The WTO Secretariat provided an update on the e-TRIPS project, which aims to streamline and bring up to date the information services the Secretariat provides to WTO members. It comprises two separate but integrated online tools – first, the e-TRIPS Submission System, a means for submitting TRIPS notification and review material; and second, the e-TRIPS gateway, which provides a wide range of opportunities for delegates to access and make use of TRIPS information.
Regarding the e-TRIPS Submission System, launched after the previous meeting of the TRIPS Council on 13 February, the Secretariat said it is now ready to be used in the three WTO official languages: English, French and Spanish. To date, over 35 members have requested login credentials and the Secretariat will continue assisting delegates in Geneva and capital-based officials in its practical use.
Concerning the e-TRIPS gateway, the Secretariat informed the Council that a beta version of the gateway will be released in the coming weeks for testing by delegations. Upon completion, the e-TRIPS gateway will be integrated into the WTO website and open to the public. The new portal will make it a lot easier for delegates (and eventually for the public) to quickly research, retrieve and analyze TRIPS-related data. A demonstration of the e-TRIPS gateway highlighted its key features.
The Secretariat acknowledged the helpful feedback and collaboration of many delegates who over an extended development process have helped to shape and refine the different elements of the e-TRIPS project.
IP and innovation
WTO members continued discussions on the role intellectual property (IP) plays as a driver for more inclusive innovation. They specifically reflected on IP and innovation in the context of branding and creative industries, taking into account various forms of public-private partnerships in IP promotion. Part of the series of TRIPS Council discussions on IP and innovation launched in 2012, this theme was put on the agenda at the request of Australia, Canada, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and the United States.
Proponents noted the importance of exploring the role of creative industries and branding in a context where it is widely recognized that 'innovation' is not limited to 'inventions'. Rather, as defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it encompasses "the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization, or external relations".
Acknowledging that developing economies' participation in trade in creative goods has increased, and that 68 per cent of the world population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050, proponents said that a resilient innovation policy should include specific regional and rural branding and promotion strategies to respond to changing economic and geographic contexts.
Examples were provided on how the public sector can support the private sector through branding and promotion strategies at national and regional level, on the role intellectual property rights (IPRs) should play in the context of local innovation and public-private collaboration, as well as on the experience of creating innovative business models utilizing local IPRs.
Several members highlighted that creative industries, including the performing and literary arts, and the design, media and entertainment industries, play an important role in contributing economic value and in enriching culture. However, since many artists and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not familiar with their IPRs and how to use them to grow their businesses, this is where the public sector can support them in protecting and using IP, as well as through promotion strategies and IP management, proponents added.
Recognizing that IPRs provide an incentive to innovation, some members emphasized that they are only effective in certain contexts and stressed the need to strike an appropriate balance between providing incentives for innovation and ensuring that resulting advantages contribute to the societal benefit in an equitable manner.
Non-violation and situation complaints
Regarding "non-violation and situation complaints" - whether a member can bring cases against another member if it considers that the other member's action or a specific situation has deprived it of an expected benefit, even if no obligation has been violated – members reiterated well-known positions, although several delegations indicated readiness to constructively engage in discussions about possible modalities in case such complaints were to become applicable.
There have been some encouraging signs at recent meetings, the chair said, not only in terms of readiness to engage in a constructive discussion, but also in terms of giving examples of what the scope and modalities could look like if non-violation and situation complaints were to apply to TRIPS.
With barely six months left until the December 2019 deadline agreed at the 11th Ministerial Conference in December 2017 that extended the moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints for an additional two years, focused discussions are now needed on what the Council should recommend to the next Ministerial Conference, to be held in June 2020.
The chair called on members to bring concrete proposals that would permit the Council to move beyond positions of principle and to engage substantively. He indicated he would hold consultations to facilitate discussions of the Council's possible recommendations on scope and modalities for such complaints.
Incentives for technology transfer to least-developed countries
The chair informed members that the WTO Secretariat is planning for the Annual Workshop on Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement, which calls on developed countries to provide incentives to enterprises and institutions in their territories for the purpose of promoting and encouraging technology transfer to least-developed countries in order to enable them to create a sound and viable technological base. Some members discussed the possibility of focal points for projects involving incentives to transfer technology under Article 66.2.
The workshop is planned once again to be held back-to-back with the TRIPS Council meeting in February 2020. As on previous occasions, the workshop will provide members with the opportunity for concrete exchanges between cooperation partners, and to deepen the dialogue on incentives for transfer of technology to respond to the needs identified by least-developed countries.
During the meeting of the Council, Cuba deposited its instrument of acceptance for the 2005 protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement, which applies now to 128 WTO members. The chair encouraged the remaining 36 members still operating under the 2003 waiver decision to expedite action. The up-to-date list and map of members that have accepted the protocol are available here.
The next formal meeting of the TRIPS Council is scheduled for 17-18 October 2019.
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