Keeping us apart?
Our work on intellectual property (IP) is not a big ticket item here in Hong Kong – overshadowed as it is by agriculture, non agricultural market access and services negotiations. But there are connections and long term the intellectual property regime is a crucial factor in who will get what in the 21st century economies of the world.
The EU has made links between what it wants in agriculture and one of the issues in IP – geographical indications. These are the names that are used for products produced in specific locations and often using traditional methods, such as Parma ham, champagne, and the like. It wants rules governing the use of these terms extended globally. It is an issue that divides both developing and developed countries.
The other big connection being made, particularly by the Indians, is requiring patent applicants that use either genetic resources or traditional knowledge in their inventions to declare where they came from (declaration of origin in WTO speak) in any patent application. That proposal is being resisted by the developed countries, particularly the United States. The Indians want this to be included into the text of WTO Agreement that deals with IP – the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement – and a negotiating mandate for this to be included in the outcome of the Hong Kong Ministerial.
The declaration of origin issue is seen as a part of helping implement the Convention on Biological Diversity, as it would make use of genetic resources more transparent by providing this information in patent applications. QUNO and QIAP have brought several legal experts to Hong Kong to be available for consultation as developing countries negotiate on some of these issues but access to delegates is much more restricted than it was in Cancun – although the facilities are better.
|Working Lunch - M. Kunz
The conference seems to have been designed to minimise the opportunities for interaction between the NGOs here – and the press – and delegates, with no access provided to the main negotiating areas and few facilities to allow casual mixing over coffee or food. The food provision in the NGO area on the 5 th floor is from little temporary stalls, with no seating or tables where the kind of interactions that can be very helpful can happen. To sit down over a drink or snack you need to go out from the secure area and then go through security again to get back in or head up to the seventh floor.
It may seem a trivial thing but unless there is space for informal interaction, outside the set piece press conferences, the segregation makes giving support to delegates much more difficult – and is different from the mixing that happened in Cancun. According to WTO officials, this is not what they wanted as they had asked for such a mingling space, with snacks and seating, but that was one of the few things not provided by the host government.
Geoff Tansey is an independent writer and consultant and has been the
consultant advising the Quaker UN Office Programme on intellectual
property and development since 1998. He also advises the Quaker
International Affairs Programme in Canada. He was appointed as a Joseph
Rowntree Visionary for a Just and Peaceful World in June 2005.