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Trade & Development

September 2012

TRIPS-Related Patent Flexibilities and Food Security: Options For Developing Countries - Policy Guide

Food security is  as a pressing global challenge. Agricultural innovation is critical to addressing it. Equally important is ensuring that the benefits of such innovation are widely diffused, especially in developing countries.

How should countries design their intellectual property (IP) system to encourage and support agricultural innovation?  

The TRIPS Agreement provides WTO Members with flexibility to implement IP provisions in a way consistent with their agriculture and food security objectives. Yet these flexibilities have received little attention so far.

This Policy Guide seeks to fill this gap by providing an overview of TRIPS-related patent flexibilities that support agriculture and food security. 

This Policy Guide is designed for negotiators and policymakers in the areas of intellectual property, agriculture and food policy as well as breeders, farmers and other members of civil society. It also intended to be a useful tool for providers and recipients of technical assistance in the areas of intellectual property and agriculture. 

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September 2011

Intellectual Property and Biodiversity: Friend or Foe?

This is the report of a panel discussion that considered how Intellectual Property (IP) can help preserve biological diversity, and how IP might undermine such diversity. The discussion looked at some of the fora in which IP and biodiversity issues are being discussed, in particular the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Panellists pointed to some likely future directions of policy and thinking in this area.

This panel was organised by QUNO and the Geneva Environment Network.

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February 2011

Food, Biological Diversity and Intellectual Property

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) influences global policy relating to agricultural research, as it is the only international organisation with responsibility for plant variety protection.

This report seeks to raise awareness about UPOV’s role and way of working. It aims to provide a point of reference around which key actors – both supportive and critical of current approaches to intellectual property (IP) protection of plants – can engage in discussions and exchange of ideas.

The report also discussion the history of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) and Plant Breeders' Rights (PBRs) as well as UPOV's relationship with the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the FAO's Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). It also refers to discussions on disclosure of origin of genetic resources, farmers' rights and the WIPO Development Agenda.

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September 2010

Agricultural Trade and Investment Rules for the 21st Century

The world of agriculture policy has changed fundamentally since the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture was adopted. This is a report of a panel discussion held during the WTO Public Forum, September 2010, that aimed to present some of the challenges facing world agriculture today, and how these could be addressed.

In particular, the session focused on the need for agriculture to provide food for the world’s population in a sustainable way. Presenters raised some issues in the Doha Round, the potential for sustainable agriculture to feed the world, and the role that food reserves can play in ensuring food security.

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June 2010

Geneva Reporter

QUNO Geneva's newsletter for February to June 2010. Featured stories:

  • Armed Violence & the Millennium Development Goals
  • UPOV, Intellectual Property & Food
  • Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Concludes on Positive Note
  • New UN Ruling on Conscientious Objection to Military Service
  • Update from QUNO New York
  • Vacancy Announcement: QUNO Geneva Director

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January 2010

Geneva Reporter

QUNO Geneva's newsletter for November to January 2010. Featured stories:

  • Conscientious Objection to Military Service
  • Securing the Millennium Development Goals
  • A Letter from QUNO New York
  • Reasons to be Hopeful? Prospects for the Disarmament Agenda 2010
  • Women in Prison
  • QUNO Seeks New Programme Assistants
  • From Trade Justice to Climate Justice? Reflections Around the WTO’s 2009 Ministerial Conference
  • Quaker United Nations Summer School
  • Quakers at the Copenhagen Climate Conference
  • Panel Discussion on Intellectual Property and Food

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December 2008

The Protection of Geographical Indications and the Doha Round: Strategic and Policy Considerations for Africa

Aims to inform the position of the African Group in the WTO Geographical Indication (GI) negotiations. In particular it aims to generate objective evidence regarding issues such as the availability of legal means to protect GIs in African countries, the costs and benefits of GI protection, African products that could benefit from GI protection, and technical assistance needs relating to GI protection.

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October 2008

Geneva Reporter

QUNO Geneva's newsletter from August to October 2008. Featured articles:

  • Conscientious Objection to Military Service
  • Geneva Declaration Summit
  • Transfer of Technology and Developing countries
  • CD Impasse Continues - 12 Years and Counting (Out?)
  • Staff News

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June 2008

Ensuring Temporariness: Mechanisms to Incentivise Return Migration in the Context of GATS Mode 4 and Least Developed Country Interests

During the Doha negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), least developed countries (LDCs) have expressed a strong interest in increasing possibilities for their nationals to work as service providers in other countries. In the WTO, this is discussed in the context of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) under the heading known as Mode 4 – the presence of natural persons.

Trade negotiators and politicians from the US and EU argue that GATS Mode 4 is unworkable, particularly for semi-skilled and unskilled service providers, if source countries cannot guarantee the return (and hence the ‘temporariness’) of their service providers working abroad.

This paper examines different countries’ experiences and finds evidence that many migrant workers do desire to return to their home countries, and conditions and opportunities to help them to do so are a major factor in encouraging their return.

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October 2007

Understanding GATS Mode 4: Return Migration of Temporary Workers

This is an executive summary of QUNO's study entitled “Ensuring Temporariness: Bilateral Mechanisms to Incentivise Return Migration in the context of GATS Mode 4 and Least Developed Country Interests.”

It refers to negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO), on Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the presence of natural persons. It concludes, from examination of different countries’ experiences, that many migrant workers wish to return to their home countries, and conditions and opportunities to help them to do so are a major factor in encouraging their return.

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May 2007

World Trade Organization Accession Agreements: Intellectual Property Issues

This paper addresses intellectual property issues that arise in the context of countries' WTO accession processes, with a view to assisting prospective WTO Members.

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January 2007

A Conceptual Framework for Priority Identification and Delivery of IP Technical Assistance for LDCs

In 2005 the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) extended the transition period for Least-developed countries (LDCs) to implement the TRIPS Agreement, until 2013. This paper draws attention to technical assistance issues arising out of the extension decision, and suggests ideas on how to think about what assistance may be required, and how priority assessments may be done.

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October 2005

Thinking Aloud on Disclosure of Origin - Occasional Paper 18

This paper considers issues relating to different "disclosure of origin" obligations, their compatibility with TRIPs and relationship to other regimes such as the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) or UPOV. It covers developments in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), as well as specific cases where disclosure might have made a difference, such as the Enola Bean, Hoodia and Rosy Periwinkle cases.

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October 2005

Disclosure of Origin and Access and Benefit Sharing: The special case of seeds for food and agriculture - Occasional Paper 17

Access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the conservation of such resources is vital, as it has far-reaching implications for food security. Patents can hinder access to plant resources for breeding purposes. He discusses the position of several key actors relating to disclosure of origin, says that disclosure of source is not a problem for the seed industry (ISF), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO).

The author of this Occasional Paper argues that developing countries should not require patents on plant resources as they go against their interest and the interests of their citizens. He discusses the merits of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) system for plant genetic resources and finds that the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) should be the sui generis system of choice to achieve the objectives of ABS. In the view of the author, plant varieties out of plant variety protection (PVP) should be deposited in a seed bank (independent from UPOV), as this would be more useful than getting an agreement on disclosure of origin.

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September 2005

Rethinking innovation, development and intellectual property in the UN: WIPO and beyond

In these issues papers, individual authors are invited to examine a subject of importance in the developing international intellectual property regime and highlight the key issues they see arising. The topics have been chosen following consultations with negotiators from developing countries and respond to their concerns. Our aim is to contribute to a greater understanding of the impact of changes in this area upon people’s lives and better inform debate and negotiations. 

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January 2005

Rethinking Innovation, Development and Intellectual Property in the UN: WIPO and Beyond

This paper critically analyses the increasing level of international intellectual property standards, the lack of economic analysis of such higher standards, the undemocratic and ideological international standard-setting processes, and the lack of coordination within and among developing countries on intellectual property matters. It argues that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) should not be the only UN agency to deal with intellectual property.

To meet the challenges the paper analyses, it suggests implementing a development agenda for WIPO and taking deliberate steps to position other UN agencies to provide substantive contributions to global policies on innovation, development and intellectual property.

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January 2005

The Politics and Practicalities of a Disclosure of Origin Obligation

QUNO - Occasional Paper 16

This paper examines some issues that may influence the establishment of an internationally binding disclosure of origin obligation, and suggests possible strategies to achieve the developing countries’ objective. To this end, it addresses a number of political and practical questions that seem relevant.

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October 2004

Bilateral agreements and a TRIPS-plus world: the Chile-USA Free Trade Agreement

In these issues papers, the author examines a subject of importance in the developing international intellectual property regime and highlights the key issues arising. The topics have been chosen following consultations with negotiators from developing countries and respond to their concerns. The papers arise out of collaborative work between the Quaker International Affairs Programme in Ottawa and the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva. Our aim is to contribute to a greater understanding of the impact of changes in this area upon people’s lives and better inform debate and negotiations.

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