[AfrICANN-discuss] [***SPAM***] US, WIPO Training Programme On IP Rights In Africa Comes Under Fire

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Sun Feb 12 16:17:30 SAST 2012

 US, WIPO Training Programme On IP Rights In Africa Comes Under Fire

Published on 12 February 2012 @ 12:43 pm

By William New <http://www.ip-watch.org/author/william/>, Intellectual
Property Watch

For years, some developing countries have insisted that developed countries
– which own the vast majority of intellectual property rights – take a
singular focus when it comes to offering technical assistance on IP rights:
the protection of “northern” property. In recent years, negotiations in
venues like the World Intellectual Property Organization have sought to
ensure that such assistance also highlights the creation of local IP rights
as well as the availability of flexibilities developing countries have
under international rules for IP.

Now a three-day conference on IP enforcement being planned for April in
Cape Town, South Africa by mostly northern interests has stirred old
tensions and seemingly confirmed past fears of developing countries.

“It’s as if the last five years didn’t happen – no WIPO Development Agenda,
no discussion on copyright limitations and exceptions, no proposals in
favour of libraries and archives, education, blind and visually impaired
people,” said Teresa Hackett, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL).
“But they did happen, and we will work to ensure that delegates attending
the African IP Forum hear a diversity of opinion and perspective, and have
the opportunity to debate these issues that are critically important to
libraries in Africa and around the world.”

The 3-5 April conference entitled, Africa Intellectual Property Forum:
Intellectual Property, Regional Integration and Economic Growth in Africa,
is being organised by the US Department of Commerce Office of General
Counsel Commercial Law Development Program. It is touted as the first
Africa-wide ministerial-level event of its kind. The office could not be
reached for comment on this story.

The official website is
An apparently later draft programme of the summit posted by Knowledge
Ecology International is here <http://keionline.org/node/1351>.

The conference might have been better received if billed as an outright
enforcement and anti-counterfeiting event. There are some panels and
speakers whose focus is local innovation, local brand development, and
locally appropriate practices. But the majority of the panels have a focus
on enforcement and protection, and are studded with speakers from developed
country governments and industry whose focus is the same.

This came as a slap in the face for non-governmental organisations who work
on helping the global South grow their domestic economies by localising
tools such as intellectual property rights. Many have viewed with hope and
a little doubt the 2007 World Intellectual Property Organization
Development Agenda, which consisted of 45 agreed recommendations intended
to more fully incorporate the development dimension into WIPO activities –
particularly technical assistance. The South Africa agenda may appear to
many as a throw-back to the days before the Development Agenda existed, and
may contain the underlying motive of encouraging strong IP legislation in
those countries.

Developing countries readily admit the urgent need for help in fighting a
preponderance of counterfeit products flooding across their borders. And
developed countries have a legitimate interest in trying to address the
problem, which usually involves knock-offs of their goods.

But the debates of the past few years at WIPO, the World Health
Organization and the World Trade Organization have demonstrated the strong
desire of developing countries to tailor actions to their local situations,
and not have them be top-down. Among the tools available to developing
countries is to not apply IP rights in certain cases, for instance. Among
other effects, this can allow the production of cheaper versions of
products, and cheaper legitimate versions can squeeze the market for

Swell of Opposition

A 7 February letter<http://www.ghwatch.org/sites/www.ghwatch.org/files/AfricaIPSummit2012_0207.pdf>[pdf]
to WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, signed by a least 100 NGOs
from around the world, calls for the summit to be scrapped altogether over
conflicts of interest and the lack of a development and public interest

A particular concern of NGOs is that the conference will advance
anti-counterfeiting legislation across Africa that will lead to damaging
restrictions to the local populations and economies. They also raised alarm
that the conference does not appear to include discussion on how to use the
hard-won flexibilities that developing countries are allowed to employ so
as not to apply IP rights if not in their national interest.

“It is worrying to see that a major event such as an Africa-wide forum is
being co-organised in partnership with US, France and Japan,” the letter
said. “These governments are known for advocating their TRIPS plus agendas
in developing countries in the interests of their own industries and

“WIPO being an intergovernmental and a specialized agency of the UN must
take immediate measures to ensure that all its activities are evidence
based, free of conflicts of interest and undue influence of actors that are
known to promote an unbalanced IP agenda.”

A key point is that concern over substandard, poor quality medicines is
separate from counterfeit medicines and is not in the responsibility of
WIPO, but rather the WHO. There have been accusations from some countries
in recent years that the counterfeit drug problem is being used to
interfere with the market for legitimate generic medicines.

The NGOs also demanded more transparency and inclusiveness in the process
of developing a conference. The event is being organised by the US
government, but WIPO is named as a co-coordinator and there are proposals
in the agenda for many WIPO officials to be on the panels. It appears that
even the officials from Africa are being selected by the northern
organisers, and the criteria for acceptance to participate in the
conference are not posted on the website.

Event sponsor the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-Business Action
to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) by contrast holds separate
industry-focussed events at other times and while they are critiqued, there
is little question about their purpose or message. There have been
questions about WIPO’s involvement in those meetings, however.

This week, several NGOs, such as KEI, Oxfam and Public Citizen,
wrote<http://keionline.org/node/1353>to Cameron Forbes Kerry, the
General Counsel for the U.S. Department of
Commerce, requesting a review of Sout Africa conference “to see if the
sponsorship of the event violates Executive Order 13155, on Access to
HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies,” which they said “was
issued by President Clinton on May 10, 2000 after an extensive review of
U.S. trade policy as it related to access to patented medicines in
sub-Saharan Africa.”

That executive order says that “the United States shall not seek, through
negotiation or otherwise, the revocation or revision of any intellectual
property law or policy” that undermines “access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals
or medical technologies,” as long as the countries are within the norms of
the TRIPS agreement, according to the groups.

NGO Reactions

A host of NGO comments were circulated this week.

“The proposed agenda for the Africa WIPO Summit clearly shows that the
summit is being used as a vehicle to drive the agenda of the US, the EU and
the pharmaceutical industry to ramp up protection and enforcement of
intellectual property,” said Catherine Tomlinson of the Treatment Action
Campaign in South Africa. “We urge ours and other African governments to
reject the proposed agenda.”

Moses Mulumba of the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in
Uganda said: “It’s a shame that the Africa IP Forum is putting emphasis on
IP enforcement agenda. One would expect the continent to be discussing the
Development Agenda in light of its social economic challenges in the areas
of health, education and agriculture. Over emphasis on IP enforcement is
iniquitous of the continent’s population that still badly needs to utilise
the policy space provided for by the TRIPS Agreement.”

Andrew Rens, a South African IP specialist and a researcher at Duke
University (US), said: “In the years since TRIPS the single most important
issue involving intellectual property for Africans has been gaining access
to medicines. There is no track nor even a single session on access to
medicines.” There also is no session on copyright exceptions for education,
despite the South African government being a proponent of these in
international negotiations, he said.

Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International said: “Such a forum will be seen
by all not as a bona fide attempt at open discussion on the pros and cons
of robust intellectual property protection in the African context, but
rather as a cynical effort by foreign governments and multinational
corporations to control the framing of these issues for African

Sangeeta Shashikant, legal advisor at the Third World Network, said: “The
US is well known for pressuring developing countries to adopt TRIPS plus
standards. The Africa IP Summit is another attempt by the US to advance its
aggressive agenda on IP protection and enforcement such as Anti-Counterfeit
Agreement (ACTA), that favours the interests of certain powerful
multinational companies. The US concept paper and programme totally
disregards the numerous developmental and socio-economic challenges facing
Africa. Issues of access to affordable medicines, access to knowledge,
misappropriation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge,
farmers’ rights are totally disregarded. Equally absent is a discussion on
the value of public interest flexibilities in the IP system to achieve
developmental objectives and address social needs. The US agenda is clear.
It is about not about development. It is about protecting the interests of
its companies, many of which are sponsoring the meeting, proliferating IP
propaganda and misinformation. Unless steps are taken to fully reflect
development and public interest considerations, and to eliminate actors
only interested in an anti-development agenda, the event should not go

Prof. Brook Baker of Northeastern University law school and Health GAP,
said: It is deeply problematic that the Obama administration continues to
pursue efforts to strengthen, widen, and lengthen patent, data, and
copyright monopolies in African countries that desperately need expanded
access to medicines, educational materials, and climate control
technologies and that it simultaneously seeks even stronger enforcement of
IP protections than what is currently required under international law.
Carrying the policy portfolio of Big Pharma and other IP-based
multinationals under the guise of addressing Africa’s needs, the proposed
African IP Summit is a chilling example of US duplicity and conflict of
interest at its worst. However, it is equally problematic if Africa leaders
and policy makers, some of whom are already complicit with the US agenda,
continue to drink the IP KoolAid as they’ve done with proposed
anti-counterfeiting legislation and with their long-lasting lethargy in
amending their IP laws to take full advantage of TRIPS flexibilities and
thereafter to use those flexibilities to access medicines and other
essential technologies.”

The Open Society Foundation blogged about the event, cautioning developing
countries about “US propaganda”,
Global Health Watch also posted about the event,
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