14 December, 2019

Technology: US proposal to remove IPRs from the table arouses developing countries’ objections

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Bonn, 11 August 2009 (Hira Jhamtani) -- The very sharp differences on intellectual property were fully exposed at the Bonn climate talks on 11 August when the United States starkly stated that it wanted the issue “off the table” in the negotiations on technology transfer.

This drew a rebuke from many developing countries, that continued to insist that IPRs can be a barrier to technology transfer and that it is a key issue on the climate change agenda.

The United States statement that “We want discussion on Intellectual Property Rights to be taken off the table” was expressed at the session of the woking group on technology transfer during the Inter-sessional Informal Consultation of the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action of the UN Convention on Climate Change.

The US delegate said, “We cannot and will not support discussions that seek to undermine enforcement of IPR. It is an essential building block for innovation.” She added that some proposals put forward by UNFCCC parties will undermine IPRs and this will hinder the development of new environmentally sound technologies. We need the technologies and changing IPR regime will not achieve this, she said, adding we do not see that IPR should be discussed in the Convention, and want to see the discussion taken off from the table.

The informal group on technology was facilitated by Kishan Kumarsingh from Trinidad and Tobago. In response to the US statement, the facilitator said he has no mandate to take the issue off the table as the IPR issue is contained in the 200 page negotiating text.

In contrast to the US, the Phillippines, speaking on behalf of G77 and China, said that it is important to address the IPR issue. The group has put in proposals on innovative partnerships on IPR regime, to look at flexibilities offered by the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, and to look at practices that exist such as compulsory licensing to remove barriers to transfer of technology.

Belize on behalf of the AOSIS (alliance of small island states) agreed with the Facilitator that he does not have the mandate to remove anything from the text. Ghana said that IPR is an issue we are grappling with and developing countries have made proposals to address the problem. There is no reason to say we do not want to address the issue. IPR is an important issue for developing countries and must be addressed.

Bangladesh said that we must look at IPR related to climate change issues in a different way from the way we look at IPR at the WTO. We are dealing with climate change, and this will need all kinds of technologies for mitigation and adaptation. Developing countries like Bangladesh need technologies for adaptation, which means looking at water security, food security and survival issues. So we must be innovative in looking at the IPR issues in this way. We need some collaboration for Research and Development as ways to overcome the IPR issues.

Uganda, speaking on behalf of LDCs, said the IPR discussion is not aimed to discourage innovations. It is am important issue and must be addressed. Indonesia said that IPRs should not be a barrier for technology transfer and there must be discussions on how to solve the issue. Argentina said IPR is an important issue for developing countries and should be given due attention. We need to face the issue in a serious and urgent way.

Bolivia said it sees IPR as a barrier for technology transfer and hurts the full compliance of achieving the objectives of the Convention. The flexibilities in TRIPS currently are not enough. We face issues such as multiple patents taken out in different countries that would cost developing countries time and money to trace the multiple patents before the technologies can be acquired or transferred. Thus the revision of the current IPR regime is important and the G77 and China has put forward proposals to that effect.

The division on IPRs at the technology working group once again showed this is one of the most contentious issues at the climate talks. The differences are also evident in the section on Enhanced Action on Development and Transfer of Technology in the current 200-page negotiating text.

During the 11 August meeting, the Facilitator distributed a paper with a table summarizing his view on the issues of convergence and divergence in the text on technology within the 200-page document. The table lists the issues according to the sub-headings of the scope and objectives; technology needs assessments (TNA); technology action plan; cooperative Research and Development; IPRs, institutional arrangement, and financing technology.

In the table, the biggest issue on which there is divergence is IPRs (paras 187-189 of the negotiating text). There is a divergence on “enhanced protection of IP to enhance innovation” versus “options for flexibility to address IPRs.” On the options for flexibility, the table includes the following: compulsory licensing, patent pooling, prerential/differential pricing; IPR sharing for collaborative R&D; review of all IPR regulations; revoking patent rights, limited time patents, proposed Declaration on IPR sane environmentally sound technologies, exemption of LDCs/vulnerable countriews from patent protection for climate-related technologies, institutional arrangements to address IPR issues.

[These options listed in the table is a summary of proposals made by several developing countries and their groupings, including the G77 and China, and which are included in the 200-page negotiating text].

Two other divergent issues listed in the table are linked to IPR. One is about technology information, where some countries would like to include the information on IPR and licensing as part of the platform. The second is on technology innovative centres, where there are views that the network of these centres is also linked to sharing of IPRs.

On objective, scope and guiding principles, the divergent issues were: (a) the different characteristics of a technology mechanism versus a framework for technology versus a set of actions; (b) the scale and role of public and private financing; (c) the nature of national actions.

On technology action plan, some countries ask for an international technology action plan to be elaborated by a new constituted body on technology which would oversee implementation while others only want an international or national action plans and roadmaps. There is also divergence on the scope of the international technology action plan, whether the plan should be linked to a financing scheme, and who should be the beneficiaries and who should provide financial resources.

Another important divergent issue was on institutional arrangement. Some countries want a subsidiary body on technology, while others prefer only an advisory group or the existing expert group on technology transfer. On financing, some countries would like to form a specialized technology fund under the Convention, while others do not.

The table also lists several areas of convergence, for example five points on scope and principles, and two points on technology action plan. However some developing countries questioned whether there is indeed convergence on some of these issues.

The Philippines, speaking on behalf of G77 and China said that the way convergence is interpreted in the chapeau of the facilitator's table will take one day to negotiate, as there are differences in interpretation of an issue, even if there is agreement that an issue should be included. (In the table, convergence is interpreted where there are no opposing alternative options and where brackets have not been used to identify objections to elements of the text).

The Philippines said that convergence means the meeting of minds and a common understanding. It gave an example that the need to refer to proposed texts to provisions and decisions in the Convention has been listed as an issue where there is convergence of issues. She said to the G77 and China by this means that any text outside of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan must be taken out, and questioned whether the other partners have the same interpretation.

The parties agreed to use the table as a tool for further discussions, not as a basis for negotiating text. Several developing countries emphasised that they have agreed to this on the basis of trust to the facilitator, and that this should by no means set a precedent for this same process to be used in the other groups.

During the session, Australia suggested that the technology issue be discussed in a smaller group, but this was not agreed to by many developing countries. The G77 and China said that the group is not ready to meet in smaller meetings on this issue.

At the end of the session, the US said that it would be happy to meet with other parties to discuss the IPR issues, but have a strong preference to talk about issues on which Parties can go forward.

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TWN Bonn News Update No.3

12August2009
PublishedbyThirdWorldNetwork
www.twnside.org.sg