09 January 2009

SECURE's Future Not So Secure?

Last year I wrote about an insidious little agreement called SECURE - Standards to be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement. As you might guess, those "standards" involve intellectal monopolies to the nth degree. But lo! There is hope:

In what might be seen as a victory for defenders of flexibilities for poor nations in international trade rules, the World Customs Organization in December recommended the discontinuance of a working group on intellectual property enforcement standards after it became “deeply embroiled” in debate from member governments fearing it would impose undue obligations on them. But the IP and customs issue may not be out of the fire yet.

A new committee will be sought with a stronger focus on technical assistance and capacity building, according to a WCO document, but this has raised new doubts about participation in new committee’s creation, according to a developing country official.

“The Policy Commission was informed that the SECURE Working Group established by the Council in June 2007 to deal with IPR issues had become deeply embroiled in difficulties related to its terms of reference, essentially because of a perceived fear that the group’s work on standard-setting might be used as a means of enlarging the obligations imposed on countries by the WTO TRIPS Agreement,” said the summary of outcomes document [pdf] of the WCO Policy Commission, which met from 9-11 December in Buenos Aires.

It ain't over yet, but what is important is that it seems that the developing nations are really waking up to the way that intellectual monopolies are being used as a kind of new imperialism: the more that realise that, the less chance TRIPS and its misbegotten siblings will have in imposing their hidden agendas around the world.

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