Friday, February 13, 2015

Senate, House Committee Leaders Push to Preserve IP Standards, Market Access for Products Around the Globe

In Letter, Bipartisan Leaders on Senate Finance, House Ways & Means, and Senate & House Judiciary Committees Call for Full Participation of WIPO Members In Negotiations to Amend Lisbon Agreement
WASHINGTON – Today, leaders on the international trade and judicial committees in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives called on the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, to ensure all WIPO members have an equal voice in amending the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin. The lawmakers want to ensure that any potential changes to the treaty preserve protections for users of common or generic names and for holders of established trademarks around the globe.
The Lisbon Agreement is a WIPO-administered treaty that allows parties to the agreement to simultaneously register Appellations of Origin with all parties to the agreement.  The proposed changes would substantially expand the scope of the Lisbon Agreement to allow for registration of Geographical Indications (GI’s) and could threaten market access for many common products, such as feta cheese, around the world.
Given that only 28 of the 188 WIPO members are parties to the Lisbon Agreement, lawmakers in Congress are concerned that departing from WIPO’s longstanding practice to allow this limited group of WIPO Members to amend the Agreement could result in unwanted changes that would ultimately harm workers and businesses in the United States and around the world.
“WIPO’s legitimacy as a global forum for the protection of intellectual property throughout the world could be called into question by departing from standard practice and allowing a limited group of WIPO Members to substantially amend the Lisbon Agreement in a way that harms market access and the intellectual property rights of stakeholders from other WIPO Members, including the United States,” wrote the lawmakers. “Such a step would be contrary to longstanding WIPO practice, which is to encourage broad participation because of the far-reaching effect of its decisions.  Therefore, we strongly urge you to do everything possible to ensure all WIPO Members have an equal voice in determining any revisions to the Lisbon Agreement.”

Signing the letter today were: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
The Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees have jurisdiction over international trade policy and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have jurisdiction over intellectual property law and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 
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