2003 Session of WIPO Assemblies Conclude

Geneva, October 1, 2003
Press Releases PR/2003/363

The Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded on Wednesday following a review of activities over the past year and agreement on the agenda of the Organization for the next year. The meetings of the Assemblies, which bring together the 179 member states of the Organization as well as representatives of a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, were chaired by Ambassador Bernard Kessedjian, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. Ms. Dorothy Angote, Registrar-General, Department of the Registrar-General, Attorney-General's Chambers of Kenya and Mr. Wang Jingchuan, Commissioner, State Intellectual Property Office of China served as Vice Chairs.

In his closing remarks, Ambassador Kessedjian welcomed the positive outcome of the Assemblies and the successful review of the Organization's activities and its future directions. The Chairman summarized the Assemblies main decisions and thanked the delegations for their active and constructive participation. He applauded the spirit of consensus which characterized the decision-making process at the Assemblies.

Ambassador Kessedjian said that "intellectual property, a powerful catalyst of growth and progress, should be increasingly put at the service of development, that is, at the service of all, as a universal tool whose benefits are equally shared." He thanked Dr. Kamil Idris, WIPO Director General, and the staff of the Organization for consistently offering the member states comprehensive programs, in spite of budgetary constraints. He commended Dr. Idris for his leadership of the Organization saying "thanks to his sense of balance, justice and his willingness to listen, we are able to respond to the most difficult questions without anyone feeling sidelined." Ambassador Kessedjian said WIPO is executing its mandate in an "exemplary" manner.

The highlights of the meeting that took place from September 22 through October 1, 2003, include:

  • The General Assembly approved by consensus the 2004-2005 program and budget, which proposes a slight decrease as compared to 2002-2003 owing to the completion of major infrastructure projects in the area of information technology and buildings during that financial period. Member states approved a budget amounting to 638.8 million Swiss Francs (SFr), which reflects a decrease of 30 million SFr or 4.5 % as compared with the revised budget for 2002-2003 of 668.8 million SFr. At the beginning of the second term of WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, member states also endorsed his strategy and mid-term plan for the next six years in which the development of an intellectual property (IP) culture was underlined as the strategic goal to enable all stakeholders to play their roles and to realize the potential of IP as a tool for economic, social and cultural development. The plan affirms that the economic health of a country and its success in meeting development challenges such as bridging the knowledge divide and reducing poverty will depend on an ability to develop, utilize and protect its national creativity and innovation. An effective and well-balanced intellectual property system allied to pro-active IP policy-making and focused strategic planning, will help nations to promote and protect intellectual assets, drive economic growth and generate wealth. For more information, please see PR/2003/357 and document A/39/5.
  • The Assemblies noted four studies on the effect of the patent system on developing countries by experts with various backgrounds from Africa, the Arab region, Asia and Latin America. The studies were commissioned by the Director General within the context of the WIPO Patent Agenda to help identify issues which need to be taken into account to ensure that the patent system generates the maximum benefit for states at varying levels of development. A number of developing countries emphasized that, while this was a useful step, further careful consideration was still needed, especially in a number of fields of particular policy concern. Please see documents A/39/13, A/39/13 Add.1, Add.2, Add.3 and Add.4. The WIPO Patent Agenda was initiated by the Director General in September 2001 to coordinate discussions on the future development of the international patent system. Its goal is to develop an international patent system that is more user-friendly and accessible, and provides an appropriate balance between the rights of inventors and the interests of the general public, while at the same time taking into account the implications for the developing world.
  • Member states decided to push forward with work relating to the intellectual property (IP) aspects of traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources. The General Assembly, decided on an extended mandate for the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). The mandate requires the IGC to accelerate its work, and to focus in particular on the international dimension of intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge (TK) and folklore. The new mandate excludes no outcome for the IGC's work, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments in this field. Many comments highlighted that the IGC's work to date has already led to a much greater understanding of the concepts and issues addressed, and has clarified how to deal with concerns about inadequate recognition and protection of TK and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs). The discussions highlighted the expectation of a number of countries that specific steps should be taken to strengthen protection, including the development of specific new international instruments; others pointed out that the significance of the issues, and their complexity, meant that further analysis and clarification was needed before crystallizing formal outcomes; there is also a view that more work needs to be done to explore the full potential of existing IP rights and systems to protect TK and TCEs. The program and budget approved by the current session of the Assembly included a range of complementary activities, including continued capacity-building, legislative assistance and cooperation with a range of national, regional and international initiatives. For more information, please see PR/2003/362.
  • Member states took a decision that would enable companies and individuals seeking to protect their trademarks in multiple countries to file their applications in the Spanish language as of April 1, 2004. Currently, international trademark applications under the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Trademarks are required to be submitted in English or French. Inclusion of Spanish will be a clear and strong incentive for Spanish-speaking countries to join the Madrid Protocol and promises to facilitate their accession process and will pave the way for the Madrid system to become a truly global registration mechanism. Participation in the Madrid system of the 18 hispanophone countries that are currently outside the system presents a major interest for existing users as well as potential users of the system in the 18 hispanophone countries in question. Member states also decided to amend the Common Regulations under the Madrid Agreement and Protocol in order to make the Madrid system fully compatible with the European Community trademark system. In view of these changes, the European Community (EC) delegate said that it was likely that the EC would submit its instrument of accession to the Madrid Protocol within one year. The accession of the EC to the Madrid Protocol will be the first time that the EC, as a regional body, adheres to a WIPO treaty. For more information, please see PR/2003/358.
  • The Assembly of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Union made a number of amendments to the PCT Regulations following previously adopted major changes designed to streamline and rationalize the PCT system, and agreed on a future work program for PCT reform. The Assembly also modified certain fees in connection with the processing of PCT applications. The international filing fee was fixed at 1,400 Swiss francs and the handling fee was reduced from 233 to 200 Swiss francs. Fee reductions for applicants from least developed countries were expanded and a new scale of fee reductions was adopted for international applications filed in electronic form. The National Board of Patents and Registration of Finland was appointed by the Assembly as an International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority under the PCT, with likely effect from sometime in 2004. Finally, the Assembly took note of status reports on two major IT projects relating to the PCT: the IMPACT (Information Management for the PAtent Cooperation Treaty) Project and the PCT-SAFE (Secure Applications Filed Electronically) Project.
  • Member states reiterated their support for convening an ad hoc informal meeting in Geneva on the protection of audiovisual performances on November 6 and 7, 2003. This meeting which is open to all member states and interested intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations is designed to renew the international dialogue on the protection of audiovisual performances with a view to clarifying and resolving outstanding issues. There was a shared view that this was a timely event, given the importance of the question for all stakeholders. A number of countries urged for the early resolution of the outstanding issues (please see PR/2000/248) so that a new treaty could be established. The member states also agreed to keep the subject under review at their September 2004 meetings.
  • Member states were briefed about the status of recommendations made by the General Assembly last year in following-up on the Second WIPO Internet Domain Name Process. The General Assembly had recommended that the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which is currently limited to trademarks, be extended to protect country names and the names and acronyms of intergovernmental organizations against their abusive registration as domain names. The WIPO secretariat has transmitted these recommendations to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body responsible for amending the UDRP. ICANN has set up a working group to deal with technical issues of implementing WIPO's recommendations. WIPO will participate in these deliberations.
  • Member states formally adopted three specific amendments aimed, among others, at streamlining and simplifying WIPO's governance and constitutional structure to reinforce the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of the Organization. These changes include the abolition of the WIPO Conference and the formal adoption of a unitary contribution system and changes in contribution classes to reflect the current practice which more equitably takes into account the different economic circumstances of WIPO member states. The third amendment to the relevant WIPO-administered treaties makes provision for holding ordinary sessions of the WIPO Assemblies on an annual rather than a biennial basis. Under current arrangements, the Assemblies meet once a year, but each alternate year is considered an extraordinary session. The three amendments will enter into force one month after written notifications of acceptance, effected in accordance with their respective constitutional processes, have been notified to the Director General by three-fourths of WIPO's member states.
  • The General Assembly approved the Program Performance Report for the year 2002. It noted WIPO's achievements during the first six-year term of Dr. Kamil Idris as documented in the consecutive and comprehensive Program Performance Reports submitted to member states on an annual and biannual basis within the framework of WIPO's results-based management framework introduced in 1998. These documents inform WIPO member states of results achieved by WIPO along the criteria established in the program and budget. Member states in particular underscored WIPO's achievements in becoming a more transparent, open and forward looking Organization and in promoting intellectual property as a tool for social, economic and cultural development worldwide. Many member states expressed appreciation for WIPO's wide range of technical and legal assistance in the modernization of IP infrastructure and implementation of international treaties. They requested that WIPO continue to support their IP development and provide expertise to contribute to their national capacity building and the integration of developmental aspects into intellectual property policies. They further expressed their confidence in future achievements during the Director General's second term in office. Member states also noted the Program Implementation Overview, which contained information on the implementation of major activities during the first six months of 2003.

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