171. The representative of the Secretariat recalled that, at the Council's meeting in March 2010, he had provided an extensive briefing on the Secretariat's various efforts to improve the workability and user friendliness of the notification mechanisms set up under the Council, stressing that the activities undertaken had been carefully confined to the existing procedures and arrangements already established by the Council, and essentially concerned the use of information technology to make them more workable and less burdensome for Members to use. In his update on this work to facilitate the notification of laws and regulations relating to TRIPS, he wished to report on three specific developments: (i) the launch of the TRIPS transparency toolkit; (ii) clarification of preferred formats for submission of texts; and (iii) creation of the WIPO WTO Common Portal as an optional means of submitting texts.
172. As foreshadowed at the Council's discussions at its meetings in October 2009 and March 2010 under this agenda item, the Secretariat had established a single transparency toolkit page on the WTO website that provided a single access point to various notifications and other reports from Members, as well to related formats, guidelines and background materials. The transparency toolkit could be accessed from the general TRIPS gateway page, or directly at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/trips_toolkit_e.htm.
173. As emphasized during the Council's earlier discussions under this agenda item, a major obstacle to the efficient handling of notifications as well as accessibility and practical use of notified texts had been the use of paper based or incompatible digital formats (such as image pdf). Therefore, for any new notification, it was strongly encouraged for submissions to be made as a digital file in a standard text searchable document format (such as rtf, doc, or pdf (text pdf, not image)), with a minimum of special formatting (such as headers and footers, or multiple columns). This step alone would greatly facilitate and accelerate the processing and dissemination of texts submitted for notification purposes.
174. Further to its earlier report to the Council, the Secretariat had continued coordination with the WIPO Secretariat on the modernization and simplification of practical mechanisms for submitting and handling of laws and regulations notified to the WTO under the TRIPS Agreement, and to WIPO under the Berne and Paris Conventions. The two Secretariats had coordinated on the development of a common electronic depository (the "WIPO WTO Common Portal") that would enable on line submission of texts to either or both Organizations.
175. The Common Portal served as an alternative means of submitting texts through what was effectively a single electronic mailbox. It did not replace the existing procedures established by the Council for receiving and processing notifications (see in particular document IP/C/2). Nor did it change the administrative roles of either Secretariat. The Portal was only used as an optional means of transmitting texts to be notified – it could not be used to access notified legal texts, which would continue to be available on the WTO website in the existing manner. The Portal could be accessed through the transparency toolkit page. The Secretariat would be ready to advise any Member contemplating to notify new or revised laws or regulations on how to make use of the Portal, including through organizing access to it by delegates and other nominated officials. He, therefore, encouraged any Member intending to make a notification under the TRIPS Agreement in the near future to contact the Secretariat before proceeding, as this could facilitate the process for the Member concerned as well as speed up the processing and dissemination of the notified texts. Annex 2 of document IP/C/W/543 could serve as a useful checklist for any delegation wishing to check on their most recent notifications made under the Agreement.
176. He added that the Secretariat was incorporating notification procedures and the practical reference to notified materials as an integrated part of its technical cooperation programmes relating to TRIPS. This had already led to a positive feedback, including through enhanced relevance and the tailoring of technical assistance activities to the expressed needs and priorities on its technical assistance partners.