Monday, March 29, 2010

ACTA won't replace WIPO

Michael Geist has a very interesting post about the possibility of ACTA replacing WIPO, replicating certain WIPO functions, and slowing or undermining the WIPO Development Agenda. Although ACTA could certainly become the centre of action in IP treaty-making and may take on some functions that are similar to what WIPO now does, I don't believe it will replace WIPO or undermine the Development Agenda. Here's why:
  1. WIPO has historically been faced on various occasions with outside IP treaty-making organizations. In 1952 it faced the competing Universal Copyright Convention, and in the 1990s it faced the World Trade Organization's TRIPs Agreement. In both cases, it came to arrangements with the external organizations that secured its own role and made the treaty-making processes compatible between the two organizations. Although WIPO's ability to conclude treaties may be somewhat weakened by these outsiders, WIPO remains a strong and growing international organization whose expertise and capacity to work on IP issues is unrivaled by any other.
  2. It seems as though the ACTA secretariat, as proposed, would be institutionally very small compared to WIPO.
  3. The possibility remains that the ACTA secretariat will actually be housed at WIPO.
  4. The Development Agenda is not working at cross-purposes with ACTA. The Development Agenda has morphed into a set of thematic projects that pose very little threat to the interests of developed countries. Some are, indeed, just what developed countries have been asking for. Projects will provide all kinds of resources to IP offices and infrastructure in developing and least developed countries, will put in place seminars and training programs - even regional IP academies, and create opportunities for IP organizations worldwide to partner with IP organizations in developing countries. It's not inconceivable that the Development Agenda projects could be used to eventually help bring developing countries on board with ACTA.

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