The 50th session of Assemblies of WIPO member states reached a breakthrough decision on how to complete negotiations on a pact to improve access to copyrighted works for the many visually impaired or print disabled people around the world.
Member states also agreed a work program for the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) for 2013. The IGC will continue intensive negotiations to ensure effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions/expressions of folklore (TCEs).
In another significant decision, WIPO’s 185 member states agreed to expedite work towards a design law treaty to develop simplified standards for industrial design registration procedures.
The WIPO Assemblies, which met from October 1-9, 2012, took stock of the Organization’s substantive work over the last year, and provided direction for the future work program. At the closing of the Assemblies, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry welcomed the “extremely constructive engagement of member states” in the work of the Organization as demonstrated in the decisions taken by the Assemblies. He underlined the progress made by member states in setting timetables for concluding negotiations on international instruments on access to copyrighted work by the visually impaired, design law and intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
The Chair of the WIPO General Assembly, Serbia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Uglješa Zveki?, also welcomed the positive outcome of the Assemblies which took stock of the work of the Organization and set timetables to conclude normative work in several areas.
Representatives of regional groups, and individual member states, also welcomed the outcome of the Assemblies and the positive spirit among member states. Regional groups specifically underlined decisions to move forward in discussions on a treaty to facilitate access to copyrighted works by the visually impaired or print disabled, as well as a design law treaty. They also welcomed the outcome on the future work plan of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.
During the Assemblies, Mr. Gurry held a number of high level bilateral meetings with representatives of WIPO member states as well as with heads of regional and national IP offices, during which 13 technical cooperation agreements were signed – five relating to the establishment of Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) and eight memoranda of understanding.
Member States took note of the report on the milestone adoption of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (BTAP), which expands and comprehensively recognizes the intellectual property rights of actors and other audiovisual performers in international copyright law. Botswana, Honduras, and Uganda signed the Beijing Treaty during the Assemblies, indicating their strong support for the Treaty and a willingness to pursue ratification at the national level. This brings the number of Beijing Treaty signatories to 51.
The General Assembly approved a road map that could lead in 2013 to a historic diplomatic conference for an international treaty focused on improving access to published works for persons who are visually impaired or print disabled. The Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will hold inter-sessional meetings from October 17-19, 2012 to work on the text of the instrument. The SCCR will meet from November 19-23, 2012 and will continue discussions on the text with the objective of concluding or substantially advancing the text-based work on this topic. Member states agreed to convene an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly in December 2012 to assess progress on the text and decide whether to convene a diplomatic conference in 2013. Some 300 million blind or visually impaired people around the world stand to benefit from a more flexible copyright regime adapted to current technological realities. Individuals with reading impairment often need to convert information into Braille, large print, audio, electronic and other formats using assistive technologies. Only a very small percentage of published books around the world are available in formats accessible to the visually impaired.
Member states also welcomed the SCCR’s progress towards developing an international treaty to update the protection of broadcasting organizations. Work will continue on the single text that was adopted by the Committee in July 2012, with the objective of reaching a decision on the possible convening of a diplomatic conference on the protection of broadcasting organizations in 2014. The General Assembly further noted the SCCR’s progress on agenda items regarding limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives and limitations and exceptions for education, teaching, and research institutions and persons with other disabilities, as well as the contributions made by the SCCR toward the implementation of the Development Agenda.
The General Assembly reached an agreement on a work program for the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (the IGC) for 2013. The IGC will continue intensive negotiations and engagement in good faith, with appropriate representation, towards concluding the text(s) of an international legal instrument(s) which will ensure effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions/expressions of folklore (TCEs). In 2013, the work of the IGC will be carried out through three thematic IGC sessions (5 days each for GRs and TK) that will, in turn and in this order, address GRs, TK and TCEs. The third thematic session, on TCEs, will be an eight day session, as it will also include three days for member states to review and take stock of the text(s) and make a recommendation to the General Assembly in 2013. The IGC was requested to submit to the 2013 General Assembly the text(s) of an international legal instrument(s) which will ensure the effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs. The General Assembly in 2013 will take stock of and consider the text(s), progress made and decide on convening a diplomatic conference. Many delegations recognized that much work had been accomplished by the IGC in 2012 in consolidating a single text on GRs and in further developing the texts on TK and TCEs. Many delegations, however, also called for an intensification of the IGC’s negotiations towards bridging the divergences which remain. Several delegations invited the Chair of the IGC, Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica) to hold and participate in informal consultations, to build convergence on key outstanding issues, and for the results of these consultations to be presented to the IGC for its consideration. The next session of the IGC (the 23rd session), which will focus on GRs, is likely to take place in February 2013.
The General Assembly considered the current work of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) with respect to design law and practice. The objective is to develop simplified standards for industrial design registration procedures, which are notoriously divergent among member states. A WIPO survey recently found that users of the design system in WIPO member states believe that these simplifications would result in improvements for their design activities. Likewise, member states’ industrial property offices were positive towards the likely impact of these changes on users of the design system. The General Assembly emphasized the need to provide technical assistance to developing and least developed countries for the implementation of those changes. Member states agreed on the importance of a design law treaty and urged the SCT to expedite its work. The 2013 General Assembly will consider the progress made during the coming year and decide on the convening of a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a design law treaty.
Member states took note of the progress towards enhanced efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness across the Organization in the context of the rapidly changing world of intellectual property. WIPO’s Strategic Realignment Program (SRP) will conclude at the end of 2012 after a two year implementation phase. Nineteen cross-cutting initiatives have catalyzed change across the Organization, including strengthening results-based management, improving risk management, establishing an ethics system, enhancing the customer experience and reducing WIPO’s adverse impact on the environment. The program included the first phase of a five-year 25 million Swiss Francs project to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which will integrate the management of financial, human resources and performance information. The Organization has capitalized on the opportunity to rethink its business processes, reducing duplication, possibility of human error and redundancy. The ERP project is planned for completion by the end of 2015.
Delegations recognized the Director General’s commitment to effective implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda and appreciated the significant progress made since its adoption in 2007. They expressed support for the continuing implementation of the Development Agenda recommendations to support national socio-economic development in WIPO member countries. . A number of delegations drew attention to some outstanding matters in the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) and called for a constructive engagement to make progress on those issues.
The General Assembly took note of a report on the work of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), addressing the recent work of the Committee and reporting on delegations’ views on the implementation of the respective Development Agenda Recommendations. Many of the intervening delegations praised the work of the SCP and its importance for improving the understanding of member States on patent-related issues. A number of delegations, however, expressed regrets that the SCP had not been able to agree on a more specific future work plan at its 18th session and shared the hope that a more positive outcome would be reached in the future.
Member states expressed their full support for WIPO’s work to address the global phenomenon of IP rights infringement, and underlined the importance of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE) as a valuable forum for exchanging information concerning the enforcement of IP rights in the framework of building respect for IP. It was recognized that studies presented at the ACE offered essential insights in relevant factors relating to IP infringement, reinforcing the need for better statistics and related information. Member states recommended that the ACE should continue to contribute to a more comprehensive and pragmatic understanding of IP rights infringements, with a view to approaching IP enforcement in a balanced way, guided by Recommendation 45 of the Development Agenda. In addition, member states showed appreciation for WIPO’s continuous efforts in promoting respect for IP through technical assistance activities.
The Assembly of the International Patent Cooperation Union (PCT Union) appointed the National Institute of Industrial Property of Chile (INAPI) as an International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authority under the PCT. Member states welcomed the appointment, observing that an office from a developing country in the Latin American region operating natively in the Spanish language could provide great benefits to inventors in that region, as well as reducing some of the workload pressure from other International Authorities. The Assembly adopted certain changes to the PCT Regulations, bringing significant simplifications to procedures for PCT applicants from all countries, made possible by the recent entry into force of the America Invents Act in the United States of America. The Assembly also agreed to maintain and continue to monitor the supplementary international search system and noted reports on work being undertaken in the PCT Working Group and Meeting of International Authorities under the PCT.
The Assembly of the Special Union for the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Union) adopted the proposed amendments to three specific Rules that were no longer applicable (Rules 7(3)(b), 24(2)(a)(i) and 40(5)), which will enter into force January 1, 2013. The Assembly continued to take note of the practice of the secretariat concerning translation upon request of statements of grant of protection following a provisional refusal, as well as the translation of the list of goods and services affected by a limitation. The Assembly mandated the secretariat to undertake a review of the said practices after a period of three years. The Assembly took further note of the progress made in the implementation of the project of the Madrid System Goods and Services Database, it approved the use of the remaining cooperation funds in order to assist some offices to finalize additional languages, it approved the postponement of the study on the introduction of additional filing languages in the Madrid system and instead supported the efforts of the secretariat in further increasing the relevancy and linguistic diversity of the G&S Database. Regarding the Information Technology (IT) Modernization Program, the Assembly took note of the status of implementation of Phase I of the Program and of the progress of Phase II, it took further note of the possibility of the reintroduction of Phase III, and it endorsed the transfer of the loan from the PCT Union to the Madrid Union.
The Assembly of the Special Union for the International Deposit of Industrial Designs (Hague Union) took note of the status report and the steady progress made in implementing the information technology modernization program. It further took note of the possibility of the reintroduction of Phase III of the Program and of the transfer of the loan from the PCT Union to the Madrid Union.
The Assembly of the Special Union for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration (Lisbon Union) noted that the Working Group on the Development of the Lisbon system has moved into treaty drafting mode in its review of the Lisbon system and, under its two-fold mandate, will continue its work towards: (i) a revision of the Lisbon Agreement that would involve the refinement of its current legal framework and the inclusion of the possibility of accession by intergovernmental organizations; and (ii) the establishment of an international registration system for geographical indications.
The Assembly of the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (STLT) welcomed the accession of four new countries, bringing the overall number of contracting parties to twenty-nine. As recommended by the Working Group on the Review of Model International Form No. 1 of the Treaty, the Assembly adopted amendments to that Form, concerning the modalities for representation of hologram marks, motion marks, color marks, position marks, sound marks and one additional detail for the representation of three dimensional marks.
The General Assembly noted developments in the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center’s provision of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, including assistance requested by certain intellectual property offices in offering ADR options for opposition and other disputes before these offices. Furthermore, it was noted that the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Rules are used to resolve a growing number of cases especially in the areas of licensing, research and development, and IT transactions. In relation to the Internet domain name system (DNS), the General Assembly took note of plans by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for significant expansion of the number of top-level domains. The Center has helped design and will administer a Legal Rights Objection procedure that seeks to prevent the approval of applied-for domains that would violate third-party trademark rights, and more broadly monitors ICANN developments in the interest of effective rights protection in approved domains. Member states noted that under the existing WIPO-initiated Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), the Center administered record case filings in 2011.
The Assembly appreciated technical work by experts at the Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS) which had developed a new and comprehensive standard of industrial property data for on-line file exchange among IP offices, and agreed to continue to work for clarifying work procedure before the next meeting.
A number of delegations appreciated significant progress in WIPO’s technical assistance to enhance technical infrastructure of IP offices through the Industrial Property Automation System (IPAS) and Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) and requested additional and continued support for their efforts to improve the efficiency of IP offices and relevant organizations. This support helps enhances the efficiency of the IP system, as well as access to knowledge and technology with the goal of promoting innovation.
The Assemblies took note of progress reports on the completion of the new administrative building, which has been fully operational since mid-2011 and houses now about 500 employees. The Assemblies also took note of progress reports on the new conference hall project which, following the jointly agreed and amicable termination of the contract with the general contractor, is now expected to be delivered at the end of 2013.
Member states appreciated the first comprehensive Annual Report on Human Resources and noted progress made in advancing human resources management reform. The Coordination Committee approved a revision to the Staff Regulations and Rules which was the result of a consultative process between staff representatives and management, providing a basis for far reaching improvements in WIPO’s regulatory framework for human resources management. The revision includes a more streamlined system of job classification, more clarity on reporting of alleged misconduct and the protection for whistleblowers, more agile recruitment procedures for certain categories of staff, and improvements in the management of short-term personnel.
A full report of all deliberations and decisions is available at http://www.wipo.int/about-wipo/en/assemblies/2012/agenda.html