WIPO's Development Agenda At The Crossroads: Does IP Or Development Take Priority?
from the crunch-time dept
One reason why agreements like ACTA, TPP, TAFTA/TTIP and TISA have proliferated in recent years is that the US, EU and allies are losing their tight grip on international bodies like the WTO. That means they are unable to use traditional fora to draw up trade agreements that largely serve their interests. Instead, they have started forming ad hoc invitation-only groups that can negotiate in secret, without needing to accommodate the views of emerging economies that are starting to assert themselves.
That tussle between the old and the new power blocs has now spread to WIPO, as Intellectual Property Watch's report on a recent meeting of the WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property reveals:
At the heart of the power struggle is the Development Agenda of the organisation. Adopted in 2007, it aimed at instilling a development dimension in all WIPO activities. However, the interpretation of this development dimension and how it should be implemented is regularly an object of friction.
There are two world-views colliding here. The first, held by the US and the EU for example, is that WIPO's central task is to spread and strengthen intellectual monopolies around the world, since these, they assert, are inherently desirable. The second, espoused by emerging economies, is that such monopolies are not an end in themselves, but tools for enhancing economies and the well-being of the public. That implies monopolies that cause harm -- for example, pharma patents that lead to unaffordable drugs for the vast majority of the world's population -- should be reined in, rather than encouraged. Naturally, that does not sit well with nations like the US and EU whose priority is how much money patent and copyright monopolies can generate for the companies that own them.
Last night, after a tense week, final statements sounded warning signs of a deep political divide on the orientation of the organisation, which developed countries underlined was financed by users of the global IP system, and whose main goal is the promotion of the protection of intellectual property, and developing countries recalled is a United Nations agency with development at its core.
The shifting mood among some at WIPO is clear from this statement made by South Africa during the meeting:
Although regretting the absence of agreement over the week, "what we cannot run away from is the fact that there are some delegations who hold the view that the organisation can go back to pre-2007," he said. "This is something my delegation will fight to the end for!"
South Africa may be in the vanguard in expressing so forcefully its views on the need for a new kind of WIPO, but it is not alone. That means we can expect yet more private agreements among the old guard who increasingly find that they are unable to have their way at traditional organizations like WIPO.
"We understand the WIPO Convention," he said, "but this organisation is not a company and we are not part of a board of directors who need to answer to someone. We answer to the public," he said. The people of South Africa are "the only people that we answer to, irrespective of who funds the organisation or where the funding comes from."