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Friday, June 15, 2007

A2K enters the WIPO mandate

Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen, Negotiators Agree To Add Access To Knowledge To WIPO Mandate, IP Watch, June 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

World Intellectual Property Organization members negotiating development-related proposals for WIPO’s future mandate reached preliminary agreement on several more key issues Thursday, including access to knowledge and exceptions and limitations.

Agreement came after lengthy talks on what officials described as the most difficult area of the negotiations....A new draft emerging on 14 June showed that compromises had been reached on more points that had previously seemed intractable, leading some sources to commend the positive spirit at the meeting....

One of the main disagreements from 13 June in the cluster entitled “Norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and public domain” was a paragraph related to access to knowledge, which Group B first opposed. It now reads: “To initiate discussions on how, within WIPO’s mandate, to further facilitate access to knowledge and technology for developing countries and LDCs [least developed countries] to foster creativity and innovation and to strengthen such existing activities within WIPO.”

One developing country official told Intellectual Property Watch that the Group B of developed countries had added the “within WIPO’s mandate” and the word “further” had also been added to reach agreement. The original proposal from 13 June said, “to discuss possible new initiatives and strengthen existing mechanism within WIPO.”

Agreement was also reached on the public domain issue, which now starts with: “To promote norm-setting activities related to IP that support a robust public domain in WIPO’s member states.” ...

A proposal on exchanging experiences on open collaborative projects for the development of public goods such as the Human Genome Project and open source software was moved to another cluster, together with a proposal related to counterfeiting and piracy and one on best practices for economic growth, sources said. At press-time, these issues were being heatedly debated, according to sources.

Update. Also see James Love on the KEI Policy Blog:

I think this is a very good outcome, and gives WIPO the mandate that it needs to move forward in this area.

Some of the Group B countries had difficulty explaining why they were opposed to WIPO discussing “access to knowledge.” Even more important, the developing country delegations were very strong on this issue. Now it will be necessary to build the case for specific A2K initiatives at WIPO, in an environment where WIPO has agreed that the topic is relevant and appropriate.