Delegates from around the world are meeting in Geneva this week to work on the critically important World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda. The WIPO Development Agenda represents a major effort from developing countries to ensure that global IP policy adopts a broader perspective by better reflecting the needs of countries at different stages of economic development. From a Canadian perspective, there is an excellent opportunity to forge a leadership position, recognizing that our interests lie with IP policies that embrace flexibility.
Rather than supporting that path, however, reports from Geneva today indicate that Canada has emerged as an embarrassing barrier. Canadian delegates are working on text that addresses norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and the public domain. A contentious paragraph on the future of the development agenda within the draft text is:
To discuss possible new initatives and strengthen existing mechanisms within WIPO to facilitate [access to knowledge] and technology for developing countries and LDCs and to foster creativity and innovation within WIPO's mandate.
Note the square brackets around "access to knowledge", which represents language about which there is no agreement. It would seem plain that a meaningful development agenda would include discussion of access to knowledge. Yet, KEI reports that Canada is actively opposting removing the brackets and ensuring that the wording makes its way into the text. Canadians like to believe that we are leaders in prioritizing development issues around the world, yet here we have Canadian representatives blocking developing world by opposing something as essential as access to knowledge. Absolutely shameful.
Update: Reports this morning indicate progress with inclusion of the access to knowledge language. A welcome development, though Canada should be leading on these issues, not aligning itself against the developing world.