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Closed-Door Meeting on GIs Could Have Global Impact, Coalition Says

Oct 22, 2014

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) has voiced objections to a plan by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to allow approval of a controversial intellectual property agreement to take place behind closed doors without full participation by all WIPO members. CCFN, of which IDFA is a founding member, opposes the proposed expansion of the agreement’s system for geographical indications, which could impede the use of common food names for many cheeses and other foods.

CCFN is calling for more transparency and participation in the approval process, starting in Geneva next week where a WIPO working group will debate proposed changes to the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin. The group’s recommendations are then slated to be ratified at a diplomatic conference next year, but only the countries that signed on to the agreement can fully participate. That would limit participation to about 30 countries, mostly from Europe. The United States is a member of WIPO but not a member of the Lisbon Agreement.

This exclusive approach runs counter to existing precedent for handling contentious intellectual property issues, CCFN said, adding that WIPO's success stems from its ability to foster constructive debate and compromise on international intellectual property agreements that considers the interests of all 188 member nations.

“Unless these meetings are opened to the larger WIPO membership, the amendment and approval process will be completed by 30 or so countries, even though the results would potentially affect the rights of all WIPO members to use common foods names in global trade,” said Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs. “CCFN is urging all WIPO members to speak up and maintain the current protocol for handling controversial issues.”

For more information, contact Hughes, at bhughes@idfa.org.

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) is an international non-profit alliance whose goal is to work with leaders in agriculture, trade and intellectual property rights to foster the adoption of high standards and model geographical indication guidelines throughout the world.

 
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