by IP Justice Executive Director Robin D. Gross
at the 1st Session of the Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO Development Agenda
23 February 2006 – Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for this opportunity to comment on the Friends of Development proposal. I represent IP Justice, an international civil liberties organization that promotes balanced intellectual property law.

Mr. Chairman, IP Justice has coordinated a group statement that has been endorsed by 138 public-interest NGOs from all four corners of the world to express our complete and united support for the Friends of Development proposal. The vast majority of these groups could not be here today to express their concerns, so we carry their message to this forum with this group statement, which is available on the floor table outside in 4 languages.

1. We fully support amending the WIPO Convention to include explicit language incorporating a Development Dimension. As a UN Specialized Agency, WIPO has an obligation to promote the application of intellectual property rights in a manner that promotes economic, social and cultural development in both developed and developing countries.

2. We fully support consideration of a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology. A specification of user freedoms is crucial for establishing the appropriate balance between authors’ rights and the public interest that is critical for enabling development in disadvantaged countries and consumer rights everywhere. Particularly because rightsholders often curtail user rights by applying Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) to copyrighted works, a clear demarcation of user rights is necessary to maintain the traditional balance of rights.

In addition, Mr. Chairman, we endorse the following reforms to WIPO norms and practices, outlined in the Friends of Development proposal:

3. Weigh the costs and benefits of intellectual property rights. WIPO should adopt norm-setting principles and guidelines that balance public access and competition against monopoly rights, with a unique evaluation for each country.

4. Intellectual property rights are not ends in themselves. WIPO should carry out independent, evidence-based “development impact assessments” in developing countries to ensure that application of these rights advances public goals by promoting innovation, creativity and technical development.

5. A “one size fits all” (XL) approach to IP rights does not foster development in all countries. Expansive application of these rights favors wealthy developed countries and maintains the current imbalance in access to knowledge and information that the Development Agenda is intended to remedy. WIPO should recognize the right of all countries to design development strategies according to their own national values.

6. Finally, Mr. Chairman, IP laws must protect flexibilities and limitations. International agreements and developed countries’ own laws provide for flexibilities and limitations such as competition policy, and compulsory licenses for medicine, and fair use. These exceptions demonstrate that limiting monopoly rights often achieves important public benefits. WIPO technical assistance should promote the full range of flexibilities provided by TRIPS.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

More Info:

IP Justice: 138 NGOs Sign Statement to Support Friends of Development Proposal
IP Justice Webpage on WIPO Development Agenda Treaty
IP Justice Media Release 20 Feb. 2006: “WIPO Resumes Development Agenda Debate”
2004 Friends of Development Proposal (WA/GA/31/11)
2006 Friends of Developmnet Proposal (PCDA/1/5)