THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.
The official record is in the meeting’s minutes.
Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria was elected at the start of the 15-minute meeting. Chairs of Doha Round negotiating groups are normally elected from one ministerial conference to the next.
This was the first meeting of the negotiating group after the Geneva Ministerial Conference in December 2011, when WTO ministers acknowledged that the Doha Development Agenda talks are at an impasse and called for a change of approach.
“I […] intend to initiate, in the coming weeks, a process of informal consultations with the delegations, both individually and in groups, in order to determine how best we may operationalize those elements of the outcome of [the Ministerial Conference] that relate to our work,” he said.
He added that he will report back to the membership when the consultations are completed.
Chile (for the “Joint Proposal Group”) and the EU said they or the groups they represent are prepared to work with the chairperson to find a way forward, under what they each interpret as the mandate to set up a register that would “facilitate” the protection of geographical indications.
However the Joint Proposal Group said it would not be prepared to discuss work outside the mandate. It repeated its long held view on this, for example that the system must apply only to wines and spirits, be voluntary, create no new legal obligations, respect “territoriality” (not involving one country’s legal system imposing on another’s) and be simple and transparent to use.
The official name of the negotiating group is “Special Sessions” of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) Council, which consists of all WTO members. As with all Doha Round (or Doha Development Agenda) negotiations, these sessions report to the Trade Negotiations committee.
Negotiations on the proposed multilateral register for wines and spirits began in 1997, under Art.23.4 of the WTO intellectual property agreement (TRIPS) and were added to the Doha Round when it was launched in 2001.
Note: These negotiations focus on creating a multilateral register for wines and spirits and not about “GI extension” — extending to all products the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits — which is discussed in special meetings under Director-General Pascal Lamy.
- Consultations on next steps and a report back to the full membership. No dates set.
The three alternative proposals currently on the table are:
The Joint Proposal TN/IP/W/10/Rev.4 from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Rep.Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Chinese Taipei, South Africa, the US. This envisages the register as a database. Members would choose whether or not to participate in the register. The intellectual property authorities of participating members would consult the database when considering protection for individual trademarks or geographical indications within their countries.
TN/C/W/52 of 19 July 2008, from over 100 WTO members (the W/52 group), which includes a modified and stripped-down version of the EU’s original proposal for the multilateral register. It is now in the form of proposed “modalities” or a blueprint of the final outcome, with details to be negotiated later. Described as a negotiated compromise among the sponsors, the proposal envisages a system applying to all members although members could choose whether or not to register their own geographical indications.
All members would have to take a term’s registration “into account” and treat it as “prima facie” evidence (first sight, or preliminary, before further investigation) that the term meets the definition of a geographical indication. Further procedures for that term within each country would be handled entirely within the country’s domestic legal system. These include confirmation that the term is an eligible geographical indication, possible challenges, and whether it is subject to exceptions such as because the term is generic.
(Previously the EU had proposed that if a term is registered the assumption — the legal phrase is “irrebuttable presumption” — would be that it should be protected in all WTO members except those that have successfully challenged the term.)
Opponents of this proposal also object to the link with two other intellectual property issues: “extending” to all products the enhanced protection currently given to wines and spirits; and requiring patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic materials and related traditional knowledge used in their inventions.
TN/IP/W/8 from Hong Kong, China: if a term is registered, this would be preliminary (“prima facie”) evidence — which could be rebutted — about who owns the term, that it is protected in the country of origin, etc, but only in those countries choosing to participate in the system. Hong Kong, China also proposes an initial period of four years for this system followed by a review.
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