WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

> Report on geographical indications register negotiations: Word, pdf
> Report on “GI extension” and biodiversity consultations: Word, pdf
> Negotiations, implementation and development: the Doha agenda

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> More on geographical indications
> More on TRIPS and biodiversity
> TRIPS news
 

SEE ALSO:
Press releases
News archives
Pascal Lamy’s speeches

All three issues are intellectual property subjects under the Doha Development Agenda. Both reports are factual accounts of the latest state of the discussions. They do not propose how members might compromise. They say members’ opinions differ on whether these three subjects should be part of the “horizontal process” and whether they should be linked. (“Horizontal” is the term used to describe the upcoming stage of the negotiations when a range of issues are taken up together, including agriculture, industrial products, to some extent services and possibly other subjects, in order to strike a balance across them.)

The talks chaired by Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan take place in negotiating sessions of the TRIPS Council on a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits. They are part of the “single undertaking” of the Doha Development Agenda.

Director-General Pascal Lamy’s consultations come under the heading of “implementation”. They deal with the question of whether to extend to other products the higher level of protection currently given to geographical indications for wines and spirits, and the relationship between the WTO intellectual property agreement and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The consultations are chaired on his behalf by Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa.

You can download them from the links above. These are brief explanations of the issues:

 

BACKGROUND

Negotiation: the multilateral register for wines and spirits

Geographical indications are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify products that come from these places and have these characteristics (for example, “Champagne”, “Tequila” or “Roquefort”).

This negotiation, which takes place in dedicated “special sessions” of the TRIPS Council, is about creating a multilateral system for notifying and registering geographical indications for wines and spirits. These are given a level of protection that is higher than for other geographical indications. The multilateral register is discussed separately from the question of “extension” — extending the higher level of protection to other products — although some countries consider the two to be related.

The work began in 1997 under Article 23.4 of the TRIPS Agreement. In 2001 it was brought the Doha Development Agenda (the Doha Declaration’s paragraph 18). The different positions are summarized here. Papers submitted are here.

 

Implementation (1): geographical indications ‘extension’

Geographical indications for all products are currently covered by Article 22 of the TRIPS Agreement, which defines a standard level of protection. This says geographical indications have to be protected in order to avoid misleading the public and to prevent unfair competition.

Article 23 provides a higher or enhanced level of protection for geographical indications for wines and spirits: subject to a number of exceptions, they have to be protected even if misuse would not cause the public to be misled.

The subject is an “implementation” issue in the Doha Development Agenda (the Doha Declaration’s paragraphs 12 and 18). The latest mandate is paragraph 39 of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. Consultations are chaired by Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa on behalf of Director-General Pascal Lamy.

The issue here is whether to expand the higher level of protection (Article 23) to other products. A number of countries want to negotiate extending this higher level of protection to other products. Some others oppose the move, and the debate has included the question of whether the Doha Declaration provides a mandate for negotiations. More information can be found here.

 

Implementation (2): TRIPS, patents, biodiversity and ‘disclosure’

This debate was originally wide-ranging. It now focuses on how the TRIPS Agreement relates to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and particularly whether the agreement should be amended to require “disclosure”. The ideas put forward include:

Disclosure as a TRIPS obligation: A group represented by Brazil and India and including Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, and supported by the African group and some other developing countries, wants to amend the TRIPS Agreement so that patent applicants are required to disclose the country of origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in the inventions, evidence that they received “prior informed consent” (a term used in the Biological Diversity Convention), and evidence of “fair and equitable” benefit sharing.

Disclosure through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): Switzerland has proposed an amendment to the regulations of the WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (and, by reference, WIPO’s Patent Law Treaty) so that domestic laws may ask inventors to disclose the source of genetic resources and traditional knowledge when they apply for patents. Failure to meet the requirement could hold up a patent being granted or, when done with fraudulent intent, could entail a granted patent being invalidated.

Disclosure, but outside patent law: The EU’s position includes a proposal to examine a requirement that all patent applicants disclose the source or origin of genetic material, with legal consequences of not meeting this requirement lying outside the scope of patent law.

Use of national legislation, including contracts rather than a disclosure obligation: The United States has argued that the Convention on Biological Diversity’s objectives on access to genetic resources, and on benefit sharing, could best be achieved through national legislation and contractual arrangements based on the legislation, which could include commitments on disclosing of any commercial application of genetic resources or traditional knowledge.

Like “GI extension”, this is an “implementation” issue in the Doha Development Agenda (the Doha Declaration’s paragraphs 12 and 18). Again, the latest mandate is paragraph 39 of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. Consultations are chaired by Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa on behalf of Director-General Pascal Lamy.

More information and documents submitted in the discussion can be found here and here

JARGON BUSTER

• CBD: Convention on Biological Diversity

• 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.

horizontal process: (in 2008) negotiations combining a range of issues including “modalities” for agriculture, industrial products, to some extent services and possibly other subjects, in order to strike a balance across them

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 negotiations

TRIPS: Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights

> More jargon: glossary
 

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