Wednesday, March 09, 2005

WIPO politics

Kim Weatherall on the accusation of dirty tricks at WIPO on the development agenda.

"I'm no politics expert, and I'm also no expert on the politics of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in particular. But there's a lot of very apparently interesting political moves going on there at the moment.

For one thing, there are three key Agenda items that are going on at the moment, pulling in different directions:

1. The Development Agenda: based on the a proposal (pdf) from Argentina for the Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO', and adopted in October 2004. Prior to the adoption of this agenda, hundreds of nonprofits, scientists, academics and other individuals signed the 'Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO', which expresses a lot of the same general ideas. The general aim is to integrate a 'development dimension' into international IP policy-making;

2. The Substantive Patent Law Treaty: the aim of this agenda item is to further harmonise patent law by a treaty that establishes common standards on important elements of patent law - like novelty, inventive step, prior art - things like that.

3. The proposed Broadcasting Rights Treaty: the 'next' copyright item - which proposes to give full copyright rights to broadcasters.

In theory, the first of these should, one would think, be strongly informing the other two. If a 'development dimension' is to be incorporated in IP policy-making, then it should be incorporated into all IP policy-making - especially the agreement of any new treaties. That linkage is not, currently, apparent, given the separate meetings being held on the development agenda. In fact, one interesting observation is that, currently, if you go to the WIPO website, and look for "About Intellectual Property", there is no link to a Development Agenda or development issues. And, if you look at the list of topics in "Activities", you'll also look in vain for a Development Agenda. The only reference you'll find that looks like it might be relevant - 'Cooperation for Development' - refers to activities to 'enable developing countries all over the world to establish or modernize intellectual property systems'. Hmmm."

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