18 June 2007

Wiping the WIPO Slate Clean

As I've noted before, if WIPO is to avoiding turning into a huge ball on chain on the international community, it needs to change; specifically, it needs to rethink its attitude to intellectual monopolies, and embrace the larger idea of the intellectual commons.

Amazingly, there are some small signs that this is beginning to happen:

Members of a World Intellectual Property Organization committee addressing proposals for a WIPO Development Agenda last week potentially rewrote the UN body’s mandate, pending approval.

Negotiators concluded a weeklong meeting with agreements on a wide range of proposals for new development-related activities - some hard to imagine for WIPO two years ago - and a recommendation to set up a new committee to implement the proposals.

“This is a major achievement,” said a participating official. “It’s a complete overhaul of the WIPO concept, broadening it to reflect society’s growing concern with ownership of technologies and knowledge, and its effects for the future, both in developed and developing countries.”

However, there is a rearguard action being fought against this by - guess who? - yup, the US:

The United States, meanwhile, moved quickly to emphasise the inclusion of IP protection and that the recommendations are within the existing WIPO mandate. It also sought to tie the outcome to its hope for a renewed effort at harmonising national patent laws.

Fortunately, developing countries and emerging powers like Brazil are becoming sufficiently strong and self-confident to fight this kind of recidivism.

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