WIPO Director General Urges EU to Speed up Ratification of Internet Treaties

Geneva, November 24, 2000
Press Updates UPD/2000/117

In high level meetings at the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, urged the 15-nation bloc to speed up ratification of the so-called "Internet Treaties" - agreements that adapt the international system of copyright and related rights to the digital age. Dr. Idris held on November 23, 2000 a series of constructive and wide-ranging talks with the President of the European Commission Mr. Romano Prodi and Commissioner Mr. Frits Bolkestein. The discussions reflected the positive spirit of collaboration between the EC and WIPO on intellectual property in the face of growing challenges posed by globalization, the rapidly changing digital economy and cutting-edge technologies.

In a meeting with President Prodi, Dr. Idris outlined the increasingly important role of intellectual property in the knowledge-based and digital economies and renewed his commitment to the on-going campaign to demystify intellectual property. This campaign targets both policy makers and the general public. President Prodi welcomed WIPO's work in the area of progressive development of international law in intellectual property. He also underlined the need to pursue technical cooperation activities with developing countries.

In meetings with EC Commissioner Frits Bolkestein and Director General John Mogg of the Directorate General for Internal Market, Dr. Idris stressed the significance of the "Internet Treaties" and the importance of EU ratification of both of these agreements. The impact of the Internet and electronic commerce on the protection of intellectual property rights led to the conclusion in 1996 of the "Internet Treaties" - WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). These treaties enter into force after ratification of thirty countries, respectively. Today, 19 countries have ratified the WCT and 16 have ratified the WPPT. The EC formally decided in March 2000 to adhere to the two "Internet Treaties". The EC is actively working towards the adoption of the EC Directive by the European Parliament, which is a pre-condition for the Community and its member states to ratify the two treaties. Dr. Idris also expressed hope for a successful conclusion of the forthcoming Diplomatic Conference on the protection of audiovisual performances to be held in Geneva from December 7 to 20, 2000 (see press release 248). The adoption of a new agreement will strengthen the position of performers by providing a clearer legal basis for the international use of audiovisual performances, both in traditional media and in digital networks.

Talks also focused on the challenge of reducing costs for the acquisition and enforcement of patent rights, and patent protection for emerging technologies such as biotechnology and information technology. As demands on the global patent system increase, so does the need for less expensive and onerous procedures. The adoption of the WIPO Patent Law Treaty in June 2000 was a necessary first step to simplify patent formalities. Another positive development was the decision earlier this month by WIPO member states to begin discussions under WIPO auspices on harmonization of substantive patent laws. WIPO will also oversee talks towards simplification of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) procedures. The PCT facilitates the process of seeking patent protection in multiple countries. In both fora, the contribution of the European Commission is crucial. The EC has launched similar regional initiatives, that is, the reduction of patenting cost and more user-friendly system for the industry by proposing a new system to allow for a Community patent, which Commissioner Bolkestein announced in July this year.

Dr. Idris also discussed a new WIPO initiative aimed at promoting use of the intellectual property system by small and medium-sized enterprises to enhance their competitiveness. The Director General expressed hope that the EC would support this new program. Moreover, discussions touched on questions relating to the protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore.

Discussions also touched on matters relating to the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including WIPO's Advisory Committee on Enforcement of Industrial Property Rights, which met last October in Geneva. At that meeting, member states, including the European Union, asked the WIPO secretariat to initiate a series of studies aimed at promoting more effective enforcement of industrial property rights all over the world. Dr. Idris welcomed fresh efforts by the EC to combat counterfeiting and piracy. Effective enforcement is key to the success of ensuring respect for intellectual property rights.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

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