WIPO Intersessional Intergovernmental Meeting on Proposal to Establish a Development Agenda for WIPO
13 April 2005
I would like to congratulate his Excellency on his election as Chair, and his colleague's election as vice chair. I would also like to thank the Secretariat and the member states for the flexibility they have show with regarding to ad hoc accreditation for civil society non-government organizations.
Consumers International (CI) supports, links and represents consumer groups and agencies all over the world. It has a membership of over 250 organizations in 115 countries. It strives to promote a fairer society through defending the rights of all consumers, especially the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. The TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) is a coalition of 65 consumers associations in the United States and Europe. Many members of both CI and TACD are also actively involved in the publishing of magazines, books, newsletter and Web pages. This statement represents the views of CI and TACD.
CI and TACD hosted a 2003 meeting in Lisbon on the WIPO Work Program, and TACD hosted a September 2004 meeting in Geneva on the Future of WIPO. We are among the hundreds of groups and leading experts who have endorsed the Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO.
We support the thoughtful and far reaching proposal by the Friends of Development (FoD) for a development agenda. We seek a change of direction in WIPO, in terms of the mission, the management of the agency and the work program.
Rules concerning knowledge as intellectual property should support creative activity, innovation and development, while respecting human rights and the need for consumer protection.
We are concerned that WIPO is out of touch with modern thinking about innovation. The debates about intellectual property protection are often too ideological, and focused on unproven and sometimes untrue assertions regarding the benefits of extending intellectual property protection, with insufficient attention to the costs that such systems can impose on society.
Today many innovative businesses are engaged in a debate of the proper role of intellectual property in supporting innovation. Many large pharmaceutical companies created the SNPS consortium to develop an open source/public domain scientific database of genetic information. The Internet relies upon open standards, created through bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and free software programs. IBM has announced it is changing its thinking about the patent policy, which it describes as out of control in the United States. The New York Times reported on Monday that "companies in industry after industry are also reconsidering their strategies on intellectual property: what do you share? What do you keep proprietary?" Even Microsoft is beginning to share some software code and is alarmed at the inability the US government to properly evaluate software patents. The US Chamber of Commerce is a leading opponent of a new law on databases, and the European Commission is considering whether it should modify or eliminate its databases directive, which some consider to have been a mistake that harms innovation. New innovative businesses like Google provide services that vastly expand access to knowledge, but which could not operate without limitations and exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright holders.
There are many new proposals to finance innovation. For example, the US Congress is considering HR 417, the Medical Innovation Prize Fund, which is a legislative proposal for financing drug development. This proposal recognizes the need for incentives to invest in new medicines, but through a new paradigm that separates the market for innovation from the market for the products. New medicines would become generic products, priced at the cost of manufacturing and distribution, while (successful) developers of new medicines would be remunerated from a $60 billion per year Medical Innovation Prize Fund, (50 basis points of US GDP) over a 10-year period of time, based upon evidence of incremental health care benefits. Some have proposed new policies on government procurement of software that would promote open interfaces and interoperability of software. There are new "author pay" open access publishing models for scholarly scientific research, which have been endorsed by some of the most important funders of such research.
WIPO should be aware of and be learning from new approaches to innovation. WIPO must be free to innovate itself, and should not be bound to an outdated and thought-free mission of promoting endless expansions of intellectual property rights, regardless of their consequences. The new intellectual property rules should support and not undermine business models and innovation incentives that promote access to knowledge.
We note that intellectual property systems can be characterized as a system of regulation of knowledge. Like other forms of regulation, it presents the risk of regulatory capture, through the lobbying activities of groups who want protections from competition or otherwise engaged in rent seeking at the expense of the public interest.
We agree with the FoD that WIPO should halt efforts to harmonize global standards of patentability, given the problematic state of patent policy in the United States or Europe. WIPO should not promote the unnecessary and harmful proposal for a treaty for broadcasting and webcasting organizations, and it should not promote a treaty on protection of databases. WIPO should instead address areas where it can solve well known problems and abuses of the patent system.
The WIPO Standing Committee on Patents should consider the following agenda items:
The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) should focus on agenda items such as:
We support the proposal for a treaty on access to knowledge (a2k), and recommend that the Standing Committee on Patents (SCP) and the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) discuss the possible elements of such a treaty. Among the topics that should be discussed are minimum limitations and exceptions to patents and copyrights, open access archives for publicly funded research, government procurement policies that support open software interfaces.
We anticipate providing further submissions to the IIM on these topics, including an elaboration of the possible elements of a treaty on access to knowledge.
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