Procedures for notifying and sharing information: laws and regulations

WTO members have to notify the TRIPS Council — in other words the WTO’s membership — about their intellectual property laws and regulations.

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Notifications under Article 63.2  

Article 63.2 of the TRIPS Agreement requires members to notify the laws and regulations made effective pertaining to the subject-matter of the agreement (the availability, scope, acquisition, enforcement and prevention of the abuse of intellectual property rights). The procedures for the notification of national laws and regulations under Article 63.2 are contained in document IP/C/2 (download Word, pdf).

These procedures say that when a member is obliged to start applying a provision of the TRIPS Agreement, the corresponding laws and regulations must be notified without delay (normally within 30 days, except where otherwise provided by the TRIPS Council). Any subsequent amendments must be notified without delay after their entry into force — normally within 30 days where no translation is required and within 60 days where translation is necessary.

The procedures make a distinction between “main dedicated intellectual property laws and regulations” and “other laws and regulations”. Document IP/C/2, paragraphs 6 and 9, and document IP/C/W/8 (download Word, pdf) contain some guidelines for dividing the laws and regulations into these two categories. Main laws and regulations have to be notified in English, French or Spanish; other laws and regulations can be notified in a member’s national language even if this is not one of those three languages. Translations of laws and regulations must be accompanied by the authentic texts of the laws and regulations in question in a national language.

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Only the texts of main laws and regulations are distributed in WTO documents, and only in the WTO language in which they have been submitted.

Other laws and regulations are not distributed, but they can be consulted at the WTO Secretariat. However, a notification is circulated and this must include a list of their titles with a brief description of their contents, according to the format contained in document IP/C/4 (download Word, pdf). A model of a listing can be found in document IP/C/W/8 (download Word, pdf). In order to make the notifications more user-friendly, some members have recently provided these lists and descriptions for their “main dedicated intellectual property laws and regulations” as well, when updating earlier notifications.

Notifications of laws and regulations under Article 63.2 are distributed in the IP/N/1/ series of documents.

Full details of the document codes used can be found here

These notification documents are available in the WTO’s Documents Online database. More recently, the actual texts of the main laws and regulations have usually been annexed to the notification documents if they have been submitted as electronic files.

Previously, the texts were mainly received on paper, and were not annexed to the notifications in electronic form. Instead, the electronic versions simply ended with a note that the actual texts were in “offset” form, meaning they were not available electronically in Documents Online. However, those texts have now been scanned and are now available in .pdf format in the Documents Online database.

Cooperation between World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the WTO plays an important part in how notified laws and regulations are managed. Under Article 2(4) of the Agreement between the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization, the WTO Secretariat sends to WIPO’s International Bureau a copy of the laws and regulations that WTO members have notified to the WTO Secretariat under Article 63.2 of the TRIPS Agreement, in the language or languages and in the form or forms in which they were received. The International Bureau places these copies in its paper collection. WIPO then makes the laws and regulations contained in its collection available to the public in various ways, including by publishing them on-line in its Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA).

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One mailbox for two organizations  

Since May 2010, WTO and WIPO member governments have been able to notify their intellectual property laws to the two organizations simultaneously with a single action. This is done through the the “WIPO-WTO Common Portal”, or in full the World Intellectual Property Organization-World Trade Organization Common Portal for Notification of Intellectual Property Laws and Regulations.

The portal serves as an alternative electronic means of notifying member’s legislation on intellectual property. It allows members to submit legal texts simultaneously to the WTO — under Article 63.2 of the TRIPS Agreement — and to WIPO — under Article 24(2) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and Article 15(2) of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

This new portal does not replace the existing procedures established by the TRIPS Council for receiving and processing notifications. Nor does it change the administrative roles of either Secretariat. It merely provides a simple alternative way of submitting legal texts through what is effectively a single electronic mailbox.

The texts of intellectual property laws and regulations that WTO and WIPO members send through this portal will be picked up and processed by the WIPO and WTO Secretariats according to their standard procedures. In case of the WTO, the texts received through the WIPO-WTO Common Portal will be circulated according to standard procedures and placed in the WTO Documents Online database.

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Checklists of questions, and answers  

Given the difficulty of examining legislation relevant to many of the enforcement obligations in the TRIPS Agreement, members have undertaken, in addition to notifying legislative texts, to provide information on how they are meeting these obligations by responding to a checklist of questions (document IP/C/5: download Word, pdf). Responses to these questions are circulated in the IP/N/6– series of documents.

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