U.S. Closing Statement for the Adoption of a Revised Lisbon Agreement

United States of America Closing Statement, Delivered by Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Mulrean

October 30, 2014 in Geneva

Preparatory Committee of the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications 

 At the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

 

Mr. Chair –

The U.S. sent a delegation of experts to Geneva this week with high hopes for seizing what we viewed as a historic opportunity that the revision of the Lisbon System presents to the WIPO membership.

We see – or I should say, saw – the process as a way to bridge the differences between the divergent systems for GI protection through a global filing system.

We have been gratified by the overwhelming global interest in taking advantage of this opportunity, demonstrated by the presence and voices of colleagues from all over the globe who agree with the importance of inclusiveness and equality in norm setting.

 However, we now find that our hopes for working within the WG to find collective and constructive solutions are dramatically reduced because our enthusiasm for finding common ground is obviously not shared within the Lisbon Union membership–despite their stated goal of doing so.

We take the discussions from yesterday and today as an unequivocal signal that whatever inclusiveness we have enjoyed during the WG meetings is no longer realistically possible.

With some show of flexibility on the part of the Lisbon Members who spoke this week, perhaps we could have carried the constructive conversations of the WG through to the diplomatic conference.

But now, we find that the openness we have all worked hard to share during the Working groups will not be provided at the diplomatic conference. At the dipcon, we would apparently have even lower status than we do as observers at the WG, and even less than non-WIPO members called “special delegations.”

We will need to consult back home and with our likeminded colleagues, in order to determine what our future engagement should be on this process.

We will need to consider how to respond to this unacceptable outcome of a small and exclusive group of countries taking a decision that will affect the interests of all WIPO members.

We will also need to consider how this disappointing outcome and process will affect our GI stakeholders, our trademark holders, and our industries that rely on common names.

We remain deeply concerned about process.  We were appalled by the precedent set today by 19 Lisbon Union members — a paltry fraction of WIPO’s membership.  We simply do not understand how the Lisbon Union went from no consensus to an agreement on the rules of procedure, with no procedural steps in between. 

Despite repeated requests for an explanation of the legal basis for making such an unprecedented leap from a situation of no consensus to a sudden situation of a “agreement” by the Lisbon Union, the question was never adequately answered.  Therefore, we can only conclude that if there was no consensus, there was also no agreement.

We cannot support an approach at WIPO where if consensus cannot be reached, the chair announces a decision presumably taken by tallying interventions made during debate, without regard for rules of procedure and over one member’s repeated protests and requests for procedural clarification from Legal Counsel.  

Such a practice is an assault on WIPO’s long-standing and deeply cherished commitment to consensus based constructive debate and cooperative decision-making, and it is without justification from procedural rules, past practice, or shared principle. 

Thank you Mr. Chair.