The 2007 WIPO Assemblies
“WIPO has a role to play in meeting today’s challenges, supreme among which is the challenge of development…It is incumbent on us to sustain and deepen the role of our Organization, to improve the quality and enjoyment of life for all peoples.”- Chair of the General Assembly, Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi (Nigeria). (Photo: WIPO/Mercedes Martínez-Dozal)
The Assemblies of WIPO’s 184 Member States met from September 24 to October 3 to review activities over the past year and discuss the future work program. The General Assembly was chaired by Ambassador Martin I. Uhomoibhi, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, who presided over at times protracted discussions, as Member States moved forward on areas of agreement and sought to resolve differences on issues where consensus proved elusive. The following is a summary of the main decisions.
Sealing what Director General Kamil Idris described as a “milestone decision,” the General Assembly adopted a Development Agenda for WIPO, consisting of a series of recommendations to enhance the development dimension of the Organization’s activities. These include a set of 45 proposals agreed by the Provisional Committee on a WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA) covering six clusters of activities:
- technical assistance and capacity building;
- norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and public knowledge;
- technology transfer, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and access to knowledge;
- assessments, evaluation and impact studies;
- institutional matters including mandate and governance.
Member States agreed to establish a new Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) to monitor, assess and report on the implementation of the adopted recommendations, in coordination with relevant WIPO bodies. The Committee, which will be made up of Member States and will be open to all accredited intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, is expected to meet for the first time in the first half of 2008. The General Assembly also approved a set of 19 proposals for immediate implementation, which were identified following informal consultations organized by the Chairman of the PCDA prior to the General Assembly.
Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC)
The General Assembly agreed to extend the mandate of the IGC for a further two years. Member States recognized the significant work done by the Committee to date, and reaffirmed their commitment to achieving greater convergence on the issues. The decision renews the 2005 General Assembly’s directions to the IGC to accelerate its work, and to focus in particular on the international dimension. The mandate excludes no outcome, including the possible development of international instruments in this field without prejudice to the work pursued in other fora.
Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP)
Delegates unanimously agreed to commission a report by WIPO on issues relating to the international patent system, covering the different needs and interests of all Member States. They agreed a draft outline for the report and specified that it should contain no conclusions. The report will constitute the working document for a session of the SCP to be held in the first half of 2008, and will be made available to all SCP members and observers by the end of March 2008.
Protection of Broadcasting Organizations
Delegations noted that, following two special sessions of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), progress had been made towards a better understanding of the positions of the various stakeholders. Member States expressed the wish that all the parties continue to strive to achieve agreement on the objectives, specific scope and object of protection. They decided that the subject of broadcasting and cablecasting organizations should be retained on the SCCR agenda for its regular sessions, and that they should only consider convening a Diplomatic Conference after agreement on objectives, specific scope and object of protection has been achieved.
"My Chairmanship of the WIPO Assemblies has strengthened my sincere belief that multilateralism remains a powerful instrument for forging international cooperation on IP issues that, in turn, could lead to tremendous benefits for mankind." - Statement by the outgoing Chair of the General Assembly, Mr. Enrique Manalo (Philippines).
The Protection of Audiovisual Performances
Member States noted that WIPO had organized a series of seminars in Africa, Asia and Latin America to promote progress at the levels of national legislation and international consensus-building. In preparing these events, which would continue next year, WIPO followed a flexible and balanced approach to the protection of performers at the national level, in such practical areas as contractual relations and collective bargaining, the exercise and transfer of rights and remuneration systems. Member States agreed to keep the issue on the agenda of the 2008 General Assembly.
Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE)
The General Assembly noted the large number of activities undertaken in the field of IP enforcement in the last year at the international, regional and national levels. Member States discussed the future work of the ACE, including whether the Committee should focus on elaborating best practices and guidelines or on examining development-oriented concerns and broader societal interests.
Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks
Decisions by the Assembly of the Madrid Union for the international registration of trademarks will fundamentally change the structure of the Madrid system. In particular, Members approved the repeal of the “safeguard clause.” This means that, as from September 1, 2008, for states bound by both the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol, only the provisions of the Protocol - the more recent and flexible of the two treaties - will apply. The Protocol relaxes certain provisions of the Agreement, in order to allow adherence by states and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) whose trademark registration systems do not match with the provisions of the Agreement, particularly in respect of the fees to be paid by applicants, the choice of working languages and the applicable time-limits.
The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs
The Assembly of the Hague Union agreed a number of changes to the fee structure under the Hague Agreement, as a result of which applicants from least developed countries (LDCs) will soon benefit from a significant reduction in certain fees payable under the Hague System. The Assembly also adopted a recommendation encouraging member countries which charge individual designation fees, to indicate that, for applicants from LDCs, these fees are reduced to 10 percent of the fixed amount.
The Madrid and Hague Unions also approved a four-year investment program (2008-2011), aimed at generating efficiencies by modernizing the IT infrastructure of both the Madrid and Hague systems.
Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
The PCT Assembly approved several new features and flexibilities to enhance the international patent application filing system under the PCT.
The Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property and the Indian Patent Office were appointed as International Searching Authorities (ISAs) and as International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEAs). This brings to 15 the total number of such Authorities, which prepare international search reports and opinions on patent applications submitted under the PCT. The appointment of the other 13 offices presently acting as ISAs and IPEAswas extended for a period of 10 years. Member States also approved an optional supplementary international search system to enable applicants to find additional relevant prior art at an early stage and in additional languages. The Regulations governing this system will enter into force on January 1, 2009, although the supplementary search services will only be available when at least one ISA offers them. ISAs are free to decide whether to provide this supplementary service and under which conditions.
Korean and Portuguese were added to the existing eight languages in which PCT applications may be published, with effect from January 1, 2009.
Regarding PCT fees, Member States requested that WIPO carry out a study on eligibility criteria to determine the developing and least developed countries whose applicants should benefit from reduced fees. There was no agreement, however, regarding proposals for an across-the-board PCT fee reduction at this stage.
Patent Law Treaty (PLT)
The PLT Assembly unanimously agreed on the applicability to the PLT of a number of modifications to the Administrative Instructions under the PCT made in the past year, and adopted four model international forms, which can be used for the relevant purposes before the patent office of any contracting party to the Treaty. Member States took note of measures to provide developing and least developed countries and countries in transition with additional technical assistance to meet their obligations under the PLT, in particular, in relation to the filing of communications in electronic form in those countries.
Digital Access Service for Priority Documents
Member States noted progress in implementing a new voluntary service that responds to the business needs of applicants by enabling them to meet priority document requirements of patent offices without having physically to obtain and submit certified copies with each of them. This service, under development by WIPO with a number of patent offices, is expected to become operational in the first half of 2008.
Internal Audit Report
Member States were divided over the procedure to adopt in respect of a confidential internal audit report concerning allegations against the Director General. The views of delegations were split broadly between those advocating a debate on the substance of the report in the current session of the General Assembly, and those who held that such a debate would compromise due process, and that the General Assembly should at this stage address only the procedural aspects.
Following informal consultations on the agenda item by the “Friends of the Chair” (a small group of delegates comprising the regional coordinators plus one delegation from each regional group), the Chairman proposed that the report should be referred to the Audit Committee for a review within 60 days. The Friends of the Chair, however, were unable to find agreement on the proposal. The Chairman finally ruled, therefore, that “the Assembly did not agree on this matter,” and left it for Member States to determine, through further consultations, how the matter should be addressed.
Program and Budget
Notwithstanding the recommendations of the Program and Budget Committee in September, Member States were unable to reach consensus on the adoption of the revised budget for the 2006/07 biennium and the proposed 2008/09 program and budget. Some delegations felt that it was not possible to approve these items without further addressing certain other unresolved issues on the Assemblies’ agenda; while other delegations favored immediate approval of the program and budget without linkage to other issues. In the absence of consensus, Member States put the matter to the vote. While a majority of votes cast were in favor (64 for; 44 against), this did not constitute the required two-thirds majority (72 votes) and hence the program and budget documents were not adopted at this session.
Under the WIPO Convention (Article 11(4)(e)), if the budget is not adopted before the beginning of a new financial period, the budget continues at the same level as the previous year’s budget, in accordance with the financial regulations.
Report of the Desk-to-Desk Assessment
Member States widely welcomed the Final Report on the Desk-to-Desk Assessment of WIPO’s Human and Financial Resources as helpful for all WIPO’s stakeholders in improving key elements within the management and administrative areas such as human resource policies and performance management. Member States concluded that the proposal for implementing the recommendations of the Final Report under an integrated Organizational Improvement Plan and the corresponding road map prepared by the secretariat should be reviewed by the Audit Committee and then be submitted to Member States for consideration and approval.
“The future of the IP system depends on the commitment of those participating in it. To ensure its healthy and constructive evolution, individual advantage has to take second place to the collective good. Such a symbiotic system ultimately can only survive if all its constituent parts flourish and receive the nourishment they need.”- From “WIPO, The Past Decade and Beyond,” submitted to the Assemblies by the WIPO Secretariat.
Internal Oversight Mechanisms
The General Assembly approved the revised terms of reference of the Audit Committee and the revised Internal Audit Charter, which constitutes the framework for WIPO’s internal audit function and establishes its mission. The General Assembly took note of the report from the Director of Internal Audit and Oversight and the Audit Committee, including a first Evaluation Policy for WIPO. This will provide a comprehensive framework for planning and conducting evaluations in order to improve the effectiveness of activities within WIPO’s results-based management system.
New Financial Regulations and Rules
Member States adopted the new Financial Regulations and Rules which were elaborated in consultation with Member States, the WIPO Audit Committee, the External Auditor and the Internal Auditor, and in line with current best practice in the United Nations organizations and other international standards. These will enter into force on January 1, 2008.
In line with the Organization's commitment to transparency and inclusive debate, the WIPO Assemblies granted observer status to ten additional IGOs and four additional national non-governmental organizations. At present, 66 IGOs, 211 international NGOs and 35 national NGOs have observer status with WIPO.
2006 Program Performance Report
The General Assembly approved the Organization’s Program Performance Report for 2006, expressing satisfaction with progress in a wide range of activities, most notably the positive results obtained by the PCDA. Member States commended WIPO’s extensive technical and legal assistance in building capacity within developing countries and transition economies, and urged WIPO to continue and intensify this activity.
1. Namely, the offices of Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Finland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, the US, the European Patent Office and the Nordic Patent Institute