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

Ambassador Mothusi Palai (Botswana)
World Trade Organization
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.
The Council took note of the statements made.
1.1. The Chairman said that, since its meeting in October 2014, the Council had received a number of updates to earlier notifications of laws and regulations notified under Article 63.2 of the Agreement:

• Following the brief oral introduction at the last meeting, Colombia had notified a decree from September 2014 adjusting patent duration through restoration of the patent term;

• Hong Kong, China had notified amendments to certain laws and regulations in the field of patents, trademarks, designs and layout designs of integrated circuits;

• Peru had notified amendments to its copyright law;

• Croatia had notified its Copyright and Related Rights Act and an Act amending it;

• Canada had notified amendments to its Copyright Act, Trademarks Act, Patent Act, Industrial Design Act, Customs Act, and to the Criminal Code. It had also notified a Statement Limiting the Right to Equitable Remuneration of Certain Rome Convention or WPPT Countries;

• Chinese Taipei had notified Enforcement Rules of the Patent Act, as well as Regulations of Patent Fees; and

• New Zealand had notified its Patent Act 2013 and its Patent Regulations 2014.

1.2. These notifications of laws and regulations were available in the IP/N/1- series of documents, and the actual texts of laws in sub-series of documents in electronic form on the Documents Online database.

1.3. In addition, Thailand and Sri Lanka had provided their initial responses to the Checklist of Issues on Enforcement, circulated in document IP/N/6/THA/1 and IP/N/6/LKA/1 respectively.

1.4. As regards notifications of contact points under Article 69 for the exchange of information and cooperation on trade in infringing goods, since the meeting in October 2014, Nepal had notified a contact point under Article 69 for the first time. An update to a contact point notified earlier had been received from Sri Lanka. The information on the Members' transparency toolkit page had been updated accordingly.

1.5. He particularly encouraged the delegations that had notified a new or revised legislative measure, or a new or updated response to the enforcement checklist to briefly inform the Council about the key points of the notified amendment or information provided, as most new notifications were revisions or amendments of existing notifications. Several delegations had followed this practice at recent sessions of the Council and it had provided valuable insight into the notifications provided and had assisted in promoting awareness and transparency.

1.6. The representative of Colombia took the floor.

1.7. The Chairman urged those Members whose initial notifications of laws and regulations remained incomplete to submit the outstanding material without delay. Equally, he urged other Members to fulfil their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement to notify any subsequent amendments of their laws and regulations without delay after their entry into force.

1.8. He especially encouraged Members to notify changes made to their laws and/or regulations to implement the Decision on TRIPS and public health. At least 50 WTO Members, including many of the world's major exporters of medicines, had adopted implementing legislation that allowed them to use the Paragraph 6 System as exporters and/or importers. However, only 16 Members had formally notified such measures to the TRIPS Council. Completing the notification of all relevant laws and regulations could assist Members in preparing for the potential use of the System. It would also help the Secretariat in its efforts to provide informed technical support to Members in this area.

1.9. The Secretariat updated the Council on its work to improve the user-friendliness and cost-effectiveness of the notification system.

1.10. The Council took note of the statements made.

IP/C/M/78, IP/C/M/78/Add.1