Philippines (Photo Mercedes Martínez Dozal)

“To me, perhaps the most significant achievement of this year’s General Assembly has been its resolve to preserve WIPO’s tradition of decision-making by consensus.” – Ambassador Enrique Manalo, Chair of the WIPO General Assembly.

Delegations from WIPO’s 183 Member States met in Geneva from September 26 to October 5 to review the activities of the past year and to agree on the agenda for the coming year. The General Assembly was chaired by Ambassador Enrique Manalo, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, who described the results as “a rich harvest.”

Decisions taken by Member States during the meetings included the following.

Program and Budget: 2006-2007

Member States approved by consensus the proposed 2006-2007 program and budget presented by WIPO Director General Kamil Idris, amounting to 531 million Swiss Francs (SFr). After four consecutive biennia of budgeted deficits, the program and budget introduced a policy based on budgetary balance, achieved without any increase in the fees levied on the services provided by WIPO. Key features include no deficit, no surplus, reserves at the level set by Member States, and efficiency gains in various areas. Mr. Idris informed delegates that, following the measures taken to redress the Organization’s financial situation, the 2004-2005 biennium will close with expenditure matching income.

Member States commended the Director General and the management of WIPO for having restored the financial situation within less than a year without compromising the strategic objectives of the Organization. They welcomed the program and budget for 2006-2007 as a major shift in WIPO’s budgetary policy. The budget provides for a SFr 2 million increase in resources for cooperation with developing countries, taking the budgeted amount to SFr 73.7 million.

Member States supported a proposal for WIPO to take out a bank loan to fund the construction of a revised project for a new administrative building. They also approved the establishment of a WIPO Audit Committee and a WIPO Internal Audit Charter to enhance the internal oversight function.

Protection of broadcasting organizations

The General Assembly decided that two additional meetings of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) would be scheduled to accelerate discussions on the second revised consolidated text (SSCR/12/2REV.2) and on the Working Paper (SCCR/12/5 Prov) regarding a proposed treaty on the protection of broadcasters. The resolution states that “these meetings shall aim to agree and finalize a Basic Proposal for a treaty on the protection of the rights of broadcasting organizations in order to enable the 2006 General Assembly to recommend the convening of a Diplomatic Conference in December 2006 or at an appropriate date in 2007.” (A diplomatic conference is convened when negotiators feel that the time is ripe for the adoption of a treaty.)

“This is a very positive development. Member States have established a clear process to address this issue in readiness for a diplomatic conference,” said WIPO Deputy Director General Rita Hayes.

Development agenda

Member States decided to establish a provisional committee in order to accelerate and complete discussions on proposals relating to a WIPO development agenda. This committee will build on the results of the three inter-sessional intergovernmental meetings (IIMs) which were held during the year. In the interim, and without prejudice to the provision of technical assistance, the General Assembly agreed that the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development relating to Intellectual Property (PCIPD), established in 1999, would cease to exist.

 

Trademark fees lowered for LDCs

In a move to promote greater use of the international trademark registration system (Madrid system) by least developed countries (LDCs), Member States of the Madrid Union approved a proposal to reduce filing costs for applicants from LDCs. The proposed reduction would bring down the basic fee payable to WIPO for the International Registration of Marks to only 10 percent of the current fees. The amount payable to WIPO by applicants from LDCs will therefore become SFr. 65 or 90, depending on whether the reproduction of the mark is in black and white or in color. The reduced fees will take effect from January 1, 2006. At present, seven LDCs are party to the Madrid system, namely, Bhutan, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zambia.

Substantive Patent Law Treaty

Member States agreed on a work plan to take forward talks on the draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT), which aims to simplify and achieve greater convergence among national and regional patent laws and practices. The decision calls for a 3-day informal open forum to be held in Geneva in the first quarter of 2006 to discuss issues that have been raised in the draft SPLT or that Member States wish to include in the draft. The forum will include contributions from speakers “reflecting a balance of geographical representation and perspectives and technical expertise.” The program will be published in January 2006 following consultations to be conducted by the Chair of the WIPO General Assembly with interested Member States.

Shortly after the open forum, a three-day informal session of the Standing Committee on Patents (SCP) will be convened to agree on a work program, taking into account the discussions in the open forum. An ordinary session of the SCP will then meet to initiate this work program. The 2006 General Assembly will consider the progress made.

The General Assembly’s decision resolves the previous impasse on how to advance the work of the SCP. Some Member States had favored prioritizing the harmonization of four prior-art- related issues and deferring discussion of other issues of substantive patent law pending resolution of that initial package of issues. Others had been concerned that a reduced set of provisions would exclude from the discussions certain areas of interest to them, notably general exceptions, provisions on the transfer of technology, and provisions on the protection of public interest issues, such as public health, biodiversity and nutrition.

“The procedure adopted by the General Assembly will allow Member States to hold a concrete debate on many important issues with a view to clarifying and advancing the work of the SCP,” said WIPO Deputy Director General Francis Gurry.

Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore

The General Assembly extended the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) for two years and agreed that the IGC should continue its accelerated work with a focus on the international dimension. The renewed mandate, in line with the General Assembly’s 2003 directions to the IGC, excludes no outcome, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments in this field.

The General Assembly also established a Voluntary Fund for Indigenous and Local Communities in order to facilitate the participation in the IGC’s work of representatives of these communities, whose contribution is vital. The lack of a specific funding mechanism has been a key concern of representatives in past IGC sessions. Beneficiaries will be members of indigenous or local communities, or those who represent the customary holders or custodians of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. They will be selected from among the already accredited IGC observers by an Advisory Board of WIPO Member States and indigenous observers. The Voluntary Fund will fund travel and incidental expenses to enable beneficiaries to take part in the sessions of the IGC in Geneva and in related activities. WIPO will take steps to call for voluntary contributions and to put the Fund into operation as soon as possible.

Member States also agreed to transmit to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) a WIPO study on the relationship between disclosure requirements within the IP system and genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) reform

Member States of the Assembly of the PCT Union agreed to include Arabic as a language of publication of the PCT, thereby making the system more easily accessible to applicants from many developing countries.

Member States endorsed a number of proposed amendments to PCT regulations to help applicants avoid loss of rights in certain circumstances, while maintaining an appropriate balance between the interests of applicants and third parties. These amendments will take greater advantage of modern information and communications technology in the publication of PCT applications. They will also strengthen the international search with the addition of patent documents from the Republic of Korea to the PCT minimum documentation used in carrying out international searches. This reflects the increasing number of first patent filings being made with the Korean Intellectual Property Office, particularly in the fields of information technology and biotechnology, making these documents a valuable source of technical information.

Delegates reviewed other recent developments concerning PCT minimum documentation, in particular the inclusion of a wide range of traditional knowledge-related periodicals in the non-patent literature, and the status of a project aimed at developing a Search Guidance Intellectual Property Digital Library (SGIPDL) to help examiners in the choice of documentation to be considered when conducting an international search. The PCT Assembly also took note of the significant progress made in the area of PCT Automation and PCT Information Systems.

Trademark Law Treaty
Member States accepted an offer by the Government of Singapore to host the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) in March 2006. The Conference will update the existing treaty, bringing its procedures relating to the registration of trademarks into line with technological advances in telecommunications in the past decade.

 

International Patent Classification

Member States took note of the status of reform of the International Patent Classification (IPC). The IPC is a hierarchical classification system covering all fields of technology designed to facilitate search and retrieval of patent information. The IPC is periodically revised to take account of technological developments and to ensure a more user-friendly patent classification and search tool for specialists and non-specialists alike. The new (eighth) edition, which enters into force on January 1, 2006, is the product of a 6-year process of reform. The updated edition in English and French was made available in August 2005 on the WIPO website at www.wipo.int/classifications/ipc.

Internet domain names

The General Assembly took note of the status of its 2002 recommendations concerning the protection in the domain name system of country names and of the names and acronyms of international intergovernmental organizations. These recommendations remain under consideration by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). A number of delegations expressed concern about the lack of progress on this matter at ICANN.

New observers
In line with the Organization's commitment to transparency and inclusive debate, the WIPO Assemblies granted observer status to Palestine, to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, to 22 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to 18 national NGOs.

 

Organizations granted observer status are invited to attend the meetings of WIPO Assemblies and other meetings of direct interest to them. National NGOs are granted observer status in conformity with a decision by WIPO Member States in October 2002. This brings the total number of organizations with WIPO observer status to 67 inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), 202 international NGOs and 31 national NGOs.

 

Advisory Committee on Enforcement

The General Assembly reviewed the activities of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE) and encouraged the Committee to continue its work. The ACE was set up in 2002 as a forum for discussion of enforcement matters with a mandate to provide technical assistance and coordination, cooperation and the exchange of information on questions of enforcement.

Protection of audiovisual performances

Member states reviewed the status of consultations on outstanding issues relating to the protection of audiovisual performances and agreed to keep the subject under review at their annual meetings in 2006.

Patent Law Treaty

Following the entry into force of the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) in April 2005, the inaugural assembly of the PLT was convened to establish its Rules of Procedure, consider the applicability of certain changes made under the PCT to the PLT and to decide on future work. Eleven countries are currently party to the treaty, which streamlines procedures for obtaining and maintaining a patent.

Program Performance Report

The General Assembly approved the 2004 Program Performance Report, which provides an assessment of the progress made by WIPO during the year 2004 towards achieving the biennial objectives set out in the 2004 – 2005 Program and Budget. They took note of a second document, the Program Implementation Overview, which outlines activities during the first six months of 2005. Member States commended the achievements accomplished within the framework of rigorous budgetary containment. They highlighted progress made by WIPO in the definition of evaluation parameters (objectives, expected results, performance indicators), which translated into the improved strategic framework contained in the 2006-2007 draft program and budget document. Many delegates again expressed appreciation for the technical and legal assistance provided by WIPO in support of national efforts to integrate IP into development policies, to strengthen IP infrastructure, and to implement international treaties.

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