Report on the 31st Session of the Standing Committee on Trademarks
Puneeth Nagraj reports about the 31st Session of the Standing Committee on Trademarks (SCT) that he attended.
The 31st meeting of the SCT was held from March 17 to 21, 2014.The meeting was important as Members sought to finalise the issues in the Design Law Treaty (DLT) before the Diplomatic Conference. The session also saw proposals by the delegations of Jamaica, the United States and Hungary..
Adil El Maliki of Morocco was elected Chair, and Mr. Imre Gonda of Hungary and Ms. Günseli Güven of Turkey were elected Vice-Chairs of the 31st session. The Session was dominated by negotiations around the DLT and very little time was devoted to the Plenary attended by this observer.
Design Law Treaty
The 31st session had a mandate from the WIPO General Assembly to finalise the text of the DLT before the Diplomatic Conference. However, disagreements over the technical assistance and capacity building provisions threatened to delay the process further. While Developing Countries preferred a provision in the Treaty on technical assistance, developed countries were against a binding provision and were in favour of a resolution on the issue.
Members of the African Group insisted that a Diplomatic Conference would be convened only if the Treaty included a provision on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building. The Delegate of Kenya said that the adoption of this treaty would require significant changes in the national IP systems of developing countries which are likely to go beyond the capacity and ability of individual countries to implement the treaty. The Delegate then emphasised the need for such a provision in upgrading their national IP system to conform with and to implement the treaty. The stance of the Kenyan delegate was further supported by Brazil, the GRULAC and Bangladesh in addition to other DAG members.
The delegate of Japan on behalf of Group B said that the text of the designs law treaty aimed to streamline and enhance design law formalities and would benefit all countries irrespective of their status of development. The delegate also stated that the issue of technical assistance should not stop the convening of a Diplomatic Conference. The EU on a similar note said that the convening of a Diplomatic Conference should be priority outcome of the 31st Session.
The delegate of Jamaica submitted a proposal for the protection of country names.The proposal sought to establish a coherent and consistent framework to deal with trademark cases which deal with country names. The proposal received support from some delegations in addition to suggestions to revise it. Switzerland emphasised the need for “pragmatic affordable way to protect country names” and to ensure that product names were used only for countries that produce such products. The EU also noted that this issue has been under discussion since 2009 and called for an awareness mechanism to ensure refusal of trademarks for products with country names. The US raised many doubts as to whether such a proposal would be feasible arguing that the government would have to act as a brand owner like others and that this was not a historical role that governments have played. The US also stated that not all countries shared an interest in protecting such rights and that it was premature to initiate text based questions on the proposal. Instead, the delegate called on the chair to conduct research on whether a system to protect country names could exist. In response to suggestions, the delegation of Jamaica offered to consider them and present a revised proposal at the next session.
There were also two proposals on Geographical Indications. The US submitted a proposal to suggest a work plan for the reform of the GI filing system. While some delegations supported this proposal, others expressed opposition. The delegation of Hungary submitted a joint proposal to conduct a study concerning the protection of geographical indications in the domain name system. Again opinion on this proposal was divided- with some asking for more time to consider the proposal since it was submitted late. The Chair cited the lack of agreement on these proposals to put off further discussions until the next session.
. The Hungarian proposal was jointly sponsored by Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova and Switzerland.
. See SCT/31/5.