Report on the 9th Session of the WIPO Advisory Committee on Enforcement
The 9th Session of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement ended here in Geneva last week. In this report, I look at the major issues discussed at the Session and the deadlock over future work of the Committee.
The 9th Session of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement (ACE) was held from 3rd-5th March here in Geneva. The Meeting featured presentations from Member States, NGOs and IP experts from around the world on the use of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms for the settlement of IP disputes.
Unlike other Committees, the ACE is a knowledge sharing platform where Member States discuss their experiences in relation to the enforcement of intellectual property. The Committee’s Mandate is limited to discussing technical assistance and coordination in the field of enforcement and specifically excludes norm setting. There is little debate and most of the proceedings are based on presentations.
Ambassador Thomas Fitschen, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Germany, was elected as the Chair of the 9th Session of the ACE, and was a proactive chair during the session, encouraging States to resolve disagreements through compromise and ensuring the session ran on time. Ms Ekaterine Egutia, Deputy Chair of the National Intellectual Property Center (SAKPATENTI) of Georgia, and Mr Wojciech Piatkowski, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Poland were elected as Vice-Chairs.
The presentations kicked off with Mr Trevor Cook from Wilmer Hale who made an informative presentation about the resolution of international IP disputes through ADR. In all the Session saw 22 presentations on two broad issue areas:
- Practices and operation of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) systems in IP areas; and
- Preventive actions, measures or successful experiences to complement ongoing enforcement measures with a view to reducing the size of the market for pirated or counterfeited goods.
Notable among the presentations is the growing cooperation between private actors and States in the enforcement of IP rights, and the use of outreach programmes at the grassroots level to increase awareness about IP rights. The issue, however is whether these programmes paint a holistic picture of IP rights- with due regard for flexibilities or merely stress on the importance of enforcement of rights.
Developing countries raised issue with the fact that the ACE was becoming enforcement centric and not enough attention was being paid to coordination and technical assistance. They stressed the relation between development and enforcement of IP in developing countries. The delegation of Egypt on behalf of the Development Agenda (DAG) Group in particular highlighted the fact that Development Agenda Recommendation 45 and other items directly related to the competencies of the ACE, but the ACE had to expand the scope of its discussions to make them consistent with the objective of building respect for IP, which is broader and more inclusive than sheer IP enforcement.
However, the Delegate of the Czech Republic on behalf of the CEBS (Central Europe and Baltic States) Group stated that IP enforcement was a key tool to development and allowed countries to be more competitive and was in line with Recommendation 45. Echoing the sentiment, the delegate of Japan on behalf of Group B (which comprises Japan, US, EU and other developed countries) stated that the core agenda of ACE, namely, the exchange of experiences on enforcement contributed to Recommendation 45, and that the strength of IP enforcement mechanisms in a country were becoming an important factor for investors to invest in a country- and this in turn contributed to the overall development of the country.
There was agreement on proposals 1 and 2 (which were already discussed during the current session) with respect to future work of the Committee, as under:
- Continuation of practices and operation of alternative dispute systems in IP areas
- Preventive actions, measures or successful experiences to complement ongoing enforcement measures with a view to reducing the size of the market for counterfeit or pirated goods.
However, there was a deadlock on item 3; and there was insufficient time to discuss items 4 and 5. Item 3, proposed by the DAG Group related to exchange of information and national experiences on WIPO’s enforcement-related technical assistance to build respect for IP . The disagreement was on extending legislative and administrative assistance to prevent abuse of IPR enforcement procedures and to use the flexibilities of the IP system. Group B objected to this as they believed it sent the wrong message. But the proposers were keen on the holistic treatment of IP and the importance of public interest considerations with respect to enforcement.
Item 4, proposed by Group B related to the exchange of information and national experiences on awareness building activities as a means for building respect for IP, especially among school aged children and students. Item 5, proposed by Poland, the US and UK was about the specialization of the judiciary and intellectual property courts. These issues will be discussed under future work of the committee at the next session of the ACE to be held in 2015.
. See Chair Summary of the 9th Session (yet to be made public, in file with the author).
. Italicised text represents the exact wording of the proposal.