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2009 Assemblies – Member States Give Strong Support

November 2009

The 2009 Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO – the first of Director General Francis Gurry’s mandate – marked the beginning of a new era for the Organization. The Assemblies ran from September 22 to October 1, and for the first time a high-level ministerial segment led off the series of meetings. Member States showed strong support for the Organization’s strategic goals throughout the event, and renewed the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge, Folklore and Genetic Resources (IGC).

Transform ideas into reality

Mr. Gurry welcomed over 40 ministers to the high-level segment of the Assemblies, noting that their participation reflected the expanding recognition of “IP as a major means of creating a secure environment for investment in innovation and creativity and for the diffusion of innovative and creative products and services.” He urged the Organization’s 184 Member States: to work together to ensure the IP system serves as a stimulus for developing solutions to the global challenges confronting policymakers across the world; to find a “balanced way forward” in advancing the Organization’s norm-setting agenda; and to demonstrate flexibility and understanding in addressing the issues at hand.

The Director General outlined progress in the Organization’s strategic realignment program, and highlighted the initiatives launched to develop a service-oriented culture. Mr. Gurry noted that negative growth rates in WIPO’s registration and filing systems were anticipated for 2009 but that, while demand was expected to be sluggish through 2010, he was confident that 2011 would see positive growth. He said “it is clear that the long-term trend is one of intensified use of the IP system in which knowledge and education are at the center of the economy, development and social change.”

Ministers endorse progress toward strategic goals

The high-level segment of the Assemblies endorsed WIPO’s progress toward its strategic goals, saying this marked a new era for the Organization and its ability to ensure the IP system helps meet an increasing number of global challenges. Ministers emphasized that IP is now widely perceived as a key policy tool to promote public interest, innovation and technological progress and a driving force in creating a positive environment for social, economic and cultural development. The ministers took note of the Organization’s commitment to delivering effective services under the Development Agenda and WIPO’s capacity-building programs.

The meeting provided an opportunity for ministers to exchange experiences, share concerns and convey their national IP priorities. It was also an important means of raising the profile of IP issues within senior policymaking spheres at the national and international levels. Many ministers backed the call to renew the IGC’s mandate in a way that allows for concrete outcomes. The high-level segment also welcomed the Organization’s response to the challenges confronting the IP system and its engagement in global issues, including climate change, food security, public health and technology transfer.

Mr. Gurry underlined that improving the capacity of developing and least developed countries (LDCs) to benefit from the knowledge economy was the principle underlying the adoption of the WIPO Development Agenda. “We are now at the stage where we must transform that idea into an operational reality,” he said. “That transformation will occur only if there is a collaborative effort and engagement on the part of the Member States and the Secretariat.” Mr. Gurry stressed the need for Member States and the Secretariat to “be ambitious and identify and execute projects that make a difference.”

The Director General appealed to Member States to seek common ground in advancing the normative work of the Organization as failure to do so would damage multilateralism and open the way to bilateral and plurilateral arrangements at a time when use of technologies is increasingly global. Mr. Gurry said, “Global use of technology calls for a global architecture of norms to ensure that technologies are indeed available everywhere.”

“If this Organization is to retain its relevance in rule making, we must be able to deal with all the frequencies of the spectrum of technological development,” Mr. Gurry said. “We must be able to make rules both for the latest developments in technology and for traditional knowledge systems.” In this regard, he called for the renewal of the mandate of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) on terms that would lead to tangible results at the international level.

Mr. Gurry drew attention to “tumultuous developments” that signaled “a fundamental challenge for the institution of copyright.” He noted that, while the objective of copyright was to “provide a market-based mechanism that extracts some value from cultural transactions to enable creators to lead a dignified economic existence while at the same time ensuring the widest possible availability of affordable content,” the question was “how to realize that objective amid the convergence of the digital environment.” The Director General enjoined Member States to consider a “global consultation or reflection” in the coming year on the fundamental question of how to finance culture in the 21st century. In view of the global nature of piracy, he called on governments to reflect on “how we can make copyright work in a digital environment where there is no difference in quality between the original and the copy and where the means of reproduction and distribution are available to everyone at insignificant cost.”

The Director General cited some early concrete results in relation to the Organization’s new strategic objective: Coordination and Development of Global IP Infrastructure. These include digitization programs for IP offices in developing countries and the establishment of technology and innovation centers, as well as database tools offering LDCs access to scientific and technical publications free of charge.

The Director General referred to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) roadmap, accentuating that “it’s about finding ways to increase, on a voluntary basis, work sharing to decrease unnecessary inefficiencies and to improve the quality of the output of the international patent system and thereby contribute to management of the unsustainable backlog of 4.2 million unprocessed patent applications around the world.” Mr. Gurry stressed that it “is not a norm-making exercise.” He referred to various plurilateral initiatives to address this question stating that the “objective of the roadmap is to bring all of these initiatives under the multilateral umbrella of the PCT.”

Lastly, the Director General highlighted WIPO’s renewed engagement in debates on global public policy issues, such as climate change, stating that “technological innovation will be central to global efforts to deal with the challenges of climate change.” He added that “the experience of the IP system and the IP community in the creation and the commercialization and the diffusion or transfer of technology can make a very valuable contribution.”

 WIPO and Kenya to Intensify Collaboration on Patent Information

On the sidelines of the ministerial segment of the Assemblies, Kenya’s Minister for Industrialization, Mr. Henry K. Kosgey, and Mr. Gurry signed a cooperation agreement covering access to and dissemination of national patent documents. This is the latest in a series of agreements between WIPO and intellectual property (IP) offices of developing countries to enhance access to patent information. Similar agreements exist with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Viet Nam.

Under the agreement, WIPO will provide technical assistance to the Kenyan Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) for the digitization and dissemination of Kenyan patent documents via PATENTSCOPE®. Better access to information about the status of patents in Kenya and abroad offers local companies and inventors a clearer picture of the competitive landscape when developing innovations to compete in national and international markets. Similarly, access to the wealth of patent information published worldwide can act as a stimulus for local innovation. More than 1.8 million patents are applied for around the world each year, and only a fraction of them will eventually be in force in Kenya.


 IGC wins support

Member States renewed the mandate of the IGC, adopting a clearly defined work plan and terms of reference to guide the Committee’s work over the next two years. They agreed the IGC would undertake negotiations with the objective of reaching agreement on a text of an international legal instrument (or instruments) that would ensure the effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). The decision also provided for three inter-sessional meetings of working groups to take place in 2010/11, in addition to the four regular IGC sessions.

Over the next two years, the IGC will continue to build on its previous work – the basis for text-based negotiations being existing working documents on GRs, TK and TCEs. The IGC is to submit to the 2011 General Assembly the text (or texts) of an international legal instrument(s) which would ensure effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs. That session of the General Assembly would then decide on whether to convene a Diplomatic Conference. The Director General affirmed that this “significant” decision gave the IGC “a robust and clear mandate over the next two years.” He called this “a real step forward” for the Organization.


Approved program and budget

Member States signaled strong support for the Organization’s strategic realignment with the endorsement of a program and budget for the 2010/11 biennium that boosts WIPO’s development-related activities, emphasizes the need to advance the Organization’s normative work and further upgrades its services to the private sector.

Member States approved a budgetary allocation for 2010/11 of CHF 618 million, which represents a 1.6 percent (CHF 9.8 million) decrease compared to the current financial period, reflecting the impact of the global economic crisis on WIPO’s services. Almost one-fifth (some CHF 118 million) of the Organization’s budget is allocated across programs for capacity-building and development-related activities to strengthen the participation of developing and least developed countries in the benefits of the knowledge economy. An additional CHF 4.5 million was specifically allocated for the implementation of Development Agenda projects.

The Assemblies also approved the construction of a new conference hall with a capacity of 900 seats as well as several new, smaller meeting rooms in the main headquarters building to cater for increasing demand for multilateral and bilateral consultations associated with WIPO meetings. Member States earmarked CHF 64 million for that project, to be covered from WIPO reserves (CHF 24 million) and the extension of an existing commercial loan (CHF 40 million). The new hall, designed by Behnisch Architekten of Stuttgart, Germany, gives priority to sustainability. Local wood, natural light, hybrid ventilation combining natural and mechanical means, and a cooling system drawing water from nearby Lake Léman are among the most significant environmentally-friendly features of the new hall.

Accelerated implementation of Development Agenda

Delegations strongly supported the project-based approach proposed by the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), which will accelerate efficient implementation of the Development Agenda. Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the Development Agenda, identified as a key priority for the Organization, and stressed the importance of ensuring adequate human and financial resources were allocated to its implementation. The CDIP is to develop a coordination mechanism for monitoring, assessing and reporting on the implementation of recommendations, and will submit a report on the subject to the 2010 General Assembly.

New Partnerships to Improve the Status of Performers

WIPO signed an agreement on September 23 with the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and the International Federation of Actors (FIA) to support efforts to improve recognition of the significant contributions made by actors and musicians around the world. The agreement, signed by Mr. Gurry, FIA President Agnete G. Haaland and FIM President John Smith, seeks, in particular, to help improve the status of performers in developing countries.

(For more information see “Improving the Status of Performers: Efforts and Perspectives”)


Standing Committees

Member States noted the status of work relating to the three issues currently under discussion within the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR): the rights of broadcasting organizations; the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances; and exceptions and limitations.

The General Assembly noted a report on the work of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), including the Committee’s decision to commission five studies on: exclusions, exceptions and limitations, including a public policy, socioeconomic and developmental perspective; technical solutions to improve greater access to, and dissemination of, patent information; client-attorney privilege; transfer of technology; and opposition systems.

PCT Assembly appoints new authorities

The Assembly of the PCT appointed the Egyptian Patent Office and the Israel Patent Office as International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authorities under the PCT, bringing the total number of such offices to 17. The appointments become effective on dates to be notified by the offices.

Member States also adopted a number of amendments to the regulations under the PCT which will enter into force on July 1, 2010. These concern: clarification of the extent to which authorities may define the scope of the supplementary international search that will be offered; a requirement that applicants filing amendments indicate the basis of those amendments in the application as filed; and improvements to the process for establishing equivalent amounts of certain PCT fees in different currencies.

Madrid Union Assembly

The Madrid Union Assembly took note of the WIPO study on the possible introduction of additional filing languages – Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian – in the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, in a way that would be operationally and economically viable. Introducing additional filing languages would require specific agreements with the offices of interested contracting parties. As a first step, the Assembly approved the implementation of a pilot project involving the participation of interested offices.

Appellations of Origin

Members of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration amended a number of rules governing that system to improve accessibility of information regarding the fate of international registrations in member countries. Interested parties will be able to more easily determine the status of protection of an internationally registered appellation of origin in a given member country, through a formal framework for communicating a “statement of grant of protection.”

Signatories freeze the London Act of the Hague Agreement

Delegates in Extraordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the 1934 (London) Act of the Hague Agreement moved on September 24 to simplify the international design registration system by suspending the earliest of the three Acts governing the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs. The decision streamlines the administration of the Treaty.

The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs of November 1925 consists of three different Acts – the London Act of 1934, the Hague Act of 1960 and the Geneva Act of 1999. On September 24, the 15 signatories of the obsolete 1934 London Act decided to freeze that Act from January 1, 2010.

That decision will reduce the complexity of the system and focus greater attention on the 1999 Geneva Act, which enhances the existing system by making it more compatible with registration systems in countries where determining the acceptability of an application for industrial design protection is contingent on examination. The Geneva Act also introduces a modified fee system, the possibility of deferring publication of a design for up to 30 months and the ability to file samples of the design rather than photographs or other graphic reproductions. The latter features are of particular interest to the textile and fashion industries.

Under this decision, from January 1, 2010, no new designations under the 1934 (London) Act may be recorded in the International Design Register. However, designations under the Act made before that date will not be affected. It was unanimously agreed that the next step would be to terminate the 1934 (London) Act. The Hague Union Assembly amended the Common Regulations under the Hague Agreement to reflect that decision the following week.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.