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WIPO Assemblies Provide Direction for Future Work, Director General Welcomes Positive Engagement of Member States on Substantive Issues

Geneva, October 5, 2011

Representatives of WIPO’s 184 member states, meeting at their annual Assemblies in Geneva from September 26 to October 5, 2011 took a landmark decision to call a diplomatic conference to agree an international treaty on the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances. They took stock of the Organization’s substantive work over the last year, provided direction for the future work program, and approved a program and budget for the Organization for the next biennium (2012/13). WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said this year’s Assemblies were characterized by a remarkable spirit of engagement and commitment by member states to address the pressing intellectual property (IP) issues on the global agenda and hoped this would continue. 

Speaking at the closing of the Assemblies, Mr. Gurry said the Assemblies have been “extremely successful due to the extremely constructive engagement of all member states.” This engagement, he said, has helped to move the Organization’s agenda forward in a positive manner. Mr. Gurry said he looked forward to a continuation of this enhanced dialogue among member states and with the secretariat, noting a very busy year ahead. 

The Chair of the WIPO General Assembly, Serbia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Uglješa Zvekić, also welcomed the positive outcome of the Assemblies, noting the important decisions taken by member states which all reflected a common thread – the value of innovation and creativity as vehicles for progress and development. 

Representatives of regional groups, and individual member states, also welcomed the outcome of the Assemblies and the positive spirit among member states. Regional groups specifically underlined decisions to convene a diplomatic conference on the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances, renewal of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) and approval of the program and budget for 2012/13. 

Assemblies Round-Up

The Assemblies adopted the Program and Budget for the 2012/13 biennium, capped at an overall expenditure level of 637 million Swiss francs.  The next biennium is expected to see a welcome return to growth, with the Organization’s revenue estimated to grow by 4.7 per cent, to a total of 647 million Swiss francs.  However, as the recovery remains fragile in the current economic environment, the Organization will continue to monitor financial performance with great vigilance and focus on further cost containment and efficiency measures without affecting program delivery. The Program and Budget reflects WIPO's determination to advance positive strategic change for the Organization under the nine Strategic Goals and to deliver the results that member states and stakeholders expect.  The Program and Budget 2012/13 is the first results-based budget of the Organization establishing clear linkages between organizational results and the resources required to achieve those results. Development, a priority in the 2012/13 biennium, has been mainstreamed throughout the Strategic Goals.  Related development expenditure is increasing from 19.4% of total expenditure in the present 2010/11 biennium to 21.3% in the next biennium. The Program and Budget 2012/13 emphasizes the following priority areas:

  • more widespread and better use of the services provided by WIPO’s global registration systems;
  • further development of a balanced international normative framework for IP;
  • enhancing access to, and use of IP information and knowledge by IP institutions and the public to promote innovation and enhancing access to protected creative works and creative works in the public domain;
  • facilitating the use of IP for development in developing countries, LDCs and countries with economies in transition; and
  • enhancing efforts to provide effective, efficient and customer-oriented services to external stakeholders and internal clients. 

Member states took note of progress in the implementation of the Strategic Realignment Program (SRP), an organizational improvement initiative aimed at enhancing efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness across the Organization in the context of the rapidly changing world of intellectual property.  The SRP is currently in the first year of a two year implementation phase. The Program includes 19 cross-cutting initiatives including strengthening results-based management, improving internal controls and risk management, establishing an ethics system, improving service orientation and decreasing WIPO’s adverse environmental impact.   

A number of delegations highlighted the importance of the WIPO Development Agenda in enhancing the use of intellectual property for development and reiterated their commitment to its effective implementation.  While noting the substantive progress made, delegations stressed the need to resume the seventh session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) and the resolution of the outstanding issue of the African Group proposed project on Enhancing South-South Cooperation on Intellectual Property Amongst Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries.  Delegations also appreciated the reports of the various WIPO bodies on the implementation of the Development Agenda provided to the Assemblies in accordance with the Coordination Mechanisms and Monitoring, Assessing and Reporting Modalities which was adopted by the WIPO Assembly at its previous session. 

In addition to approving the convening of a diplomatic conference on audiovisual performances (background brief ), member states welcomed the progress achieved by the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) regarding the work to facilitate the access to copyrighted works by persons with print disabilities (background brief ), and the positive engagement to develop an international instrument on limitations and exceptions for that group of beneficiaries as well as to achieve actual results on the ground through the Stakeholders’ Platform.  Also, the General Assembly acknowledged the new impetus to progress towards developing an international treaty to update the protection of broadcasting organizations (background brief ).

Delegations universally welcomed the substantial progress made by the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) in the last biennium, especially on traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and endorsed the decision reached at the IGC’s last session to renew the body’s mandate. Many delegations looked forward to a continuation of the progress in the next biennium and the positive spirit and flexibility that had characterized discussions in past sessions (background brief ).  They also recognized that much work remained to be done.  Some delegations – notably the African Group and other developing countries - expressed disappointment at the comparatively slow progress on the genetic resources (GRs) item and called for text-based negotiations on GRs.   A number of delegations expressed the hope that a text of an international legal instrument would be ready by the General Assembly in September 2012 so a decision could be taken on convening a diplomatic conference. Many delegations emphasized the importance of the participation of indigenous and local communities in the work of the IGC, and commended Australia for its generous contribution (100,000 Australian dollars) to the WIPO Voluntary Fund.  Other countries were encouraged to contribute. 

The General Assembly took note of a progress report on the work of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), addressing recent work as well as an outlook of the SCP’s future work. A number of delegations commended the resumption of the SCP’s work on substantive patent issues following the agreement, reached by Member States at the 15th session of the SCP in October 2010, to address the following five topics: 

  • exceptions and limitations to patent rights; 
  • quality of patents, including opposition systems; 
  • patents and health; 
  • client‑patent advisor privilege; 
  • transfer of technology. 

The General Assembly noted various activities currently under way within the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) covering, in particular, issues relating to the use of trademarks on the Internet and registration formalities for industrial designs.  Regarding the latter, a number of delegations requested a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a design law treaty in 2012 or 2013, whereas other delegations cautioned that more time and preparatory work was needed before such a step could be taken.

Member States reiterated their commitment to the work of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE).  Guided by Recommendation 45 of the WIPO Development Agenda, the research carried out under the current work program contributed to a better understanding of various pertinent elements, including with a view to developing methodologies to measure the socio-economic effects of counterfeiting and piracy, and to identifying different types of infractions and motivations for IPR infringements. 

The Assembly of the International Patent Cooperation Treaty Union (PCT) noted reports on the continued work being undertaken by the PCT Working Group and the PCT Meeting of International Authorities (including work in its quality subgroup) to find ways to improve the delivery of PCT services to stakeholders.  At the 2010 session of the PCT Working Group, member states had unanimously endorsed the “PCT Roadmap”, based on a WIPO study entitled “The Need for Improving the Functioning of the PCT System”. The Roadmap covers a variety of measures designed to improve the functioning of the PCT system, in particular, to improve the quality of international search and examination reports, and to work towards further improving on the Treaty’s aims of disseminating technical information and facilitating access to technology as well as organizing technical assistance for developing countries. The Assembly also adopted a number of amendments to the PCT Regulations

The Assembly of the Special Union for the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Union) adopted the recommendation to amend the Common Regulations concerning the efficient publication of the Gazette (Rule 32(3)), and it took note of the two proposals concerning translation practice.  There will be continued focus on the possible simplification of the international procedure in order to provide a more efficient and user-friendly Madrid system.  The Assembly took note that the discussion regarding Article 9sexies (1)(b) of the Madrid Protocol would continue in the Working Group on the Legal Development of the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks.  It will soon be necessary to consider the next steps in view of the overall objective of the evolution the Madrid system towards a one-treaty system (the Madrid Protocol).  The Assembly took note of the progress towards the successful conclusion of the project for the construction of the database of acceptable indications of goods and services for the purposes of the Madrid system procedures (Madrid System Goods and Services Database). The project will be concluded as planned at the end of 2011 and at that time will make available on the Internet some 40,000 terms in eleven languages.  Finally, the Assembly took note of the status report and the steady progress made in implementing the information technology modernization program. 

The Assembly of the Special Union for the International Deposit of Industrial Designs (Hague Union) adopted all the recommendations made by the ad hoc Working Group on the Legal Development of the Hague System, which convened earlier this year, and notably amendments to the Common Regulations that related to the publication and contents of the International Designs Bulletin. It also adopted the recommendation to establish an ongoing Working Group to address the legal development of the Hague System.  Finally, the Assembly took note of the status report and the steady progress made in implementing the information technology modernization program. 

The Assembly of the Special Union for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration (Lisbon Union) amended a number of rules governing the Lisbon system so as to improve accessibility of information regarding international registrations. This will better enable interested parties to understand the merits or legitimacy of the protection granted to an appellation of origin by the country of origin; as well as the grounds for any decision by a court in another member country to invalidate the effects of the international registration in its territory. In addition, member countries took note of the considerable progress that had been made, and the planned work ahead, in the review of the Lisbon system, for which the Working Group on the Development of the Lisbon system will consider, at its next session, in December 2011, a draft new instrument concerning the international registration of geographical indications and appellations of origin. 

The Assembly of the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (STLT) welcomed the accession of three new countries to that treaty, bringing the overall number of contracting parties to twenty-five, and otherwise reported on technical assistance activities relating to the implementation of the STLT.  Owing to the entry into force of a rule change in November of this year, the Assembly approved the convening of a working group mandated to look into the revision of the model international application form under that treaty. 

The General Assembly noted developments in the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center’s provision of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, including assistance requested by stakeholders in their establishment of procedures for resolving recurring types of IP disputes, such as those involving members of rights management organizations.  In relation to the Internet domain name system (DNS), the General Assembly took note of plans by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for significant expansion of the DNS, including determinations made by ICANN with regard to new trademark-based dispute resolution mechanisms.  Member States expressed concerns about the adequacy of these new mechanisms, as well as about current ICANN efforts in relation to possible revision of the existing WIPO-initiated Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), under which the Center had received record case filings in 2010. 

The General Assembly clarified the mandate of the Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS), and, in view of an increasing importance of standards enabling IP offices to exchange digital data on the Internet, it was also agreed to facilitate capacity building and technical assistance in this area, by financing the participation of experts from developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) in meetings of CWS. 

The Assemblies took note of progress reports on two major construction projects.  The new administrative building was completed, within budget, in the spring of 2011. The moves of over 500 employees from rented office spaces were completed by mid 2011.  The preparatory phase for the new conference hall project was finalized with the signature of the contract with the general contractor in May 2011 and construction work began in mid-August. The Assemblies approved the updated project and timeline which foresees that the conference hall and all related facilities will be completed by mid 2013.

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