Deux votes serrés

Deux votes importants se sont joués à une voix hier. Le premier portait sur l’élection du nouveau Directeur général de l’Organisation Mondiale de la Propriété Intellectuelle. Le nouvel élu va diriger l’organisation dans une période complexe. Elle devra soit se réformer en prenant en compte les exigences globales de l’innovation, de la création, de l’accès aux connaissances et du développement, soit se refermer à nouveau sur une vision étroite de défense et d’extension des mécanismes de propriété. Le candidat australien, Frances Gurry, l’a emporté par 42 voix contre 41 au candidat brésilien José Graça Aranha. Graça Aranha représentait un pays émergent engagé dans l’agenda pour le développement et l’accès aux connaissances, mais son profil personnel était assez classiquement institutionnel. A l’opposé Gurry représente un pays développé traditionnellement aligné sur les positions d’extension des mécanismes de propriété, mais avec une réputation personnelle d’indépendance d’esprit et un succès reconnu sur la conception du système de résolution de conflits pour les noms de domaine. Récemment, les Etats-Unis et la Commission européenne ont adopté une stratégie de contournement de l’OMPI, revenant à l’OMC pour y proposer un nouveau traité anti-contrefaçon (ACTA) et multipliant les accords bilatéraux contenant des clauses d’extension des mécanismes propriétaires. Le nouveau directeur général devra à la fois poursuivre la réforme de l’OMPI en direction d’une meilleure reconnaissance des biens communs et de l’accès aux connaissances et utiliser ses relations avec les pays développés qui l’ont soutenu pour les convaincre que ce chemin est aussi dans l’intérêt de leur développement. Nota : l’arithmétique des votes obtenus au deuxième tour aurait du logiquement favoriser l’élection de Graça Aranha. Mais 7 pays en développement qui avaient voté pour le candidat pakistanais se sont reportés sur Gurry (contre 12 qui ont voté pour Graça Aranha).

Pendant ce temps, l’Assemblée nationale française a été lé théâtre d’un vote rocambolesque. Le vote d’un projet de loi sur les OGM, censé transposer une directive européenne sur la coexistence entre cultures OGM et non-OGMs a tourné au camouflet pour le gouvernement. La majorité de droite était divisée entre 3 camps : certains trouvant le projet insuffisamment pro-OGM en raison d’une amendement qui ouvre la voix à l’existence de zones géographiques « sans OGM » (adopté à l’issue d’un autre vote surprise), d’autres sensibles au rejet des OGM dans l’opinion et enfin un groupe favorable au texte. Le gouvernement avait refusé un vote nominatif qui aurait fait apparaître ces divisions. Mais les députés de droite du texte craignaient que leur seule présence au vote les fasse passer pour des tenants du texte. Ils se sont donc massivement réfugiés dans l’absence, ce qui a permis l’adoption par 136 voix contre 135 d’une motion de refus de délibérer du texte déposée par la gauche et les écologiste et défendue par le député communiste André Chassaigne qui se souviendra longtemps de cette journée. Au-delà de l’amusement qui doit saluer ce vote, rappelons le fond du dossier : le seul véritable problème des OGM (ou plus exactement celui dont découlent tous les autres) réside dans la brevetabilité des séquences génétiques et des organismes les contenant. Sans cette brevetabilité, les OGM tels que nous les connaissons dans le domaine agro-alimentaire n’existeraient tout simplement pas : ce ne sont que des clones chimériques brevetés visant la recherche de rentes de monopoles (la première partie de l’appellation a été proposée par Jean-Pierre Berlan et Richard Lewontin, j’y ai ajouté la seconde). Il est très difficile de bien légiférer sur la coexistence sans revenir d’abord sur la brevetabilité. Le vote d’hier n’en est que le symptôme.

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  • A follow-up comment. It has been pointed by Vera Franz that Frances Gurry has led the production of the latest WIPO Report on the International Patent System:
    http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_12/scp_12_3.pdf. This current Report should inspire WIPO’s Patent Committee Meeting in June, which will aim to re-define WIPO’s patent agenda. It contains a number of elements that indicate a much better understanding and recognition of commons-based innovation than previous WIPO productions. Oone can regret the single use of « open source » to denote « free / open source software ». In my opinion, the presentation of the BiOS biological innovation license is misleading (the license is well-intended, but in its present drafting contains clauses that risk leading to the creation of a private club rather than of a commons : I will come back on this in a forthcoming article in a book to appear at Editions Autrement).

    Excerpts from http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_12/scp_12_3.pdf

    Collaborative Research Projects

    123. In a more and more complex world, research has not only become more international, but it has become dependent on a broad range of different – and often newly emerging – technologies, on increased cooperation between various research teams and on sufficient funding to face the exponential rise of costs over the past years. Business strategies today therefore need to be supporting global competitiveness, innovation and rapid market responsiveness. These factors have contributed, since the early 1980s, to the development of variousinitiatives in different areas of technology (e.g. computer sciences; mobile communication technologies; biotechnologies or, perhaps more importantly, public health) to address research in a more collective way at different levels, with the objective of establishing excellence in research projects and networks able to attract researchers and investments from many countries and industries, raise sufficient funding for such R&D and to turn the fruits of that research into concrete and useful products for society.

    124. In this context, the argument is made by the advocates of the patent system that it offers an adequate incentive structure to foster innovation, as it uses the private sector with its financial and expert resources to achieve public policy objectives, has built an enormous source of technical knowledge that is freely available for further research and can be used for various other purposes. Its is further argued that the patent system, where it is considered not to be appropriate for certain countries or situations, contains a number of flexibilities that can be used, in particular, research exemptions and compulsory licenses. Others have voiced disagreement with this approach, as the patent system may stand in the way of the above-mentioned collaborative approaches to research and development by, in particular, blocking access to or use of necessary information. They argue, in
    particular, that the patent system prevents access to certain inventions needed for further research, increases cost and complexity by encouraging a system creating multiple licenses and does direct research towards products that are only expected to generate high benefits, thereby neglecting, for example, diseases that affect specifically poor countries. Therefore, according to these voices, collaborative models rather than exclusive rights have to be promoted. Two examples of such
    collaborative business models are briefly introduced here, namely the Open Source model and the so-called Research and Development (R&D) Treaty.

    (i) Open Source

    125. The open source model has been well-known for many years in the area of software, where it has been established as a distribution model that is based on intellectual property rights (in the case of software, often copyright). ‘Open source’ software is often used as a general expression for many forms of non-proprietary software, which differ principally in respect of the licensing terms under which changed versions of the source code may be further distributed. The basic idea
    of open source is to make available the source code of the computer program and to thus permit a more collaborative way of follow-on innovation, subject to certain conditions, which are often more open than those governing traditional licenses, as they would give access to the programming code of the software and prevent the possibility of obtaining an exclusive right on follow-on innovation (see for example GPL 41[41 http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html%5D)

    Indeed, under open source, adding, for example, a new functionality to a specific software may be done without the permission of the creator of the original software, but no patent could for example be claimed on the result, even if it did, in principle, meet patentability requirements. The open source approach is not necessarily against
    intellectual property, as it is based on intellectual property rights, and is sometimes also used by businesses as a complementary strategy complementing intellectual property policies making use of patents and copyright, for example by IBM or SUN who use and promote open source as part of their business strategy.

    126. Although some of the open source features developed in the area of software cannot be simply transposed to other areas, the main principle that certain parts of the commons should not be the subject of a proprietary right has been found interesting enough to be tested and applied in other areas. Examples include the Hapmap Project that compares the genetic sequences of individuals to identify halotypes. The information is made available to researchers freely, but subject to a
    data access policy, which forbids the users from reducing the access to data and shares the data with only those who had made the same agreement. Another example is the SNP consortium, which aims to create a public resource the access to which would not block access to data by other researchers and companies. One further example is the BIOS (Biological Innovation for Open Society) project by CAMBIA[FT 42: http://www.bios.net/daisy/bios/home.html%5D under which biotechnological inventions should be available to researchers with least restrictions.

    Under the BIOS project, BiOS Licenses have been developed as a model largely inspired by the GPL philosophy. It permits the use of all intellectual property for development and commercialization, but the licensee has an obligation to also grant licenses on further improvements.

    (ii) The Proposal for a Medical Research and Development (R&D) Treaty

    127. In the context of public health and the influence on it of intellectual property rights, it has been suggested to develop a so called medical R&D Treaty. The argument is that current pharmaceutical research and development results in too many resources being invested in the diseases affecting rich countries, thus neglecting poor countries’ diseases, and that only a fundamentalrestructuring of the current research and development model can guarantee that the latter diseases are adequately addressed. The proposed draft R&D treaty would provide new obligations and economic incentives to invest in priority research projects, and addresses several other important topics such as open access publishing. It includes agreements that member countries reduce intellectual property protection in certain areas, such as to permit research exceptions for patents, and exceptions to patentability relating to certain open source medical databases. The core country obligation is to support medical R&D, which could be achieved, in particular, through public sector funding, tax credits, or purchases of patented medicines (measured by the R&D stimulated by such purchases), as well as through newer methods, such as medical innovation prize funds, competitive intermediaries, or various open source collaborative research projects. Countries may be obliged to provide a percentage of their GDP, under a progressive rate, for medical R&D, with minimum investments for priority research projects, such as investment in neglected diseases or global infectious diseases. The proposal would also create a system of credits to reward and stimulate investments in research projects considered socially important. Member countries meeting the obligation under the R&D Treaty would be exempted from obligations under other trade agreements on patents or drug prices.
    Critical voices of the initiative claim that it might weaken the incentives of pharmaceutical companies to continue investing in R&D and that all attempts to base research on a public approach rather than on private initiative have failed in the past.

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