WIPO holds landmark development conference; committee talks continue

22 April 2016

The UN’s intellectual property agency held a landmark development conference earlier this month, bringing together representatives from government, civil society, industry groups, and other officials for a two-day meeting at the organisation’s Geneva headquarters.

The International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development, held from 7-8 April, was then followed by the Seventeenth Session of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) from 11-15 April.

The CDIP oversees the implementation of the 45 WIPO Development Agenda recommendations, which were adopted in 2007 with the aim of integrating development concerns into all of WIPO's activities, from norm setting to technical assistance.

While the international conference was welcomed by delegates for achieving a high level of sophistication, combined with practical experiences and cases of developing countries experimenting in the design of dynamic IP system, the CDIP saw comparatively fewer advances, ultimately continuing its “business as usual” practice of reviewing projects.

The Committee also continued the long-running discussions around a Coordination Mechanism and how to follow-up on an independent report on technical assistance submitted in 2011, both without resolution.

At last week’s session, the CDIP also agreed on launching a new project and on the second phase of an existing project.

International Conference

The International Conference on IP and Development was widely welcomed as a notable event for the UN agency in its development efforts, particularly since the adoption of the WIPO Development Agenda Recommendations in 2007.

Delegations to the CDIP unanimously praised the event, which was designed to provide an opportunity to take stock of developments in the field of intellectual property and the place of policies and intellectual property (IP) institutions in responding to new technological, social, and economic challenges.

The meeting also drew high-level speakers, including Rob Davies, South Africa’s Minister for Trade and Industry, who delivered the keynote address.

During his intervention, the South African minister reflected on the historical, theoretical, and empirical dimensions of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and industrialisation.

“First, historically, different paths have been taken to economic development and the IPR protection provided,” he told the audience.

“Second, IP protection has been strengthened and evolved in different countries over time. Third, there is no unambiguous evidence that stronger IPRs foster industrial development and countries may require different approaches and policies depending on their level of industrial development,” Davies continued.

The conference programme itself was designed to allow participants the chance to exchange a range of diverse views on IP and development, with the goal of ensuring that these discussions could be held in an open and cordial manner, free of the tensions that normally prevail in intergovernmental discussions on the same issues. 

Participants included internationally-renowned scholars, representatives from international organisations, practitioners, and high-level officials from IP offices, who addressed intricate contemporary issues such as social development, economic development, cultural development, the design of a dynamic IP system, and global cooperation for IP and development.

Also on the agenda was a presentation of case studies on how IP has contributed to development, as well as the experience of some IP offices in designing modern, dynamic institutions that respond to new challenges and national needs.

Ethiopia and Chile, for example, gave presentations regarding their institutional adaptation to new circumstances and developments. It was noted that IP offices are not just bureaucratic setups administering laws, regulations, and registries but also urgently need to address complex issues involving constant adaptation, while being attentive to social demands, local conditions, and the international environment. 

The conference concluded with a panel discussion. One clear message from the conference was that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, with countries facing different circumstances. For an IP system to succeed, participants highlighted the need for local capacities able to create and innovate, supported by domestic institutional and coherent policy frameworks.

Business as usual at CDIP

The following week, the CDIP gathered to address a series of topics under the newly-appointed Chair, Peruvian Ambassador Luis Enrique Chavez.

The Committee considered first the Director-General’s Report on the Implementation of the Development Agenda.

In introducing his report, Director-General Francis Gurry reportedly noted that “enormous progress had been made in the course of the 8 years in order to mainstream the Development Agenda recommendations through the WIPO regular programme activities and work of other WIPO bodies,” according to a chair’s summary of the talks.

A good portion of the Committee’s session was devoted to the usual task of reviewing evaluation reports of projects undertaken under the aegis of the CDIP, along with considering new projects that it can support in the future.

Delegations also considered a document prepared by the WIPO Secretariat on the Mapping of WIPO Activities Related to the Sustainable Development Goals.

These Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, were adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York last December as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (See Bridges Weekly, 1 October 2015)

Using the mapping document as a basis, member states agreed to make written submissions to the Secretariat indicating their views on which SDGs are relevant to WIPO’s work. These will be considered at the Committee’s next session.

The Committee approved the Phase II of the Project on Strengthening and Development of the Audiovisual Sector in Burkina Faso and Certain African Countries. 

It also signed off on a revised project on education and professional training with judicial institutions, which had sparked concerns from developing countries during the CDIP’s previous session, specifically on its content. At the time, those countries also stressed the need for such a project to focus on the development-oriented aspects of the related Development Agenda recommendations.

Ecuador submitted a proposal for a Pilot Project to Accelerate Technology Transfer, which will also be discussed at the CDIP’s next session.

Coordination Mechanism

Discussions have been underway at the CDIP since 2010 on developing a Coordination Mechanism, which is meant to consider the implementation of the Development Agenda recommendations into the agendas of WIPO Standing Committees. (See Bridges Weekly, 5 May 2010)

Talks on the subject continued during this latest session. However, following various attempts by the chair and delegations to reduce differences among member states, the resolution of this item remained inconclusive.

Technical assistance

Delegates were also unable to agree last week on the follow-up to a 2011 report, specifically the External Review of WIPO Technical Assistance in the Area of Cooperation for Development.

The external review had examined the UN agency’s technical assistance activities regarding cooperation for development from 2008-2010, specifically examining “their effectiveness, impact, efficiency, and relevance,” as well as whether existing internal coordination mechanisms in this area were adequate. (See Bridges Weekly, 23 November 2011)

Notably, various efforts were made last week to advance a Spanish proposal listing six measures to enhance technical cooperation.

The measures include a request to the WIPO Secretariat to compile existing practices, tools, and methodologies for providing technical assistance and to continue improving internal coordination within the organisation and other relevant international bodies, including UN agencies and programmes.

While members generally agreed on the content of Spain’s proposal, they disagreed over whether to close the discussions on the external review. Debates will continue at the 18th session of the CDIP.

Coming up

The CDIP is set to hold its next session in November of this year. The meeting is slated to have a crowded agenda, including all outstanding items of this session as well as the consideration of the Report of the Independent Review on the Implementation of the Development Agenda Recommendations and the report on the international conference on IP and Development.

ICTSD reporting.

This article first appeared in the Bridges Weekly, 14 April 2016.

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