10. Since 2009, in response to the request from the Chair of the General Council, the Council has considered how to improve the timeliness and completeness of notifications and other information flows. The Secretariat has progressively updated the Council on the work being done in this direction. All this work takes place entirely within the guidelines of notifications already set within the TRIPS Agreement itself and the guidelines and procedures agreed by this Council.
11. The focus has thus been on practical ways of improving how we work with this information and ensuring that it is more user-friendly and more transparent, principally so that it is easier for Members to use when updating their notifications and when consulting this information.
12. As illustrated during previous updates by the Secretariat, the current gateway for TRIPS notifications and reports is the WTO Documents Online Database, which presents difficulties in locating any particular document, determining its content, and then consulting and using the document. This is particularly the case for earlier documents, which were of necessity randomly split into multiple files due to size limitations at the time. Earlier technological limitations also meant that many documents were in an unusable image form, unsuitable for consulting and obtaining information.
13. Since the last update provided to the TRIPS Council of October 2015, much progress has been made on two main fronts: The first concerns transforming "legacy documents" into workable data. This exercise has involved identifying data points in each notification and sorting them into around 14,000 data records and spreadsheets.
14. Taking the Article 63.2 IP law and regulation notifications as an example, this transformation process required identifying, for instance, the date of entry into force as indicated on the notification document, and inserting that date into a cell. As a result, a user will be able to quickly identify the date of entry into force for each notified law.
15. This spreadsheet is an interim tool for preparing the data. What Members will see and use when this transformation is complete will be a user-friendly online database which delegates can use to search for and extract pieces of data, to be designed in consultation with interested delegates. The option will remain, as for today, to access and download the document on WTO Documents On Line.
16. The second front on which much progress has been made is the online submission gateway.1 We have reported on the development of an online gateway as a strictly optional tool for Members to use when updating their notifications (existing methods of notification will still be available).
17. From October 2015 to present, the online submission gateway has undergone intensive testing in order to ensure the programme is, at this very initial stage, stable enough for internal use. We are now using the online submission gateway internally to process notifications – mainly Article 63.2 IP law and regulation notifications, but also contact points.
18. The system has been designed to capture valuable pieces of data. For example, with regard to the Article 63.2 IP law and regulation notifications, the online form allows the user to indicate if the law being notified is an amendment, and also indicate any previous notifications of that same law. This feature was designed with the present state of affairs in mind: nearly 30% of laws that are being notified are now amendments to consolidations of earlier notifications, and this proportion is expected to increase sharply.
19. Although a lot of focus has been placed on notifications of IP laws and regulations under Article 63.2, the online submission gateway will allow the user to submit other TRIPS information as well – in particular other TRIPS Council notifications and input to review processes.
20. The aim is to make the online submission gateway as user-friendly and intuitive as possible in order to simplify your task, and we are working intensively within the Secretariat to this end. That said, as it is simply an optional refinement of the service available to you, working within the existing framework, and other methods of providing notifications would remain available.
21. In the near future we will be inviting delegates and Members to test the system, to provide feedback, and to give us direction before the system is finalised and put into operation online.
22. In addition, the Secretariat proposes to hold an additional informal meeting tomorrow where we will explore this project in further detail, as the basis for continued consultations with interested delegations in coming months.