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

Ambassador Chak Mun See (Singapore)
218. The representative of Australia said that the mandate under Article 71.1 represented both a historic opportunity to promote the objectives of Article 7 at the level where it counted, i.e. where these objectives had been implemented in national intellectual property laws, and a firm obligation to carry out a comprehensive review of how the Agreement had been implemented. Her delegation had set out in its paper (IP/C/W/210) its views on how this mandate could be discharged in a way that would also address major intellectual property-related issues jointly confronting Members, and that would go beyond issues of whether specific articles had been implemented and involve a broader engagement of the intellectual property system. The Council should not let this opportunity pass and should take a broad and inclusive view so as to allow a more fruitful consideration of these issues. As a matter of practical reality, the derivation of benefits from the intellectual property system, and even its appropriate balancing and calibration to match national social, economic and development issues, involved much more than the basic framework for intellectual property protection established in line with the TRIPS Agreement. There was a wide range of factors: policy choices made within the TRIPS framework; related regulatory systems; choices about the relative allocation of resources; capacity development and application of training resources; awareness raising and intellectual property education. Members were, perforce, accumulating a rich body of experience in each of these domains about the optimal implementation of intellectual property law. It would be most unfortunate, if this unique opportunity to draw on this pool of expertise were to be passed up by the Council. Certainly, there had been considerable focus on how laws and legal and administrative systems had been developed and adapted to meet the standards of the TRIPS Agreement. The review of national intellectual property systems by the Council had addressed this mostly in a piecemeal manner, due to its question-and-answer format. Consequently, there had been little consideration of how implementation had been undertaken as an overall exercise. As an illustration of how this had occurred in one jurisdiction at least, Australia had distributed an informal paper on how it had approached the TRIPS implementation process, focusing on legal and administrative issues that had arisen and practical lessons that had been learnt. This paper had originally been developed for APEC partners, but had also been distributed by her delegation to Members as an appendix to a technical assistance manual on notification and review of TRIPS legislation in 1999. Her delegation was happy to make further copies available to any delegation. One of the practical lessons had been that domestic legal reform and implementation of TRIPS standards could be merged; it was possible in some instances to use the process of TRIPS implementation to accommodate in parallel a domestic process of intellectual property law reform. The story had not concluded with the initial phase of TRIPS implementation. Since Australia had formally complied with its basic TRIPS obligations, there had been a continuing process of review and reform of the intellectual property system, always intended in one way or another to ensure that the protection of intellectual property rights would do what it was supposed to do in the terms of Article 7, i.e. to ensure that it would promote social and economic welfare; that it would offer mutual benefits to producers and users of technology; and that it would ensure a balancing of rights and obligations. In this sense, TRIPS implementation could be seen as an ongoing task, one entailing continual development of the legal and administrative mechanisms necessary to derive the benefits of the intellectual property system. This was not an easy task, but one that could be facilitated by learning from the experience of many other countries that were going through similar processes, engaging in similar debates and looking for similar solutions. In its paper, her delegation had highlighted a number of areas where various domestic reviews and inquiries had been underway in Australia and where the issues canvassed were of relevance to concerns similar to those raised by many delegations in relation to the TRIPS Agreement. In general, the subject areas to be addressed were: the interaction between intellectual property law and competition policy; intellectual property and access to genetic resources and access to the benefits of gene technology; intellectual property rights in traditional and cultural contexts; and intellectual property in the digital environment. In each case, Australia had been dealing with questions of effective implementation, application and management of TRIPS standard-intellectual property rights in a way that sought to ensure that the objectives set out in Article 7 would be effectively met. Her delegation would like to promote the full exchange of experience of practical solutions in these areas in the expectation that this would facilitate a better outcome for all.