Recent rumours of the international community's plans to push for a "Global Patenting System" have created a stir in WIPO's corridors in the heart of the Peace Capital.
Pharmabiz report inaccurate and misleading
A report in Pharmabiz in particular irked the organisation sufficiently to have the Director of its PCT International Cooperation Division send a curt response to the website, denying outright any allegations about a possible new version of the PCT regime. (The letter, which I quote in substantial measure in this post, can be read without subscription here).
You may recall that we had argued only last week that there was little or no likelihood of proposals for a modified PCT going through, particularly one that may have grave implications of a substantive nature on the domestic policies of member States.
Claude Matthes, Director, PCT International Cooperation Division, writes on behalf of WIPO, to "express concern at the inaccurate and misleading article published on Pharmabiz.com ... which purports to relate to matters discussed at the most recent session of the Patent Cooperation Treaty Working Group, held in Geneva in May 2009, and at the upcoming September 2009 meeting of the WIPO Assemblies."
No consideration at WIPO of a 'global patenting system'
The letter to the editor continues in the same astringent tones:
"I wish to state that there is not - and never has been - any consideration at WIPO of what your article describes as a "global patenting system" which would "dilute the sovereignty of developing nations in determining patentability of applications for inventions and do away with flexibilities granted under the TRIPS Agreement."
There is no such "global patenting system," nor is one being considered. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which WIPO administers on behalf of its member countries, explicitly protects the sovereignty of each member country to prescribe its own conditions of patentability. This principle is set out expressly in the Treaty itself (Article 27(5)). As a result, the PCT - a procedural treaty - must always respect the substance of the national patent laws of its member states, including that of India."
The Director specifically also noted that the May 2009 discussions, which the Pharmabiz report referred to, focussed on how to use the PCT system more effectively so as to address the difficulties faced by stake holders in the system, including applicants, third parties and National Offices, and that this would be taken up in September 2009 by the PCT Assembly.
In writing this letter, Claude Matthes has only reiterated what WIPO's Director-General Francis Gurry spelt out in the Report of the PCT Working Group: “Nothing in this Treaty and the Regulations is intended to be construed as prescribing anything that would limit the freedom of each Contracting State to prescribe such substantive conditions of patentability as it desires.” [para 25]
I would love to know if WIPO has responded in equal measure to the op-ed in the Economic Times, which echoed the Pharmabiz article in thought and substance.
Keeping the faith in WIPO and others
My sincerest to Jon BJ for borrowing phrases, and to you, the reader, for bordering on the corny, but if nothing else, I believe this epistolatory episode may have strengthened the position I took in the earlier post: Of course, one remains wary of all possibilities, and cannot discount lobbying tactics by any entity, industry or nation-state. At the same time, it may be healthy to have a little bit of faith in the international negotiation system, and a dollop more in the ability of India and her counterparts in the emerging world to "defend their interests", to borrow a phrase from a commentator to our earlier post.