2. This update follows the Council's request in November 2012 for the Secretariat to inform it at future meetings on enhancements to the Secretariat services improving the transparency, timeliness, completeness and user-friendliness of the notification system. In turn, this request responded to its earlier work from March 2009 under a separate agenda item on the Letter from the Chair of the General Council Concerning Ways to Improve the Timeliness and Completeness of Notifications and Other Information Flows, following a request by the General Council for committees and councils to work on the issue. The document prepared at that time (IP/C/W/543) continues to serve as the information base for this process. It provides, in effect, an audit of the then current state-of-play of notifications of laws and regulations. That document both reported on the state-of-play of notifications at that point and suggested how to make the system more timely and complete. The regular reports made to the Council since that time have been supplemented by more informal consultation sessions with Members.
3. The legal basis for the notification procedures is in Article 63 of the TRIPS Agreement, which refers to laws and regulations pertaining to the subject matter of the Agreement, that is the availability, scope, acquisition, enforcement and prevention of the abuse of IPRs. The Council established at its early meetings a system for dealing with legal notifications, in particular the 1995 Decision by the Council (IP/C/W/6/Rev.1) that provides a framework for notifying laws and also refers to subsequent amendments to Members' laws and regulations and specifies particular timelines for notifying both original laws and amendments to laws. Established nearly 20 years ago, these procedures have proven to be durable and effective up to the present time, and seem to be well adapted to continue to be applied and in particular to respond to major developments since the first round of notifications from 1995.
4. The original Council decision calls for notifications to be made where possible in machine readable form. Since then, there has been a general shift towards online and digital systems for collecting, managing and distributing such information. The original decision also deals with the notification of amendments. The current focus has transited from the initial notification of laws and enforcement mechanisms to the notification of amendments and other further developments to laws already notified. The work on improving the notification system therefore continues to take an integrated approach to managing the vast amount of information that has been tabled since 1995 and this focuses on the three key areas: improving data capture, modernising the management of the data that has been provided, thereby expediting its processing and ensuring that it is less of a burden on the documentation systems of the Secretariat.
5. Another objective is to improve and extend the service provided to Members so that the notified information can be accessed and referred to in a way more in keeping with the way delegations and others expect to work with it today, that is to say a more facilitated online service. We will continue to follow the general approach that has been outlined in the past - firstly to remain entirely within the framework of notification and reporting standards set out in the TRIPS Agreement and the subsequent Council decisions, therefore ensuring that we focus on updating and streamlining existing arrangements from a practical point of view rather than amending or altering the established framework. Secondly there remain some lacunae in the content, so the focus will be on improving the completeness, timeliness and practical accessibility of the information provided, but also on easing the administrative burden for notifying and reporting activities of Members.
6. We have identified ways of saving resources, reducing the load on the documentation systems of the Secretariat while finding ways of improving the services for Members. Concerning data capture, the first step in the chain, we are continuing to work on fully digitising the entire backlog of notifications. We also maintain the successful WIPO-WTO Common Portal, which has facilitated notifications and updates of laws. Furthermore, we are working on similar on-line notifying and reporting tools for other TRIPS-related notifications as an optional tool that Members may choose to use to facilitate their notifications and to help us work with the data in a more workable and consistent format, given the past experience of highly diverse and often incompatible formats that have been used.
7. A concrete suggestion for improving the usefulness of notified materials is for Members to provide a brief introduction that explains the significance of a notified amendment or update. This would make it easier to understand the significance of an amendment, thus improving the transparency and usefulness of the information. This kind of information is helpful since, for the most part, we have effectively reached the end of the first phase of notifications of the basic legal framework for most Members but in many cases these notifications date back to nearly two decades.
8. Concerning the possibility of a more user-friendly notifying and reporting tool, we propose to informally consult with Members tomorrow on a prototype of what such a tool would look like, and on a related tool to identify ways of more easily access and distribute the notified material.