[A2k] IP-Watch: WIPO TK Committee Agrees To Continue Work, But Real Outcome Depends On October Assembly

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jun 20 04:26:35 PDT 2017


WIPO TK Committee Agrees To Continue Work, But Real Outcome Depends On
October Assembly


A recommendation to continue the work of the World Intellectual Property
Organization committee on the protection of traditional knowledge, genetic
resources and folklore is on its way to the organisation’s annual General
Assembly in October. However, the details of the mandate are left for the
General Assembly to discuss, such as the mandate and the work programme of
the committee for the next two years.

The 34th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual
Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC),
meeting from 11-16 June, had a double task. The first was to advance work
on draft articles of an instrument protecting traditional cultural
expressions (TCEs, or folklore). The second was to take stock of progress
made over the last two years in the IGC, and to issue recommendations to
the annual Assembly in October about renewing the two-year mandate.

A set of draft decisions [pdf] was agreed on 16 June.

A new draft text on TCEs, incorporating a clear display of member states’
positions, was released on 15 June (IPW, WIPO, 18 June 2017).

As things stand, three main camps can be characterised: proponents of
binding legal instrument(s) (treaties), such as the African Group and the
Asia and Pacific Group; opponents of such instruments, such as the European
Union and the United States; and countries seemingly open to considering
binding instrument(s), such as Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand.

On the renewal of the mandate, member states worked in informal closed
meetings over the week and could not find agreement on several elements of
the mandate. Everybody agrees, the committee Chair Ian Goss said on 16
June, on the importance of the subject and the need to continue
discussions. That is reflected in the decisions agreed upon at the end of
the meeting: noting the progress made and requesting the continuation of

However, all elements that were controversial this week are still hanging,
such as whether or not a high-level negotiating meeting (diplomatic
conference) should be convened in the next biennium (2018/2019).

Diplomatic Conference, Expert Working Group?

In the corridors of WIPO, sources told Intellectual Property Watch that
some developing countries were in favour of separating the three subjects
of the IGC, by merging the traditional knowledge (TK) and TCEs texts, with
particular provisions for TCEs, and proceeding with a diplomatic conference
for genetic resources.

Those countries find the genetic resources text ready to face a diplomatic
conference. The contrary argument pushed by countries including the EU and
the US is that all three strands should go forward together, according to
sources. This keeping together of all three subjects of the IGC can be seen
as a step to delay progress, according to those sources.

Members have struggled with conceptual and definition issues on TK and TCEs.

Several sources told Intellectual Property Watch that the genetic resources
text, although maybe more advanced because the nature of its subject is
less controversial, still needs time to be worked out. This is because of
the mandatory disclosure requirement of the source of genetic material.

A number of countries in the world have incorporated mandatory disclosure
into their legislation in different ways, according to a source.
Switzerland is one of those countries. Separately. the EU agreed on
disclosure requirement in past sessions of the IGC.

The African Group proposed that an expert intersessional working group be
established to focus on narrowing gaps in the current draft texts. The
African proposal also suggested the holding of a diplomatic conference in
the first quarter of 2019 to conclude and adopt a legally binding
instrument for GRs.

None of those suggestions could get a consensual approval during informal
discussions, as reported by sources.

According to IGC Vice-Chair Jukka Liedes of Finland, who was tasked to
chair the informal sessions on stock-taking and mandate, delegations are
not going empty-handed to the General Assembly as consensus was reached on
some elements, such as that the mandate should be renewed for two years.

Closing statements were a repeat of positions, and a call for a “mutually
acceptable” outcome of negotiations in the General Assembly on the mandate
and work programme.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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