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

Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku (Zimbabwe)
75. The representative of Australia supported the comments made by Canada, Japan and the United States. The EC's comparative table (document IP/C/W/259) provided a useful compilation of details of the existing proposals submitted to the TRIPS Council, but it was disappointing that it did not include any reference to the International Register of Appellations of Origin established under the Lisbon Agreement (the "Lisbon register"). The Lisbon register was an example of an established register that could provide practical lessons to Members about the nature of the register that could be established under the TRIPS Agreement. Although the Lisbon Agreement had been adopted in 1958, it had only 20 contracting parties and had failed to gain widespread support. The TRIPS register could only truly meet its obligation of facilitating the protection of geographical indications if it was able to gain the broad support and participation of Members. For this reason, it was critical that Members undertook a practical examination of the weaknesses of the Lisbon Agreement that had led to its limited acceptance. The failure of the Lisbon register to gain wide support and the voluntary nature of the Article 23.4 register meant that it was critical that Members gave careful consideration to the capacity of each proposal to accommodate the diversity of national system to protect geographical indications. The answers provided by the European Communities to questions posed by Australia at previous meetings confirmed that the EC proposal involved a register that would build upon existing TRIPS obligations by creating a global pre-emptive system which would have direct effect in national jurisdictions. This was particularly clear in the comparative table submitted by the EC (document IP/C/W/259). The EC proposal clearly went beyond the mandate provided in Article 23.4, which was the establishment of a register that facilitated existing obligations, to propose the creation of new obligations. Under the EC proposal, a failure to oppose a particular geographical indication within a limited time frame would lead to automatic protection in a domestic jurisdiction. However, the TRIPS Agreement did not contain any unqualified requirement to protect specific geographical indications in advance of any domestic legal or administrative process; all it required was the provision of the legal means of protection. It was well accepted in relation to all other types of intellectual property that protection was granted at the national level, but under the EC proposal failure to oppose registration of a particular geographical indication led to protection of that geographical indication domestically. Her delegation had seen no explanation from the EC which clarified why geographical indications should be given special treatment compared to other intellectual property rights.