ITEM 14 OF THE CONSOLIDATED AGENDA:
137. Discussions were based on document A/33/4.
138. The Delegation of Egypt expressed support for the proposed activities of WIPO in relation to intellectual property and electronic commerce. Referring to the declaration on electronic commerce adopted by the second Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Delegation stated that WIPO should take into account the related work of other international organizations, as well as the development requirements and needs of developing countries. The Delegation considered that there was a need to study the definition of electronic commerce with a view to coordinating WIPO's work with that of other international organizations. It expressed its support for the three regional consultation meetings proposed to take place in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the last quarter of 1998, and noted that the results from these meetings should be analyzed carefully before convening the International Conference which should be held in due time. It considered that every effort should be made to avoid a conflict in the dates of the international conference with other important events in Geneva. The Delegation supported the proposed study on electronic commerce and intellectual property and, in particular, requested that a study be made of the impact of electronic commerce on developing countries. The Delegation expressed support for a Steering Committee in order to provide guidance to the Director General on issues relating to electronic commerce, and noted that there should be adequate representation on this Committee from developing countries, as well as transparency in the manner of selection of the Committee and its activities. The Delegation expressed its support for the Internet Domain Name Process being undertaken by WIPO, particularly its focus on the resolution of disputes concerning Internet domain names. The Delegation sought clarification and further information on the affiliation between WIPO and the new organization to be established to administer the domain name system.
139. In response to the statement made by the Delegation of Egypt, the Secretariat stated that it took note of the concerns expressed by that delegation which were fully in line with the work methods adopted by the International Bureau on that particular matter. The Secretariat assured the Delegation of Egypt that the needs of developing countries, as well as the development aspect in general, were fundamental priorities of the International Bureau in tackling this particular area. It confirmed that the work done by other international organizations or regional organizations involved in this area would be taken into consideration and that the proposed Steering Committee would bring together experts from all regional groups.
140. The Delegation of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed its support for the proposals of WIPO in relation to electronic commerce and underlined the importance of making available more information about the subject. In this respect, the Delegation requested that the proposed issues paper on the impact of electronic commerce on the intellectual property system be circulated before the proposed regional consultation meetings. The Delegation noted that the time frame for the regional consultation meetings was very short.
141. The Delegation of India expressed its support for WIPO's initiative and proactive program in the area of electronic commerce and expressed its confidence that, within the work program of WIPO, the interests of both developed and developing countries would be taken into account. The Delegation stated that the pace of work in this area should take into account the resources and level of understanding of these issues in developing countries. It considered that appropriate representation from developing countries should be assured on the Steering Committee. With respect to Internet domain names, the Delegation requested more information about the proposed cooperation with the new organization that would manage the technical and policy aspects of the Internet domain name system. The Delegation stated that the role of WIPO in this area should be considered with respect to the definition of famous trademarks, and attention should be given to the use of names taken from traditional knowledge as domain names.
142. The Delegation of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of Group B, endorsed the proposals in document A/33/4, and stated that it considered it to be very important that WIPO assume a leadership role in the area of intellectual property aspects of electronic commerce. The Delegation considered that careful consideration should be given to an appropriate involvement of the Member States should be ensured in these activities, and in particular, in the organization of regional consultations.
143. The Delegation of Chile expressed its support for the document prepared by the Secretariat, and noted the very short period of time in which the issues involved in electronic commerce had generated considerable interest. The Delegation of Chile stressed that electronic commerce had raised a series of problems and legitimate fears, particularly in the developing countries, that had resulted in various international organizations addressing the topic from the angle of their respective competencies. The Delegation expressed its support for the proposed regional consultation meetings and, in particular, the international conference planned for 1999, and the proposed Steering Committee. The Delegation recommended that WIPO adopt measures so as not to duplicate the work of other international organizations particularly the World Trade Organization. The Delegation noted the serious problem posed by the relationship between domain names and trademarks and expressed support for an institution to administer the domain name system. The Delegation expressed its support for initiating the international process with regard to Internet domain names as proposed by the Director General in order to reach a rapid solution to that type of problem.
144. The Delegation of Uruguay stated that the topic was of particular importance to its country, which had one of the highest ratio of Internet users to population. It considered that conflicts between domain names and trademarks should be studied in a transparent and participatory process.
145. The Delegation of Mexico expressed its concern with respect to the lack of legal and technical preparation of many countries when dealing with the subject of electronic commerce. The Delegation expressed its support for the work program of WIPO to ensure that there would be legal and technical stability for further development in this area of electronic commerce. The Delegation noted that countries needed practical measures, including information sharing, to promote electronic commerce in the area of intellectual property.
146. The Delegation of Brazil noted that electronic commerce was of great and growing importance on the contemporary international agenda and thanked the Secretariat for the document it had prepared. The Delegation expressed its support for the proposals in the first part of document A/33/4, as reflected in paragraph 9 of the document, noting that WIPO had both expertise and legitimacy to examine intellectual property issues in electronic commerce. With respect to Internet domain names, the Delegation of Brazil noted that the international process convened by WIPO was unique and addressed a complex matter, with participants from various sectors of the community, governments and individual trademark holders. Noting that it would be important that WIPO carry out the proposed regional consultation meetings, the Delegation stressed the need to avoid any overlap between the work involving the protection of famous marks in respect of Internet domain names within the context of the Domain Name Process and the work that was being done to review famous trademarks within the framework of the Standing Committee on Trademarks. The Delegation noted that paragraph 25 of document A/33/4 indicated that the findings and recommendations resulting from the process would be made available to the new corporation and reported to the Member States for consideration. The Delegation indicated that there should be an opportunity for Member States to consider any results of the process before they were communicated to the new corporation. The Delegation requested that any information on the new corporation be made available to the Member States.
147. In response to the questions of the Delegation of Brazil, the Secretariat explained that the international process concerning domain names related mainly to dispute resolution procedures. With respect to famous trademarks, the terms of reference of the process concerned a mechanism for the protection of famous marks. In contrast, the Standing Committee on Trademarks was dealing with the normative elements of what constituted a famous mark. With respect to providing information concerning the new corporation being formed to administer the domain names system, information would be made available on the web site which had been established by the Secretariat for the Domain Name Process and in paper form for circulation to the Member States when clear information became available on the situation relating to the new corporation.
148. The Delegation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia stated that, although there was disparity in the readiness of countries to deal with issues involving intellectual property and electronic commerce, the activities proposed in paragraphs 7 to 9 of document A/33/4 should proceed immediately. The Delegation stated its support, in particular, for the proposed Steering Committee, and the Internet Domain Name Process.
149. The Delegation of Argentina congratulated the Director General on his initiative in making available all means to address the theme of electronic commerce. The Delegation emphasized the importance of holding regional consultations and added that it considered that whether or not to have an international conference could only be established after those consultations had been carried out. In addition, given the complexity of the subject, it suggested holding seminars prior to the regional consultations. In relation to Internet domain names, the Delegation considered that the Standing Committee on Trademarks should draw up a study on the subject in order to bring it to the attention of Member States.
150. The Delegation of Cuba stated that electronic commerce was an important topic and congratulated WIPO on its work on the subject. It expressed the hope that all developing countries would be able to participate in any forums that might be convened to discuss the subject, owing to its importance in international business exchanges. It considered that WIPO should take into account the work of other organizations, including coordination with national Internet organizations.
151. The Delegation of Colombia expressed its support for the proposals on electronic commerce, including, in particular, the proposed regional consultation meetings, international conference, the proposed Steering Committee, and the Internet Domain Name Process.
152. The Delegation of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, stated that it approved the proposals set out in paragraphs 9 and 26 of document A/33/4. It sought information on the intended composition of the Steering Committee which, it assumed, would have a balanced geographical representation and would be composed of experts on the subject.
153. In reply to the request of the Delegation of Mexico, the Secretariat indicated that the Director General wished to constitute the Steering Committee on an informal basis to have access to advice on issues in an area where developments were occurring at a very rapid pace. It was envisaged that the Steering Committee would have a composition of about 10 persons. In constituting the Committee, the Director General would consult with the group coordinators and seek their advice on appropriate experts to include on the Committee. The Committee's membership would be representative of all parts of the world.
154. The Delegation of the Philippines pointed out that the decision sought of the General Assembly in paragraph 9(ii) should properly refer to the General Assembly approving the constitution of a Steering Committee by the Director General, rather than to the General Assembly constituting such a Steering Committee.
155. The WIPO General Assembly approved the proposals set out in paragraph 7(i), (ii) and (iii) of document A/33/4, and the constitution by the Director General of an informal Steering Committee to advise the Director General on the implementation of WIPO programs and activities in relation to electronic commerce.
156. The WIPO General Assembly also approved the undertaking of the international process on Internet domain names described in paragraphs 18 to 25 of document A/33/4.
157. The Delegation of Egypt recalled that it had requested the International Bureau to reconsider the proposed dates for convening the International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property, as it believed that the proposed dates were too soon and would not allow the necessary time for developing countries to analyze and digest the issue of electronic commerce. The delegation added that the proposed dates coincided with other important meetings taking place in Geneva and requested that the International Bureau conduct consultations to agree on a different date for convening this conference, preferably in May or June 1999. The delegation stated that, in its view, the decision in paragraph 156 should be adopted with the exception of the date of the international conference, which should be fixed by the International Bureau after consultations with Member States.
158. In response to the statement made by the Delegation of Egypt, the Secretariat stated that the dates of all the preparatory stages leading to the International Conference and the date of the International Conference itself were carefully calculated. The Secretariat also informed the Delegation of Egypt that its concerns would be taken into account and that, if there was a growing consensus by many delegations that the fixed dates of the International Conference should be changed, the Secretariat would propose new dates. The Secretariat indicated, however, that fixing new dates also depended on the availability of a venue for hosting the conference as well as the logistical arrangements connected with the preparation of this important activity. The Secretariat added that it was difficult to decide at that moment whether these dated could be changed, but that the concern expressed by the Delegation of Egypt would be taken into account when the final dates for the preparatory stages, consultative meetings and the International Conference were fixed.
159. The Delegation of Egypt thanked the Secretariat for the clarifications given and repeated its request that paragraph 156 indicate that the date of the International Conference be fixed after consultation with Member States but that, if there were a major problem in changing the date of the Conference, Member States would consider accepting the proposed dates.