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a meeting of the “special session” of the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council, which is the forum for
negotiating the multilateral register within the Doha Round. Ambassador
Clarke had previously chaired the “regular” TRIPS Council, which oversees
the implementation of the present TRIPS Agreement. He currently chairs the
World Intellectual Property Organization’s Development and Intellectual
Once his election was confirmed, members
turned to “other business”, which is where they discussed next steps
in the talks. Here, they also debated the proposed link between the
multilateral register negotiations, the “extension” of higher-level
protection for geographical indications to all products, and a
“disclosure” proposal for patent applications involving genetic
resources and associated traditional knowledge.
Despite their differences on the issues,
WTO members agreed that they want to intensify their efforts on the
multilateral register and the chairperson concluded that he will
hold a range of consultations and other meetings for that purpose.
But Ambassador Clarke added that while he
heard both sides of the argument on linking the subjects, he has to
stick to his present mandate so long as there is no decision to
change it — and that would have to be taken “elsewhere”.
The negotiations handled by the TRIPS
Council “special session” deal with:
This is currently the only subject on the
“special sessions’” agenda, accepted by consensus as a full
negotiation in the Doha Round. The two other issues, which some
members would like to link to the talks on the register and add to
the “special session’s” work, are:
“Extension”: extending the higher level of protection
currently given to wines and spirits to other geographical
indications (discussed in consultations chaired by Deputy
Director-General Rufus Yerxa on behalf of Director-General Pascal
“Disclosure”: amending the TRIPS Agreement so that patent
applicants are required to disclose the origin of genetic material
or associated traditional knowledge used in their inventions and to
show evidence of “prior informed consent” to use local genetic
materials and that the benefits are to be shared (also in Mr Yerxa’s
Countries remained divided over the
proposal to negotiate the three issues in parallel (“parallelism”).
Supporters of “parallelism”: These are the countries
TN/C/W/52 and additions. For the
multilateral register, the paper calls on members to negotiate a
text that spells out the legal impact the sponsors would like to
see, on the way countries protect geographical indications despite
their diverse legal systems — for example, if a term is registered,
then countries would consider that to be preliminary evidence
(“prima facie”) that the term meets the definition of a geographical
The paper also calls for the negotiations
on the multilateral register to be formally expanded to cover
“extension” and “disclosure” and negotiated at the same time as the
“modalities” (formulas for cutting tariffs and subsidies and other
provisions forming a blueprint of the final deal) in other subjects
such as agriculture and non-agricultural market access.
The paper’s sponsors are: the
African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group, the African Group, Albania,
Brazil, China, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, the EU, Georgia, Iceland,
India, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Liechtenstein, the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka,
Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey.
In this meeting, several of these
countries argued that the dynamic has changed since the document was
prepared, with 110 members out of 153 supporting it, and with the
experience of three issues being part of a single consultation in
July conducted by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy (see, eg,
They described the document as a
compromise struck after difficult bargaining among the supporters.
The EU said it also represents some major concessions compared to
the EU’s original proposal for the multilateral register. Supporters
said the three subjects should be negotiated together in these
“special sessions”, but when opponents reacted to this, the
supporters of parallelism acknowledged that it was up to the members
to change the mandate, not the chairperson.
side of the argument: Countries that support the “Joint
Proposal” (TN/IP/W/10/Rev.2) prefer a voluntary system
where notified geographical indications would be registered in a
database. Those governments choosing to participate in the system
would have to consult the database when taking decisions on
protection in their own countries. Non-participating members would
be “encouraged” but “not obliged” to consult the database.
Sponsors of the “Joint Proposal” are:
Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Republic of Korea,
Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Chinese Taipei, South
Africa and the US.
In the meeting, this group said the
negotiations on the multilateral register — which is the only one of
the three issues that has a specific mandate for negotiations in the
TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration — still need more technical
They noted that the EU said it had
modified its proposal, but details had not been submitted in
writing. This is needed so that it can be examined technically, the
And the group predicted that trying to
negotiate the three subjects together would be disastrous for the
negotiations as a whole. In their view, the July consultations
exposed how wide apart members are on the issues, and revealed that
some supporters of parallelism are unclear about what it means, for
example whether the “extension” would mean also expanding the
register beyond wines and spirits — one replied that TN/C/W/52
clearly states that it would (in paragraph 7).
Kong, China, continued to advocate its own proposed
compromise and said it hopes efforts to bring in the other two
subjects will not delay the talks.
Ambassador Clarke will consult members
individually and in groups and will convene meetings of various
kinds, including for sharing information on discussions among
smaller groups. So far, no big meetings have been announced.
Chairperson: Amb. Trevor
Clarke of Barbados
(elected at the start of this meeting because Amb. Manzoor Ahmad has
moved to head the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva)
• geographical indications (GIs): Place names (or
words associated with a place) used to identify products
(for example, “Champagne”, “Tequila” or “Roquefort”) which
have a particular quality, reputation or other
characteristic because they come from that place.
• modalities: The way or method of doing something
— in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations these are
blueprints for the final deal, eg, how to cut tariffs, and
reduce agricultural subsidies and support, along with
flexibilities to deal with various sensitivities. Once the
modalities have been agreed, countries can apply the
formulas to tariffs on thousands of products and to
various support programmes.
• special sessions: meetings of WTO councils and
committees focusing only on the Doha Development Agenda
• TRIPS: Trade-related aspects of intellectual
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