Dr. Idris Opens Diplomatic Conference to Revise Key Trademark Treaty

Geneva, March 14, 2006
Press Releases PR/2006/439

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, in the presence of Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, Professor S. Jayakumar, opened on Monday evening, March 13, 2006, a diplomatic conference on intellectual property (IP) for a new treaty in the field of trademarks. It is the first time that a diplomatic conference organized by WIPO is held in Asia. On Tuesday, March 14, 2006, Dr. Idris attended the first plenary session, which resulted in the election of Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, as President of the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Trademark Law Treaty.

Ambassador Gafoor thanked delegates for the confidence placed in him as President of Conference and pledged to "facilitate and lead the process of consensus building." He said the objective is clear, to bring the diplomatic conference to a successful conclusion. "We need to accomplish the task before us for the benefit of all stakeholders in the trademark system, the brand owners, consumers and member states, alike. We must not fail them," he said.

At Monday evening's opening ceremony, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, Professor S. Jayakumar, welcomed the delegates to Singapore and wished them a successful meeting. "This Diplomatic Conference is the culmination of three years of hard work at the negotiating table. I congratulate those who have labored hard to bring this important work to the final lap. I wish you a fruitful discussion and look forward to a successful adoption of the revised Trademark Law Treaty." The Deputy Prime Minister also paid tribute to Dr. Idris, saying "Under his stewardship WIPO has made an invaluable contribution to international governance of intellectual property issues. As a result of his leadership, WIPO has become an essential partner for countries, especially developing ones, in dealing with the challenges of intellectual property in a globalized economy." During his two day visit, Dr. Idris also met with Singapore leaders under the auspices of Singapore's United Nations Distinguished Visitors Programme for outstanding individuals linked to the United Nations system.

Opening the Conference, Dr. Idris expressed his "profound gratitude and sincere thanks to the Government and people of Singapore for their generosity and hospitality in hosting this historic event. This is a reflection of Singapore's continued commitment to the cause of intellectual property. "

Dr. Idris said "The new international treaty that may result from this Diplomatic Conference will certainly be of significant importance for member states of WIPO, for brand owners and for the public at large." He said member states will benefit from the revised Trademark Law Treaty, as it will improve the international environment for trade and investment. It will enable national and regional trademark administration authorities to benefit from simplified procedures, including electronic means of communication. "This will contribute to reducing procedural transaction costs and enhance confidence in the trademark system as well as to provide additional incentives for business to further invest and expand," he said.

For brand owners, Dr. Idris said, the new treaty will result in the simplification and harmonization of trademark procedures. "The resulting savings can be expected to further stimulate businesses to develop and market their brands," he added.

The Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) was concluded in 1994 with a view to streamlining and simplifying, on a worldwide basis, administrative procedures relating to national and regional trademark applications and the maintenance of trademark registrations. Companies seeking to clear and register trademarks or to license their brands must, as a first step, meet certain formal registration requirements in order to avoid rejection of their application and a consequent loss of rights. These formalities generally vary from one country to another and the TLT has successfully introduced standard requirements to be followed in procedures before trademark offices. In order to keep pace with developments in telecommunications and to create an institutional framework allowing the adaptation of certain administrative details regulated under the treaty, the revision of the TLT envisages provisions on electronic filing of trademark applications and associated communications (for more information on the revised TLT, please see PR/438).

Professor S. Jayakumar underlined the increasing importance of IP in today's globalized world. "Intellectual Property has received greater attention and prominence in the last decade. Intellectual property is no longer an arcane subject, largely confined to specialist lawyers or academics. Today, it has become a central issue for modern business and economic development. IP is an important topic not just in corporate boardrooms, but also in discussions among Governments and international organizations," he said.

By way of example, Professor Jayakumar said "an idea conceptualized in the US can be put to design in Europe, manufactured in Asia, and marketed all over the world," reflecting a "truly global marketplace, brought about by rapidly growing international trade." He said the advent of information and digital technology has also revolutionized the way global transactions and businesses work, creating a new level of business networking and collaboration. The Deputy Prime Minister said "with the emergence of the knowledge economy, competitive advantage will depend less on traditional factors of production, like land, natural resources and labor, and increasingly […] on the quality of talent, ideas and innovation." He added "As a result, companies are looking to IP protection to gain an advantage in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. This can be seen in the shift in the relative weight of companies' intellectual intangible assets versus traditional tangible ones. With IP becoming integral to business strategy, it is not surprising that IP filings in many countries have reached record levels."

Professor Jayakumar said while globalization and advances in information technology have created fresh opportunities, they also presented new challenges to the existing international IP system. "The challenge for Governments is how to respond to the needs of these constituents and to help them unlock the potential of their IP. A robust national IP framework not only reassures investors and promotes trade; it can also spur a country's innovation and creativity to gain it an edge in the global knowledge economy," he said. Professor Jayakumar said a robust national IP regime with strong legislative framework, supported by an effective enforcement mechanism, needs to be supplemented with public awareness of the importance of IP. "We need to raise awareness with our citizens that infringing an IP right is no different from stealing tangible property, like a car, handbag or handphone," he said.

While noting the importance of national efforts to modernize IP legislation, Professor Jayakumar said the work of intergovernmental IP organizations, such as WIPO, will grow. "WIPO's work to foster a common international approach and consensus for IP protection must continue. With the increase in cross-border trade and transactions, this work will continue to grow in importance. Treaties administered by WIPO make it easier for our innovators to reach out to global markets and be assured of IP protection. They enable companies to take advantage of globalization's opportunities and reap the fruits of the knowledge economy" he said.

Professor Jayakumar said "WIPO has consistently helped member states, especially the developing countries, to leverage on IP as a tool for economic development. WIPO has launched various programmes to raise IP awareness and promote joint action. In today's environment, WIPO plays a critical role to raise the capacity of its constituents for IP, facilitate the exchange of best practices for IP management, and increase awareness and training amongst member states. In Singapore, when we started building our IP capacity and framework in the early years, we received invaluable technical support and assistance from WIPO, for which we are grateful." He said many developing countries today recognize the value of using IP as a tool for economic development and are working in partnership with WIPO to improve their IP institutions and policy framework. "WIPO has been doing good work over the years and Singapore will, let me assure all, continue to partner WIPO to contribute in our own small way by sharing best practices from our experience, as well as to participate in the ongoing discussion of international IP issues," the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Considering Asia's emergence as a major player in the IP arena, Professor Jayakumar said "It is […] timely that this Diplomatic Conference is being held in Asia. It is the first WIPO Diplomatic Conference in this part of the world. It also signifies Asia's growing role in the furtherance of our common IP agenda as well as the importance this region places on IP. And we in Singapore are privileged to host this event and to contribute to the development of the international IP framework."

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

  • Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 or (+41 22) 338 95 47;
  • E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int
  • Fax: (+41 22) 338 82 80.