WIPO GA, notes from October 3, 2012

This morning, under agenda item 6, the WIPO General Assemblies decided to defer a decision until 2013 on the application for accreditation by Pirate Parties International. I was told that the US, Switzerland the France raised objections in the informal consultations, and that some other European countries wanted to raise objections, but found it awkward given the recent success of domestic Pirate Parties in national elections. The USA said it asked for a hold on the decision until WIPO could decide if it wanted to accept political parties as WIPO observers. One delegate said European countries were concerned that the Pirate Parties would take “political action” back home when they disagreed with positions taken by the official delegates at the WIPO meetings.

KEI’s view is that the decision to block the Pirate Parties International application made WIPO look even more captured by right holders than it actually is. To the extent that intellectual property rights issues become seen as political rather than simply technical matters, it may be possible to have broader, deeper and more useful debates on the purpose and performance of the intellectual property rights system. Why? Because many of the technical staff at the government levels are caught up in a system where responsiveness to right-holder interests is key to promotions or job retention, and the robust revolving door with industry creates incentives to be anti-consumer.

In another development, the US said it is asked that WIPO set aside a regular day for corporate right holder groups. One member of the US delegate said they wanted a “Davos type” format, with CEOs of leading companies interacting with government delegates and WIPO officials. When asked, have you proposed similar event for consumer, public health and development groups, the answer was no. The US said its proposal at WIPO for the right-holders day had a lot of support. It also comes at the same time that the pharmaceutical and processed food industries are seeking more direct roles in the governance of the World Health Organization (WHO), under a “WIPO Reform” negotiation.