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Intellectual Property Watch » Agreement Reached On WIPO Development Agenda, Patents; No Broadcasting Yet
By William New
Government negotiators at the World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly have reached tentative agreement on the future of a proposed agenda for development, and for discussing global patent harmonisation. But key hurdles remain for a proposal to convene a negotiation on a broadcasters’ rights treaty.

“I think it is positive,? said an official from Brazil, one of the originators of the development proposal. “We got a commitment from members to actually consider the full range of proposals in a structured manner without prejudging the outcome.?

The preliminary decision on development [see text below] was reached on 30 September in an informal session, sources said. The decision is expected to be approved by the plenary on 2 October; the 2006 assembly meets from 25 September to 3 October.

Under the preliminary agreement, the mandate of the Provisional Committee on Proposals related to a WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA) would be extended another year, with two five-day meetings in 2007. The meetings would address all of the proposals related to development that were put forward in 2004 and 2005. The idea originated with a proposal at the 2004 assembly by 14 (now 15) Friends of Development, and by last year there were some 111 proposals ranging from improved technical assistance to substantive change of WIPO procedures and review of actions by key committees to ensure they are beneficial to developing countries.

The proposals would be addressed in two stages. The first meeting would cover 40 proposals identified in an earlier proposal by the Kyrgyz Republic, and the second would cover the remaining 71. Officials from the United States and Brazil said afterward that the first set of proposals likely would be easier to agree. But it is understood that all proposals would be considered equally, and ways to consolidate them would be sought. “They have a chance,? the Brazilian official said of the more substantive Friends of Development proposals put in the second meeting. A change was made from a 29 September proposal by the Group B developed countries that would have made the second meeting conditional on progress in the first.

No Patent Committee Meeting in 2007

WIPO members have for years fought over whether and how to further harmonise global patent laws, and this year they will not have to (at least not formally). As shown in the agreed preliminary text below (which awaits approval by plenary), there would be no formal meeting in 2007 of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents, whose main task of late has been to work on harmonisation. Instead, proposals on a committee work plan may be submitted by December 2006, and the General Assembly chair will conduct consultations in the first half of 2007 before sending a recommendation to next year’s assembly, which would try to set a work plan for 2008 and 2009.

A developed country official said the “Group B-plus? developed countries would also continue their work on harmonisation outside WIPO, with a November meeting in Tokyo and a meeting in Washington in the spring. They will continue to focus on the “reduced package? proposal they previously put forward in WIPO, focusing on four key areas in patent law.

Broadcasting Still Up in the Air

Under the latest proposal on broadcasting, the assembly would approve the convening of a diplomatic conference, or formal treaty negotiation, in late 2007. There would be two special sessions of the WIPO copyright committee during 2007 to address disagreements, and next year’s September assembly would hear the results of those meetings.

Two sentences were added on 30 September to the broadcasting treaty draft decision. It states: “The Diplomatic Conference will be convened if such agreement is agreed. If no such agreement is achieved, all further discussions will be based on Document SCCR/15/2.?

The United States had been seeking to strengthen a “safety clause? that would prevent the broadcast treaty negotiation from being held if the special sessions did not resolve larger disagreements. The U.S. has been seen as a proponent of the treaty negotiation in the past, but has raised concern with the draft proposal since webcasting and simulcasting were dropped. It also has concerns about language tying the treaty to other international agreements on cultural diversity, and, according to a US official, also is responding to information and communications technology industry lobbying against the current draft proposal.

One negotiator also raised the question of why the same document on which there has been contention, SCCR/15/2, would continue to be used if there were no agreement. The broadcasting issue is expected to come up on 2 October.

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