WIPO Patent Committee Prepares To Discuss Future Work Programme
Brazil’s proposal, available here [pdf], calls for a three-part programme for the SCP, including an information-gathering phase, in which countries share national and regional experiences; an investigative stage, to find the particular exceptions needed and conditions needed to implement them; and a final stage in which the creation of a manual on exceptions and limitations will be considered.
This work on exceptions and limitations is necessary, the Brazil proposal said, as countries are now “facing a moral deadlock” where “developed countries seem to be the only ones capable of reaping any advantage from the [IP] system,” and it is unclear what benefit membership in WIPO is bringing other states.
“The naïve assumption that providing IP title holders with stronger rights will, by itself, foster innovation or attract investments is no longer acceptable… creativity and creative economy do not rely solely on an increasingly stronger” IP regime, the proposal adds. The claims of rights holders “are undoubtedly legitimate, but certainly incomplete from the perspective of the public policy.”
The proposal received strong support from developing countries, though some developed countries said the time was not yet right to discuss it, as the proposal was only circulated Monday afternoon of the weeklong meeting.
The official study on exceptions and limitations - which the committee decided to undertake at its last meeting in March (IPW, WIPO, 30 March, 2009) - is not yet finished, but WIPO sources said it would be by the next meeting in October. The report is still currently with an external group of experts who were commissioned to write it.
Brazil’s proposal further says that there is precedent for this kind of work in Article 30 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement at the World Trade Organization. This article lays out a sort of “three-step test” to establish acceptable limits and exceptions.
Also this week, several small developing countries are trying to ensure that their particular needs are being addressed.
A representative of one of these countries said “WIPO should move from the one-size-fits-all approach,” and asked that their particular situations be reflected in the exceptions and limitations studies and in Brazil’s proposed work programme. This includes help with understanding what rights are available to them, how they may be used, and what political pressure they may receive to avoid using them as well as an analysis of what particular rights are most relevant to small countries in their individual contexts.
Technical solutions for patent information access primarily revolve around the possibility of digitising such information. Digitally formatted patent information “is still limited globally,” the WIPO report [pdf] notes, especially in “searchable full-text format.” What information is available is often hard to interpret for users not specialising in IP law. And when information is available, it is often not free, which can be burdensome for small patent offices and small companies alike, the report says.
Transfer of technology is considered a critical issue in several international fora, and is often cited as one of the key ways to assist in economic development of poor countries, and to aid in the global fight against climate change. The way in which IP may either incentivise or prevent such transfer has been a subject of much debate.
The WIPO study, available here [pdf], explores this debate. It says “no conclusive evidence can be found with respect to the relationship between patent protection and the transfer of technology,” but does present findings from economic studies on the issue as well as a look into different ways and systems through which technology transfer might be achieved.
Three-Step Test For Patents?
William New contributed to this story.