Software Patents: about the WIPO patent committee meeting

After a hiatus of three years, the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) met for its 12th session on June 23, 2008 to June 27, 2008. Given the collapse of the talks to initiate a Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) to harmonize patent law with respect to prior art, novelty, inventive step and grace period, even the most prescient of WIPO watchers were at a loss in prognosticating the outcome of the WIPO SCP. In 2007, informal consultations of the WIPO SCP were not able come to consensus on deciding upon a work program for the WIPO patent committee.

As a result the the WIPO General Assembly (2007) instructed the International Bureau to

establish a report on issues relating to the international patent system covering the different needs and interests of all Member States, which would constitute a working document for the next session of the SCP. The Report would contextualize the existing situation of the international patent system, including reference to the WIPO Development Agenda process, and would contain no conclusions.

Under the stewardship of the Chair (Maximiliano Santa Cruz, Chile), and his two Vice-Chairs (Mr. Yin Xintian, China) and (Bucura Ionescu, Romania) working in concert with the International Bureau, this meeting bore witness to the flexibilities displayed by Member States including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, the European Union, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Singapore and Switzerland to ensure that the WIPO patent committee embrace a positive agenda. This positive agenda is evidenced in the Summary by the Chair(SCP/12/4 Rev) posted by WIPO on June 27, 2008. It should also not be forgotten that during the patent committee interregnum, the International Bureau launched a series of patent symposiums that covered a range of issues including the research exemption and patents and standards.

Despite strong signals sent by Group B countries (rich countries) early on in the Committee that left no doubts that patent harmonization was foremost on their agenda, the conclusion of the meeting took a different turn, a balanced outcome that gave something to developed countries and developing countries, users and right holders alike.

Read the full article, by Thiru Balasubramaniam