Recap of the 35th session of the IGC

Rice field in Madagascar (Photo: UN Photo/Lucien Rajaonina).

From March 19th to 23rd, 2018, the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) IGC met for its 35th session in Geneva, Switzerland. The Draft Agenda for the session outlines the tentative topics of discussion, such as an update on the operation of the Voluntary Fund pertaining to the participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities, a summary of which can be found here. Also on the draft agenda for discussion are reports, recommendations, and proposals pertaining to genetic resources, which can also be found in the summary of documents.

In regard to the Voluntary Fund, the Information Note on Contributions and Applications for Support provides an exhaustive list of the voluntary contributions paid to the fund by nations, the amount of resources available, and the list of persons who were recommended for funding as of January 26th, 2018, as well as those who are seeking support to attend the IGC’s 36th session. Here, it is worth noting that Canada proposed in its 2018 Federal Budget Plan that it will be allocating an investment of $1 million over the span of five years to allow Indigenous peoples to attend and participate in WIPO meetings pertaining to traditional knowledge and cultural expressions as a way of promoting intellectual property rights amongst its Indigenous communities.

During the course of the meetings, new proposals were submitted, and while some nations accepted them, others resisted. For instance, a revised proposal for a potential treaty preventing the misappropriation of genetic resources received much resistance from developing countries on the grounds that the U.S. introduced new issues this week that were not mentioned in the previous version (Saez). In response, a second version was created for consideration by member states, and the committee chair also created a proposal indicating the need to create an expert group to prevent the misappropriation of genetic resources prior to the next session of the IGC, and this proposal was met with positive reception (Saez).

Nigeria Ratifies Copyright Treaties while the IGC Attempts to Reach Agreement on Proposals

As the UN World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) General Assembly gets underway and the budget for the upcoming biennium is determined, there are two developments that occurred during the first week of meetings that are worth mentioning: (1) Nigeria’s ratification of WIPO copyright treaties and (2) the debates surrounding the interpretation of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore’s (IGC) proposed programme of work.

As of October 4th, 2017, Nigeria has adopted and ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty), and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (Beijing Treaty). Audu Ayinla Kadiri, a Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva stated that “we [Nigeria] have a very creative Nollywood industry, we have young and enterprising entrepreneurs, we have new businesses coming up here and there, we have a lot of innovative hubs in Nigeria. So, these treaties will serve as a boost to all these trends, which are very positive”.

As discussed in our previous post, the Delegation of Senegal on behalf of the African Group submitted a proposal for the IGC regarding a potential work program for the 2018/19 Biennium. In addition to this, the European Union (EU) created a proposal as well for the mandate of the IGC. The main differences between the two proposals are that The African Group’s proposal “envisages the convening of a high-level negotiating meeting (diplomatic conference) in the first quarter of 2019 to conclude and adopt a legally binding instrument to protect genetic resources”, whereas the EU proposal “is based on further studies and examples of national experiences to narrow gaps on core issues, such as definitions, subject matter, objectives, and the relationship with the public domain”. More importantly, the EU proposal states that until everything in its proposed mandate is accepted, it will be understood that nothing has been accepted. This has led to a contention amongst member states—particularly developing countries—on how to interpret and adopt the EU proposal’s core premises.

The IGC will aim to reach an agreement on the proposal’s main objectives and will report its progress in 2019.