Thursday, September 18, 2008

WIPO Development agenda implementation plan to be presented to WIPO General Assembly

The WIPO General Assembly will be asked next week to adopt a work plan for implementing the 19 development agenda recommendations that have been identified for immediate implementation. The plan as currently outlined bears little of the spirit that inspired the Friends of Development and the original proposal of a development agenda at WIPO.

First, the plan to implement development agenda
recommendation 1 on technical assistance: that recommendation read as follows:
WIPO technical assistance shall be, inter alia, development-oriented, demand-driven and transparent, taking into account the priorities and the special needs of developing countries, especially LDCs, as well as the different levels of development of Member States and activities should include time frames for completion. In this regard, design, delivery mechanisms and evaluation processes of technical assistance programs should be country specific
The plan outlined in the report seems to consist of two elements: first, to ensure everyone at WIPO is aware of the principles of this recommendation. This is a good thing. Second, the general plan seems to be to increase the bureaucracy of technical assistance: WIPO will "assist" countries in creating national IP plans along the following lines:
project design frameworks will be standardized for WIPO to ensure full project definition and description, quality control and approval processes, objective setting and monitoring activities, risk identification and management, performance and results definition and appraisal. Program evaluation will be undertaken in line with the recently approved WIPO Evaluation Policy.
Some of these things might help to identify true development-related goals. Or, they could just increase bureaucracy.

Also, WIPO will let private partners in to provide technical assistance, through a proposed "partnership database" that would match technical assistance "donors" with developing countries. On this, India made an important comment back in 2005, which has so far gone unheeded:
it was imperative to recognize that private sector partners would have a slight conflict of interest in the sort of advice that they provided: therefore, as the idea of the Delegation of the United States of America [the US originally suggested the partnership database in 2005] was developed further, the meeting could, perhaps, think of balancing or neutralizing the conflict of interest by having a civil society partner as part of a trilateral arrangement. (IIM/2/10 para 129)
Want to keep an eye on all these technical assistance activities? You'll be able long as member states and/or involved partners approve the release of detailed information. Otherwise, you'll just have the general information available on the web site.

Further, a recommendation will be made that WIPO convene a donor conference to get the "bilateral and multilateral donor community (in particular, donor institutions)" involved in the implementation of WIPO's development agenda. This would be a big event soliciting even more private partners.

Remember recommendation 15, that WIPO should "take into consideration the interests and priorities of all WIPO Member States and the viewpoints of other stakeholders" (emphasis added)? Sounds like there is still one stakeholder group that WIPO is especially interested in promoting: in implementing recommendation 4, WIPO will "examine the contribution of the creative sector, as well as underscore its potential as an important constituent in support of policy making." (emphasis added) No mention of the contribution of other sectors. Further to this, WIPO has a plan unrelated to any recommendation contained in the development agenda:
WIPO’s institutional support will be extended not only to national IP offices, but also to other institutions that promote innovative and creative activities such as technology licensing offices in universities, technology promotion institutes, collective management societies and creative industries support institutions. [emphasis added]
Also, following recommendation 3 of the development agenda, there is a big plan to "Raise awareness among all sectors of the society regarding the important role that intellectual property plays in national development."

In summary, the implementation plan for the development agenda so far seems to be:
  • increase bureaucracy
  • set up private partners to "assist" developing countries
  • allow those private partners and member states "assisting" developing countries to operate in relative secrecy if they so desire
  • increase support to the creative/cultural industries and collective licensing agencies
  • generally highlight the wonders that IP does for development
Plans for supporting a robust public domain? Nothing. For further discussing access to knowledge? Not a mention. Promoting the understanding and use of existing IP flexibilities? "Flexibility" does not appear to be in WIPO's lexicon.

Upcoming WIPO meeting of member states

The next meeting of the member states of WIPO will take place soon, from September 22 to 30. Major issues to watch include the appointment of the new Director General of WIPO and the report of the progress so far on implementing the WIPO development agenda.

The appointment of the new Director General is expected to take place on Sept 22. The WIPO Coordination Committee has nominated Francis Gurry of Australia to be the next Director General of WIPO, for a term of six years starting October 1 2008. Gurry has been Deputy Director General at WIPO since 2003 and has worked at WIPO since 1985. Although an insider, IP-Watch reported, upon Gurry's win of a close election in May, that he has "nevertheless crafted a reputation for relative independence from the existing administration". He has an honorary position at the University of Melbourne and sits on the advisory board of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at Cambridge.

The report of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) is expected to be presented on Sept 23. The report, available online, asks the General Assembly to adopt a work program and to make available some human and financial resources to go along with it. At this point the work program focuses on the 19 development agenda items that were identified for immediate implementation. My summary of and comments on this plan are here.

Other reports will also be presented:
  • Report on the Work of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE), and the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Progress Report on the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore
  • Report on the Work of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), Including the Protection of Audivisual Performances and Protection of the Rights of Broadcasting Organizations
  • Progress Report on the New Construction Project
  • A report on Matters Concerning Internet Domain Names
  • Summary Annual Report of the Director of the Internal Audit and Oversight Division
  • Reports of the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Meetings of the WIPO Audit Committee
  • Report on the Work of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents

Friday, September 12, 2008

US Presidential Candidates on IP Issues

IP-Watch has a good article (subscriber only) on the US presidential candidates' positions on IP issues. Industry associations like the Business Software Alliance, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the International Trademark Association are hot on the campaign trail.

A quick summary of the candidates' positions on IP:
  • On copyright:
    • Obama wants greater enforcement and copyright reform. He thinks the Bush administration should have done more to pursue enforcement cases at the WTO. He also supported Creative Commons licensing of presidential debates. (Update Sept 22: he has Harold Varmus, advocate of open-access research, on his team of scientific advisors)
    • McCain wants to crack down on piracy
  • On patents:
    • Obama suggests reform of the patent system, which would create a “gold-plated” patent much less vulnerable to court challenge while also ensuring that "where dubious patents are being asserted, the PTO could conduct low-cost, timely administrative proceedings to determine patent validity."
    • McCain argues that "too much protection can stifle the proliferation of important ideas and impair legitimate commerce in new products to the detriment of our entire economy." McCain wants to provide alternatives to litigation in resolving patent challenges.
  • On net neutrality