Report on the WIPO Director General’s Meeting with NGO’s
The Director General’s meeting with NGO’s was held on March 25, 2014. This is an annual meeting where accredited NGO’s have an opportunity to have a one on one discussion with the Director General on issues that concern them.
The webcast of the meeting can be found here.
This year’s meeting featured queries on a whole range of issues from mainstreaming the development agenda recommendations to the number of WIPO meetings. The Director General engaged in a frank exchange of views with NGO representatives and stressed the importance of NGO’s in WIPO’s work.
The meeting kicked off with a statement by the Director General. He reported that the demand for IP titles was greater than the world economy- citing the growing number of patent and trademark applications. He also commended the SCCR in concluding the Marrakesh Treaty and said that the engagement and alignment of civil society actors was crucial to the signing of the Treaty. He also noted the role of the World Blind Union and the publishing community in supporting the Treaty.
The Director General also had updates on the work of various committees for the 2014-15 biennium. With respect to the Design Law Treaty in the SCT, he stated that the US and Canada had accepted the possibility of an article on technical assistance but not as a condition to convene a diplomatic conference. On the Broadcast Treaty in the SCCR, he said that a lot of work needs to be done and that the SCCR needs to decide if a Treaty with a narrower scope is feasible and if a Diplomatic Conference has to be convened in September. On the IGC, he stated that this committee was WIPO’s greatest political risk and that the Committee must find a way to deliver on a project that has been on since 2001.On the Lisbon Agreement, the Director General stated that 28 States had agreed to renew the agreement and the new agreement would cover GI and Appellations. He noted that this was a huge step forward as GI’s become more and more valuable.
In addition, he noted three areas of interest for the future work of the WIPO:
- Balance between collaboration and competition: The Director General noted that there should be greater emphasis on collaboration and competition at the WIPO. He called for emphasis on cooperation, open innovation in global value chains. At the same time he stated that IP also creates competition. He stated that the tension between competition and collaboration should be under consideration in the future as it is growing into a major geopolitical issue.
- Digital Economy: The Director General said that Member States should engage on the impact of an increasingly digital world on the environment. While this issue has been under discussion since the 90’s, there have been new developments that need further consideration.
- Appropriate Technology: The Director General commented on the passive transfer of technology and said that there is a knowledge gap between having technology and knowing how to use it, and this should be kept in mind in future wok.
Following the opening statement, the Director General fielded questions from NGO representative. Below is a summary of a few notable responses from the Director General.
On a question regarding the mainstreaming of the Development Agenda, the Director General said that it is up to the Members to decide how to make the Development Agenda normative. But he pointed out that both the Beijing and Marrakesh Treaties refer to the Development agenda in their text.
In response to a question on future plans and projects on public health and IP, he said that the WIPO is encouraging research projects on the issue. He also pointed out that the WTO, WIPO and WHO are engaged in an active collaboration on this issue and had also organised a seminar on it. He also said that the three Director Generals had published studies on the topic.
MSF made a number of interventions on the issue of public health. They argued that ongoing WIPO research did not meet the needs for medical innovation and that there was need for serious rethink on how to make it work better. They also said that the focus of WIPO research was currently only on LDC’s and this left out developing countries and consequently a large number of people.
In response the Director General said that the WIPO could only “build with what it’s got” and said that they should engage with more parties and with what they do. He also said that they are beginning to engage with middle income countries. He also said that WIPO research was free and that it could be easily shared and the fee was only if there was a sale.
MSF also called for a change on the nature of technical assistance as there were repeated seminars on anti-counterfeiting measures with little or no focus on the quality of medicines. On this, the Director General agreed with MSF and said that the larger problem was quality assurance which needed to be addressed, but he also pointed out that WIPO as an IP agency could not get into the issue of quality assurance.
He also fielded a question from the author on making WIPO sessions more accessible with the possible use of remote participation in the future. The Director General said that this was a good idea, but he pointed out that this was up to the Members to consider and possibly implement. He also noted that it was only recently that WIPO started webcasting meetings and that there would be issues of time management with remote participation.
On a question about the increasing number of meetings at the WIPO, the Director General acknowledged that this was a problem and that the respective Committees had to decide if it was essential to convene a meeting ever so often. But he also pointed out that the Secretariat cannot interfere in such matters and could only facilitate discussion on these issues. He also said that it might be better if experts met regularly to discuss technical issues and negotiators met only when an issue had matured.
On a further question on the number of documents being released for every meeting and their increasing length, the Director General joked that it was unlikely that anyone under the age of 30 would read all the documents. He said that this is an issue that should be looked into.