Over 100 NGOs ask WIPO to postpone secretive South Africa meeting

Over 100 NGOs have asked the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization to postpone a summit in South Africa on the grounds that notice of the meeting was not published, the agenda has been set without any transparency, and the speakers all favor a single, narrow view on copyright and patents.

In a letter to the WIPO director general Francis Gurry, more than 100 international NGOs expressed their concern over co-organising the summit in partnership with US, France and Japan which are known for advocating TRIPS plus agendas in developing countries in the interests of their own industries and priorities. For instance these countries are proponents of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a plurilateral treaty that is widely criticized for its secret negotiating process and the detrimental impact on public interest issues such as access to medicines, freedom of expression over the internet and access to knowledge.

To make matters worse the Summit is being sponsored by the private sector in particular the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company etc., that clearly have a strong stake in a pro-IP protection and enforcement agenda. The involvement of the private sector also raises issues of conflict of interests.

Besides, the NGOs said, the summit lacks a development and public interest dimension. The summit concept paper suggests a programme that undermines the spirit of Development Agenda. It is premised on the notion that heightened IP protection and enforcement will deliver development and protect public interest. This distorted approach has no historical or empirical basis and has been clearly rejected by the Development Agenda process. Important development issues such as the different levels of development, the importance of flexibilities (e.g. LDC transition periods, exceptions and limitations e.g. parallel importation, compulsory licensing,) in meeting developmental objectives, examining and addressing the impact of IP on critical public interests issues such as access to affordable medicines, and access to knowledge, appear to be disregarded.

Over 100 international NGOs ask WIPO to postpone forthcoming IP Summit in South Africa


  1. WTF? This is outrageous.

    The greatest harm from these horrible IP agreements is inflicted on developing countries. There are several working towards WTO accession that are particularly vulnerable. The lies about patented medicines are the real killer. I really hope the US publicity movement gets past movie torrents and onto the issues facing poor countries.

  2. is it just me or are these messages on meetings everywhere increasing in frequency. Where does the push, the organisation, the logistics of setting all these meetings come from. Have (the collective) we been sleeping, or are we waking up, and the true scale of operations is only now emerging?

    1. Hopefully people are waking up. The reason is that they tried to push it into the US domestic market, and that got people’s attention. The generic medicines fight has been going on for many years, and quite literally it is killing many thousands of people. Though I support Obama over the Republicans, there was no real pause during the transition from Republicans in power to Democrats in power. The rules on entertainment IP are bad, the rules in FTAs on medicine IP are killer. And it’s not just about the US, the EU is almost as bad.

    2. The all-out push to raise levels of intellectual property protection got going in the late 80s, when the Special 301 power was acquired by the US executive; it allows heavy punitive sanctions on countries thought to be allowing infringement. Brazil copped a 100% tariff on ALL its exports to the US. First world standards were imposed on every country when the WTO was created in the mid-90s; accession to TRIPS is part of membership, and it is non-negotiable. Big Pharma was the prime mover back then, and remains a key player, although Hollywood and the music biz are more prominent now. These are the groups funding BASCAP, which in turn lobbies governments.

      In the 2000s, though, the Global South saw how it had been screwed, so it united in the UN fora and had much success in resisting the push for ever-stronger IP, so the IP holders changed strategy.

      The days of imposing ludicrously-high IP protection regimes on all countries at once, in the mid90s, are gone. So two strategies are now being employed. One is the use of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). The other is the creation of ACTA and the TPP; these involve  raising standards among wealthy countries, with the idea being to create norms that the South will be unable to resist in the future, and to separate those in the rich and poor countries that would work together to create a balanced system of IP protection.

      The first strategy seems more successful, as it presents a smaller target to civil  society groups. 2000+ FTAs now exist, and they are sold to the public as job-creating arrangements. Public debate gets restricted to issues like removal of agricultural tariffs etc.

      KEY POINT: the IP-raising agenda is tacitly acknowledged as deeply unpopular by its proponents, and must be pursued under the radar. This is important; it shows a defensiveness, a weakness in the position of the relevant corporate groups. Nothing they have done has made their goals appear legitimate at any level, despite vast sums and efforts spent on propaganda. For the vast majority, whose interests are opposed to these cretins, this is pretty good news.

      1. Mujokan, Humanresource,
        Thanks you ever so much for your insights. I am simultaniously appalled by size and influence of the organisations, as I am delighted that we have the internet as it appears that for the first time in human history information can actually flow beyond the physical and geogrphical boundaries – I do not know where you are plaved geographically, that the fact that we are having a level discussion on the subject irrespective of our physical sleves delights me beyond imagination.
        And that liberation, we must keep free.

  3. OK, this is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre 3-5 April. I’m going to try and register and attend so that I can do a bit of amateur journalism.

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