The opening of the annual meetings of the Assemblies of WIPO and the Unions administered by WIPO, which took place this year from September 20 to 29, was marked by the appearance of the (22) Grammy Awards winner and UN Messenger for Peace Stevie Wonder. The world-famous artist called on the some 170 governments represented at the Assemblies (about 70 of them at the ministerial level) to urge them to reach agreement on a legal framework enabling a better access to copyright-protected works by the blind, the visually impaired and other reading-disabled persons. Several proposals on this issue are being discussed in the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.
Other highlights of the Assemblies, in which INTA was represented by Laura Cruz, External Relations Manager, Latin America, and Bruno Machado, INTA Geneva Representative, included the presentation by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry of the Medium Term Strategic Plan for WIPO (MTSP) for 2010–2015
It will be noted in particular that, under Strategic Goal I (Balanced Evolution of the International Normative Framework for Intellectual Property), the MTSP squarely recognizes that “the past decade has been marked by a lack of progress in the normative work of the Organization” but considers that “the opportunity now exists to build confidence among Member States by improving mutual understanding of normative questions, thus preparing the ground for future advances in normative discussions.”
There are, indeed, encouraging signs that the normative work of WIPO is being revived, notably in the field of trademarks and related fields. In particular:
- The consensus reached in the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) on areas of convergence regarding the representation of nontraditional marks has now found a practical outcome through the Regulations under the Singapore Treaty. INTA participated in the process of amending the Regulations and provided comments prepared by the Nontraditional Marks Committee (see "Amendments to Singapore Treaty Regulations Dealing with Nontraditional Marks" in this issue).
- The work program of the SCT (of which the General Assembly of WIPO took note) includes a study on the protection of country names against registration or use as trademarks; work concerning the use of trademarks on the Internet, with a particular view to revisiting issues dealt with in the 2001 WIPO Joint Recommendation on the subject and to addressing recent developments on domain name issues; and work on convergences in industrial design law and practice, which could lead to negotiation and adoption of a treaty similar to the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks or the Patent Law Treaty.
The General Assembly of WIPO also took note of progress achieved in text-based discussions within the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), particularly regarding draft international provisions for the protection of traditional cultural expressions of indigenous people and other local communities—which include signs that can function as trademarks. There is, however, here a clear divide between most developing countries, which press for the conclusion of a legally binding international instrument, and (mainly) developed countries, which hold to a softer form of law.
The Assembly of the Madrid Union took note of progress reports by the Secretariat regarding the enhancement of the IT facilities of the Madrid System’s operations and the setting up of a classified multilingual database of accepted indications of goods and services for the purposes of the international registration of marks, as well as of a web-based “Madrid Filing Assistant” (provisional name) to allow applicants to access and use the database as a pick list or as a classification tool when composing their lists of goods and services (see www.wipo.int/meetings/en/archive_docs.jsp
WIPO was planning to make the database available to the public, through the Madrid Filing Assistant, on the WIPO portal by the end of October 2010. Since August of this year, a group of volunteers from the INTA Madrid System Subcommittee has been participating in the testing of the Madrid Filing Assistant.