U.S. Closing Statement at WIPO 23rd Program and Budget Committee

Closing Statement by the United States
Delivered by Todd Reves

23rd Program and Budget Committee
World Intellectual Property Organization
July 17, 2015

Chair, the United States commends you on the way in which you have conducted this session of the Program and Budget Committee. We started on time, and, more importantly, finished on time. I was involved several years back on an initiative to develop guidelines for the selection of WIPO chairs, including how chairs would conduct meetings. Your method of work this week would be an excellent model should those discussions ever resume.

The United States also appreciates the work of the Secretariat in preparing for this session. However, we note –as we have in the past – Member States need more time to review the first draft of the Program and Budget. I note that the Secretariat released the draft on June 4 – five weeks from the opening of this session. We ask that the Secretariat move up the planning timeline to allow more time for thoughtful consideration by Member States.

Chair, as you will recall from our opening statement and our intervention on Program 6, the United States is not in a position to approve the draft Program and Budget for 2016/17 absent the conditions we have identified, namely:

  • That there be a separation of the accounting for the Lisbon and Madrid Systems – i.e., two separate programs with separate Expected Results;
  • That the Lisbon System’s use of and contribution to WIPO services and operating costs are accurately reflected as expenses, whether direct or indirect, or income, as appropriate;
  • That the Lisbon Budget is balanced as provided under the Lisbon Agreement, including its Geneva Act, without the use of other Unions’ Income, general Member State Contributions or income not derived from the Lisbon Union;
  • That the Secretariat Conduct a Study on Lisbon’s Financial Sustainability;
  • That the earmark for a diplomatic conference in the 2016/17 biennium be conditional on full participation; and
  • That the Secretariat to review Annex III, including the allocation of miscellaneous income, and whether, as in the case of the rental income that is directly attributable to the Madrid Union, the miscellaneous income can be more accurately attributed according to how the assets from which this income was acquired and are being maintained.

The United States notes that regrettably none of our suggested edits to Program 6 of the draft Program and Budget 2016/17 have been included in the revised version, and therefore, stands ready to constructively engage in the continued discussion of these important points at the upcoming PBC session in September.The United States appreciates the continued commitment by those member states that have shown support for the principles that we are trying to bring forward here.

Chair, finally, please allow me to say a few words on why the United States is taking this position.

The United States considers the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement to be illegitimate, mainly because of the way in which it was negotiated and concluded. A small subset of this organization – a mere 28 members – excluded from full participation the vast majority of the organization, relying on Article 13 of the Lisbon Agreement under the guise of a revision to the agreement. We all know that this was not a revision, but rather, a complete overhaul of the agreement by including the broader concept of geographical indications. However, when it comes to making the Lisbon System financially self-sustainable – something the United States is trying to do here – the Lisbon Members continue to ignore their treaty obligations. It seems convenient for the Lisbon Union to invoke a treaty article (13) when it is serves to exclude others from participating so as to craft a workable international instrument for all Member States, but to flatly disregard another treaty obligation when it is against their financial interest. It is deeply troubling that the legitimacy deficit of the Geneva Act is being worsened by the attempts of some to perpetuate the long-standing financial deficit of Lisbon system to the detriment of all. The great majority of WIPO members, who were excluded from meaningful participation in the recent diplomatic conference, cannot and should not be asked to subsidize the few that refuse to fund their own treaty.

Some of the more vocal Lisbon members have commented this week that the Lisbon and Madrid systems should remain in one program, with the implication that Madrid will continue to fund the deficits incurred by Lisbon. Their baseless justification is that it has always been this way, so why change it. Well, chair, the United States will not stand for the continued bootstrapping of an illegitimate, financially irresponsible system by the Madrid system, particularly when the new Geneva Act contains provisions that affirmatively undermine trademark protection, which is at the core of the Madrid Agreement.

Chair, the United States had hoped that a number of our conditions would have been agreed upon this week, as many touched upon transparency and financial sustainability – issues that many of the Lisbon members constantly call for in broader WIPO discussions, not to mention broader UN discussions. It is unfortunate that they shed those principles to suit their self-serving objective of gaining an upper hand in the ongoing struggle over how best to protect geographical indications. In addition to our concerns with the Lisbon parties in terms of implementing their own financial obligation, we are also concerned about WIPO’s stewardship of its treaties by failing to follow the legal provisions of the Lisbon agreement with respect to financing, and the provisions of the Madrid agreement with respect to the revenue, except specific fees, that is to be divided between Contracting Parties as specified by Article 8(4) and not used for other purposes to which they have not consented. As we said in our opening statement, these failures raise critical concerns about transparency, accountability and governance that must be addressed.

Again, chair, the United States appreciates your handling of this session, and looks forward to seeing you again in September.

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