WTO News Item, 10 December 2010
WTO intellectual property talks, which are about setting up a multilateral geographical indications register for wines and spirits, became the latest on 10 December 2010 to aim for an endgame spurt in early 2011 and a conclusion to the whole Doha Round by the end of the year.
In an informal meeting, members supported chairperson Darlington Mwape’s plan to produce the negotiating group’s first draft text by the end of the first quarter following a six-point sequence point by point — described as “elements” of the procedure for the register:
The plan had already been discussed with a small group of key members on both sides of the debate in earlier consultations.
The timetable is designed to synchronize with plans for all subjects in the Doha Round, as outlined by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy’s statement to ambassadors at an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, which he chairs, on 30 November. This, in turn, was based on political declarations from the G-20 summit in Seoul and APEC meeting in Yokohama.
Mr Lamy noted “a collective sense emerging that revised texts in all areas of the negotiation will have to be developed so that they appear towards the end of the first quarter of 2011.”
All delegations said their preference would be for a process that is based on a text with input from members, and driven by the members themselves.
Topic by topic.
Amb.Mwape said each of the six topics will be discussed in sequence with the aim of producing a single negotiating text under each heading before moving on to the next one. The text could include “bracketed alternatives and options” if members cannot agree on a single set of provisions.
The first topic, notification, will be discussed in consultations in the week of 10 January, followed by a meeting of the full membership. The schedule will be tight if the end-of-March target is to be met, he said.
Amb.Mwape urged members to help the drafting move ahead by focusing on each topic, avoiding getting distracted by related issues, and to try to work among themselves to produce suitable drafts.
NEXT (could be changed):
Step by step negotiation and drafting from 10 January, first meeting of all members tentatively on 13 January
Formal meetings before or after the regular TRIPS Council meetings: Tuesday-Wednesday 1–2 March, Tuesday-Wednesday 7–8 June, Tuesday-Wednesday 25–26 October
Three alternatives are currently on the table:
All members would have to take a term’s registration “into account” and treat it as “prima facie” evidence (first sight, or preliminary, before further investigation) that the term meets the definition of a geographical indication. Further procedures for that term within each country would be handled entirely within the country’s domestic legal system. These include confirmation that the term is an eligible geographical indication, possible challenges, and whether it is subject to exceptions such as because the term is generic.
(Previously the EU had proposed that if a term is registered the assumption — the legal phrase is “irrebuttable presumption” — would be that it should be protected in all WTO members except those that have successfully challenged the term.)
Opponents of this proposal also object to the link with two other intellectual property issues: “extending” to all products the enhanced protection currently given to wines and spirits; and requiring patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic materials and related traditional knowledge used in their inventions.