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

H.E. Ambassador Dr Lansana GBERIE
European Union
344.   The European Union delegation is very pleased to co-sponsor this agenda item and I would like to thank in particular Japan for the active role in the drafting of the document submitted today to the TRIPS Council. We also thank the US delegate for her full involvement in the coordination of the Group. We are all convinced that IPRs play an increasingly important role in corporate strategy. The intangible assets created through innovation represent a major share of the value of today's businesses. The IPRs associated with intangible assets are the legal guarantee for potential returns on investment in innovation and a means to get funding. 345.   In this context, the cooperation between IP offices beyond the frontiers is of a great importance. Within the EU, this cooperation is very intense, not to say "raison d'être" of our group, but also our IP offices (EUIPO), but the national offices as well, have a close relationship with their counterparts all around the world. Our friend from Switzerland evokes the memorandum of understanding with EUIPO but, EUIPO has many memoranda assigned and many memoranda with many, many countries in the world. I will present two examples of cooperation originating in two EU member States; Spain and France, but first, let's talk about the cooperation managed by the EUIPO as such. The EUIPO, the IP agency of the EU, through the European Union Intellectual Property Network has created tools and practices so that businesses, big and small, can benefit from more efficient registration services and increased legal security when applying for a trademark or design. 346.   The EU IP Network brings together the EUIPO with the EU national and regional IP offices, as well as international partners, to make IPRs, mainly trademarks and designs more accessible, user friendly and effective. Over the last 12 years, the EUIPO, together with the valuable support of the EU IP network, has been able to drive a cut in registration fees, save costs, create global search tools and modernise the IT infrastructure of IP offices in Europe and worldwide. The EUIPO and the IP offices of the EU member States operate in a two-tier system in which EU rights and national rights work together and complement each other. This means that the EU trademark exists along with national trademarks. This is to say that trademarks registered in the EU member States, and companies can choose where to protect their brands depending on their business needs. This is an original system of coexistence of property titles. 347.   The EU IP network strengthens this whole system connecting IP offices and working to develop online tools that make it easier to apply for a trademark or design, and, on the other, converge on practices so that the process of registering a trademark and design is as similar as possible everywhere in Europe. Currently there are eight projects and 25 subprojects all focused on cooperation and convergence: from developing state of the art online tools for the registration of trade arks and designs to converging the way intellectual property offices register these rights. This is a growing and strong joint effort managed by all our IP offices. 348.   The EU IP network entails a massive cooperation effort that needs both creativity and diverse viewpoints to flourish. Around 200 experts make up the network who come from national and regional IP offices, user associations and international organisations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the European Commission and the European Patent Office. The EUIPO experts complement this input with regular technical visits to the IP offices. Internally, within the EU Single Market, we are, frankly speaking, beyond the cooperation stricto sensu but rather in a process of convergence. In short, convergence helps reduce, if not eliminate, incidents in which similar trademark and design applications are treated differently. This means that IP offices agree to follow common guidelines regarding certain aspects of how they examine trademarks and designs. These agreements are called common practices and they look into matters like what is considered an acceptable trademark and what is not, or how the passing of a new legal instrument, like a regulation or directive, affects examination of trademarks and designs. 349.   Harmonising a specific trademark and design practice takes into account the input from relevant court decisions and the outcome of the EU IP network working groups, where IP experts share their views. The resulting common practices help trademark and design applicants and examiners alike to have a clearer understanding of the principles that are applied in examination. This way anyone can reasonably predict the outcome and benefit from a comparable decision both at EU and national level. To date, 12 common practices have been agreed upon between the members of the network: nine in the field of trademarks and three in designs. But convergence does not stop here, in a fast-evolving world like that of intellectual property there are now also new convergence projects that specifically look into updating the existing practices to the changing circumstances. 350.   In respect of online activities, for instance, the EU IP network has been working to create the world's largest databases of trademarks and designs so that anyone interested in IP can search for millions of trademarks and designs from around the world in a single place: TMview, the network's flagship database contains a colossal 100 million trademarks, and there are more than 20 million designs in DesignView. Both tools are available in more than 35 different languages. These databases are complemented by two twin tools, TMclass and DesignClass, which allow applicants to know for what goods and/or services can be registered as a trademark or design. 351.   The next step touches upon the examination process. The application is received at the EUIPO or at any of the national IP offices in a back-office system created with the valuable support of the EU IP network. Having a similar back office helps to increase consistency in the decision-making process. The back-office is currently used in 15 IP offices with Sweden joining in December 2022. 352.   Let's take now an example of cooperation in one individual EU member State: Spain. Cooperation of the Spanish IP office within the framework of agreements with EPO and EUIPO is common. These agreements include cooperation projects related, in particular, to the development of computer tools and common databases as seen before. Spain has been a pilot, for example, in the development of the Front Office programme developed by the EPO for the management of patent applications. It also participates in the implementation of systems developed by EUIPO, such as, for example, the Back Office programme for designs. The convergence of practices is another of the usual practices carried out by these organisations, with the aim of achieving greater harmonisation in the granting and protection of IP rights in Europe. 353.   On the other hand, bilateral cooperation takes place with different States, both within and outside the EU. Within the EU, we could mention the cooperation with Portugal, with whom a MoU was signed in 2022 and, among other issues, within the framework of this collaboration, a joint study on "Patents and forest fire control" has been carried out. Outside the EU, it is worth mentioning the outstanding cooperation between the Spanish office with Latin America. Within the framework of bilateral agreements with Latin American offices, the Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas (SPTO) set up the Ibero-American Training Programme for Technological Information Searches (CIBIT). The main objective of this programme is to promote the accession of the maximum number of Ibero-American countries to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), as well as to participate in the training of examiners from those offices of Ibero-American countries that already belong to this Treaty in international search procedures and techniques. In 2022, three Ibero-American patent examiners (specifically from Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay) participated. The main benefits of this kind of cooperation are the harmonisation that comes with the development of similar practices, as well as making it easier for citizens to apply for rights outside their country of origin. 354.   Finally, the IT cooperation developed so far has proven to be very effective in Spain. A deepening of these practices, with extension to more countries, could be beneficial for applicants and right holders. I switch now from the Spanish example to the French in order to present an example of cooperation of a European IP office with a regional office in Africa. 355.   INPI-OAPI (African Organization for Intellectual Property) cooperation has been long-standing between the two institutes that are connected through their history, their laws and their language. This was consolidated and boosted by the creation in 2019 of a Regional Counsellor for Intellectual Property attached to the Embassy of France in Côte d'Ivoire for West and Central African countries. Currently, cooperation is built on three main pillars: training, support for businesses and geographical indications. Training to upskill OAPI and national IP network officials includes:  Funding of three candidates per year to pursue CEIPI training (training of patent or trademark engineers in Strasbourg);  Active participation in the first edition of OAPI's master's degree programme in "Patents and Innovation" aimed at training engineers specializing in supporting innovation through IP;  Training of magistrate trainers at magistrate academies in the three pilot countries (Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Senegal) in cooperation with WIPO, ENM, INPI and OAPI. 356.   Support for businesses:  Pre-diagnostic training in IP for better IP management in businesses;  Assistance with structuring OAPI client offer in providing support for businesses;  Support for implementation, labelling and enhancing the value of geographical indications;  Co-organization of the ministerial seminar on geographical indications in Abidjan in June 2022 aimed at fostering the promotion and international protection of geographical indications. Following this seminar, OAPI acceded to the Geneva Act of WIPO's Lisbon Agreement (December 2022).  French structural aid for geographical indications as part of development assistance programmes in partnership with CIRAD and AFD.  Development aid for industrial and artisanal geographical indications in which INPI has a long and solid experience.  In conclusion, it is with this very elaborate example of cooperation led by France with a sizeable portion of Africa that I will conclude my remarks.
63. The Council took note of the statements made.
61. The Chair said this item had been put on the agenda at the request of the delegations of Australia; Canada; the European Union; Hong Kong, China; Japan; Singapore; Switzerland; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These delegations had also submitted a communication on this topic, circulated in document in order to allow Members to prepare for today's discussion.
62. The representatives of Japan; the United States of America; Singapore; Switzerland; Australia; Chinese Taipei; the United Kingdom; Canada; Hong Kong, China; the European Union; Korea, Republic of; Peru; India; Bangladesh; South Africa; Canada and the World Intellectual Property Organization took the floor.
63. The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/107, IP/C/M/107/Add.1