Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Talks But No Breakthroughs Yet On IP Issues For Ministers At WTO [International]

Intellectual property issues have been a topic of debate at the World Trade Organization ministerial negotiations since Friday and while there have been no changes in positions there has been some talk of looking for compromises, according to sources attending the event. Ministers from some IP-proponent countries raised the issues as critical to the heads of delegation meeting on Monday, the first day of the mini-ministerial in Geneva, while opponents held a meeting of like-minded countries reinforcing their position against the inclusion of IP issues in the talks, sources said.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy began on Friday to talk with officials about IP issues in an attempt to find a way to navigate the standstill on them, sources said. Lamy held meetings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they said. However, on Monday evening, the issue was not a primary topic of the Green Room meeting, the smaller, closed gathering held in Lamy’s office. The ministerial is scheduled to run from 21-27 July.
The focus in the next few days is expected to be squarely on the issues of agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) before IP issues become critical, if at all, according to several sources. But the outcome of the mini-ministerial (about 40 of the WTO’s 153 members) will be tied to addressing demands from the European Union, Switzerland, India, Brazil and others on issues related to intellectual property and trade.
The IP issues are: the creation of a mandated register on geographical indications - product names associated with a place and characteristics - for wines and spirits; extension to other products of the higher-level GI protections currently enjoyed by wines and spirits; and an amendment to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to require the disclosure of origin of traditional knowledge and genetic material in patent applications, intended to bring TRIPS in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
A draft modalities text has been prepared by proponents, claiming support from a majority - over 100 - of WTO members (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 18 July 2008). The text, TN/C/W/52, is now posted as a document to the WTO website. The opponents’ longstanding position favouring a voluntary register and database for consultation, referred to as the joint proposal, has been submitted again and posted as document TN/IP/W/10/rev.1.
A possible split in the IP issues may have been suggested by Lamy, according to sources. It generally has been the view that the GI register and the CBD amendment might have more middle ground for negotiating, while the GI extension might be more two-dimensional, sources said.
But such a split would not be acceptable to IP proponents, an official from a proponent country said. And the opponents’ meeting on Monday, which included countries such as Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States, reconfirmed the view that none of these issues should be discussed this week, according to a participant.

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