5. In line with past directions from the Council, this statement updates Members on progress towards improving the service provided to them by creating a more user-friendly, accessible and efficient system for capturing, handling and disseminating the information contained in the notifications made under the TRIPS Agreement. This statement therefore simply supplements our successive past reports and, in particular, the more extended report given at the October meeting of the Council last year. Therefore, today, I will be brief and just focus on current developments. However, I do stress again that the framework for managing notifications remains entirely within the requirements established by the Agreement itself and by the guidelines already agreed by the Council.
6. The work we are undertaking, therefore, is to improve operations by creating an information management system behind the scenes that enables streamlined and more efficient handling of the large volumes of data that have been collected and will continue to flow into this system in the context of notification and review. In turn, this information management system will form the basis of a more workable system for submitting notifications, so that it is more user-friendly for Members at that point; and then for accessing information and details of what has already been notified. It is no secret that it can be very challenging today even to get a clear understanding of what exactly has been notified by a particular Member. We do occasionally have discussions with Members exactly along those lines, as they seek to determine even what they have themselves notified. As the notifications build up – since we now have in some cases received a series of notifications spanning nearly 20 years - the structure, the pattern and the linkages between successive notifications becomes rather more complex, and indeed it can be hard to get a snapshot, even for one's own notifications, let alone to get a broader picture. So there is no doubt that the work is needed, and is very timely, given that the first stage of notification of initial legislation is effectively concluded for the most part.
7. In particular, we are seeing a trend away from an initial notification, that is to say the first notification of a trademark law or a design law or a patent law, towards one of two other categories, either (i) an amendment or a revision, so that a notification says that this or that law has been amended in a certain way, or (ii) a replacement law or a text consolidating amendments which constitutes a complete stand-alone law in that area. This means that the linkages and the categories become all the more important and we know that from the pattern of past notifications, this structure can be very difficult to follow. We are thus working to improve and enhance the links between notifications, firstly so that all Members are more easily able to review the notifications that have already been provided to identify any gaps that may need to be filled; and then secondly, to make this material more workable. At the moment, it can be very difficult to access.
8. We have recently had approval confirmed for the development of an information management system as an information technology project that will be developed in the course of this year. Our consultations with Members and with delegates will intensify, particularly between now and the June meeting of the Council and we will be in touch more informally with any interested delegation to work with you, so as to develop and design this system in a way that meets your needs. As stressed, it is not a rewriting of rules or the procedures for notifications; it is simply making the system work better ‘under the hood’ or ‘under the bonnet’, and making the flow of information more effective. Part of this work is the development a prototype reporting tool that has been based on our experience with recent notifications; this can be circulated this to any interested delegations.
9. New Zealand, for example, has made a recent notification recently that very helpfully exemplifies the work we are undertaking and the benefits of improving the system. If you check on the system, the initial notification by New Zealand of its Patents Act 1953 dates back to 1996, nearly 20 years ago. If you follow the link to that notification, you will find 19 separate files, which divide up the Patents Act 1953 somewhat arbitrarily into 19 separate pieces, all of them PDF image files, which technically means it is impossible to search them for any particular key word. And it is very difficult, indeed, to use this as an information resource at all. This configuration is not anyone's fault – and it is certainly not intended to single out New Zealand, as this is a widespread structural problem, and this is simply a topical example - it is just because of the technical constraints at the time, this approach to managing notifications was needed as an immediate working solution.
10. By contrast, New Zealand has recently notified a replacement law in the same field, specifically the Patents Act 2013. The document concerned, IP/N/1/NZL/5, enables you to see very briefly the main elements of the new law, an indication that it is a replacement of an already notified legal text, that is the previous Patents Act, and provides a link to that previous notification, the 19 files just mentioned along with other addenda, as well as providing a link to a much more manageable accessible online version of the text that is much easier to consult. Thus this new notification format provides for a brief outline of the key elements of the law, so that it is easy to understand what the key changes are, as well as other technical data related to the notification.
11. So we would simply draw this to the attention of Members as part of our attempts to develop a more workable system and to illustrate certainly the need and the benefits of this work that is underway. And we look forward to reaching out to Members and consulting with you in the course of the next few months as we in effect modernize the system to bring it up-to-date, so that we can provide a better service for you.