Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Chak Mun See (Singapore)
123. The representative of Australia said that she was not sure that her earlier comments had been correctly understood. In Australia's view, there was a need to look into the issues concerned in a deep and serious way, taking into account the interests of consumers and producers in all Members as well as the public interest; and a need to look at whether there was effective protection. Before moving on and doing anything else, a better understanding was needed collectively whether there was in fact a lack of adequate protection, i.e. where actual problems with the existing provisions existed. The reason for her delegation to mention specific examples had been to demonstrate that a number of Members did produce goods which came under a similar name. They should not be using these terms if there was a danger of misleading or deceiving consumers. As was evident from the Secretariat's summary paper, Australia had laws which had proved to be effective to remedy such situations. In her delegation's view, it would be helpful to examine this and other issues with the help of specific examples. The area of geographical indications was a new area of intellectual property law for many Members and an examination of the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement in this area required the Council to look at the national implementing legislation of a broad range of Members. 124. Responding to Hungary, she said that, in her delegation's view, the phrase "the application of the provisions of this Section" in Article 24.2 raised issues about the practical effect of the treaty language and, specifically, how Members had been applying the existing provisions. Article 24.2 did not call for superficially surveying national legislation, but for adding value and increasing Members' collective understanding about the nature of the provisions of the Agreement in this area by assessing the benefits that Members, i.e. a broad range of Members, had accrued under these provisions. Hungary's comments on Australia's paper seemed to suggest that Hungary wished to avoid such a discussion. In her delegation's view, discussing specific examples was a useful means of revealing important information concerning the application of the existing provisions. Whilst Hungary had correctly pointed out that the issue of an appropriate balance was one relevant to all categories of intellectual property, in view of the calls under Article 24.1 for an extension of the scope of the Article 23 level of protection, it was particularly pertinent to take the opportunity represented by the review under Article 24.2 to examine the issue of balance more closely with respect to the provisions on geographical indications. In this regard, she wished to note that Article 24.1 was part of Section 3 of Part II and therefore fell within the scope of the Article 24.2 review. Any suggestion to rewrite TRIPS language on geographical indications which might upset the finely tuned balance of the existing package of provisions needed to be examined from a serious policy perspective and the issues raised in her delegation's paper were central to this. On the issue of "sequencing", it might be true that there was nothing specific in Article 24.2 prohibiting discussion of various issues to do with geographical indications simultaneously; however, it seemed to Australia to be the most productive way of using the Council's time to use the opportunity that was now available to explore the important policy issues raised in the area of geographical indications.