WIPO's Development Meeting - Day Two (April 12)

Submitted by PabloOrtellado on April 12, 2005.Copyright/Fair Use | English

Pablo Ortellado

WIPO's development meeting started with a clear clash of positions opposing developed countries and non-developed countries aligned with the "friends of development" group. The proposal put forward by Brazil and Argentina and backed by 12 other countries (Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela) aims at a deep reform in WIPO's structure so as to take into account public interests and the needs of the non developed countries. The group of friends of development proposal includes allowing for greater flexibility of patent laws, reviewing the role and influence of right holders, allowing greater participation of public interest groups in the organization and increasing the measures for the transfer of technology and access to knowledge to non developed countries. This is the first time that the needs of non developed countries and public interests are seriously addressed in the WIPO.

In day two, developed countries, specially the US and the EU countries, have responded to the friends of development proposal by stating that development issues are already addressed in the WIPO by means of technical assistance programs and the Permanent Committee on Cooperation for Development. Non developed countries have responded to that by highlighting that technical assistance programs are not enough and that development issues should not be dealt in a committee but should be incorporated in the overall structure of the organization. India, for example, stressed that technical assistance should not be directed to merely promoting the enforcement of intellectual property law in the countries receiving assistance. Argentina added that technical assistance provided by the WIPO should not only foster the traditional use of the intellectual property system but also inform the recipients of the existing limitations and flexibilities of the system so assisted countries could explore a wider range of possibilities that might serve their needs. The expositions of the different countries' positions clearly showed that there were two main clashing sets of proposals: one that defended that WIPO already properly addresses the issue of development and that no major change other than increasing technical assistance or strengthening the role of the committee on cooperation for development are needed; the second position revolving around the bold set of proposals for reforming the WIPO put forward by Argentina, Brazil and the friends of development group.

It should be highlighted the strong statement made by India criticizing the intellectual property system and aligning itself with the friends of development group. India argued that the intellectual property system favors the right holders in the developed countries and not the public interest or the developing countries. It also mentioned the need for further flexibilization mechanisms as to better balance the damages and benefits of the intellectual property system. Finally, it opposed the trend of continuous increasing levels of protection of intellectual property. Other countries, specially in Africa and Central America, stated support for the friends of development proposal.

The United States reaffirmed its position supporting the existing intellectual property system and stated that it already properly addresses developing issues. For the US instead of weakening the intellectual property system, it needs to be expanded and deepened. The US also criticized Brazil's and the friends of development proposal for believing complex developing issues could be solved by a reform in the intellectual property system and pointed to other fora more appropriated for discussing specific development issues.

Brazil and Argentina took then the floor to comment the three other proposals made by the United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico. Argentina noticed that all those other proposals basically try to limit the development agenda to technical cooperation. The US proposal, Argentina observed, basically supports the status quo of intellectual property. For Brazil, the US proposal for a partnership program is only a matchmaking mechanism to connect donors and requesters of technical cooperation. It also submits technical cooperation to market forces, substituting WIPO's funding for outsourced funds from the private sector. Both Argentina and Brazil praised United Kingdom's document's considerations of the relationships between development and the intellectual property system but regretted the very limited scope of its concrete proposals. Brazil and Argentina criticized Mexico's document for stating that Intellectual Property by itself promoted development and reminded that several developed countries not long ago flexibilized intellectual property as a means to promote their own development.

The third and last day of the meeting will be dedicated to future work which should be informed by the discussions of the previous two days.