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[FYI] WTO, TRIPS, EU: EC & Intellectual Property


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                 Submission by the European Communities and their
                 Member States to the TRIPs Council on the Work 
                 Programme on Electronic Commerce

                                                   20 April 1999

                      A. Introduction

                      Following the Declaration on Global Electronic
                      Commerce adopted by Ministers at the second
                      session of the Ministerial Conference on 20 May
                      1998, the General Council established a
                      comprehensive work programme for the relevant
                      WTO bodies, including the TRIPs Council, to
                      examine all trade-related issues relating to
                      global electronic commerce, taking into account
                      the economic, financial, and development needs
                      of developing countries, and to report on the
                      progress of the work programme, with any
                      recommendations for action, to the third session
                      (WT/L/274), on 25 September 1998. Specifically,
                      the TRIPS Council is requested to examine and
                      report on the intellectual property issues
                      arising in connection with electronic commerce.
                      The issues to be examined shall include (the
                      implication of electronic commerce for) (a) the
                      protection and enforcement of copyright and
                      related rights, (b) the protection and
                      enforcement of trademarks and (c) new
                      technologies and access to technology. 

                      In order to assist WTO Members in their
                      deliberations, the WTO Secretariat prepared a
                      general note discussing the relationship between
                      WTO Agreements and global electronic commerce
                      (WT/GC/W/90 of 14 July 1998). A more specific
                      Background Note on intellectual property rights
                      was prepared by the WTO Secretariat for the
                      TRIPs Council (IP/C/W/128 of 10 February 1999).
                      In addition, a Memorandum on 'Intellectual
                      Property and Electronic Commerce' dated 31 July
                      1998 was prepared by the Director General of


                      D. Conclusion

                      In summary, the following observations can be

                           The TRIPs Agreement, together with other
                           international conventions, already provides
                           for a sound basis for the protection of
                           intellectual property rights in the
                           off-line world and the on-line environment,
                           which could be built upon, if necessary. In
                           certain areas, shortcomings exist in the
                           present system for the protection of
                           intellectual property rights. In other
                           areas, it has to be recognised that the
                           TRIPs Agreement does only provide for
                           minimum standards and does not aim at
                           harmonising all aspects of intellectual
                           property rights. Consequently, differences
                           in the national protection systems appear
                           to be inevitable. Some of the shortcomings
                           might relate to issues which could go
                           beyond those purely related to the
                           protection of intellectual property rights
                           and, therefore, might have to be addressed
                           in a more horizontal manner. Work is
                           already well under way in other
                           international fora, notably WIPO. These
                           developments will be closely followed. At
                           an appropriate time in the future, and
                           taking into account work done in other
                           fora, it might be desirable to adapt or
                           clarify the provisions of the TRIPs
                           Agreement to reflect new technological
                           developments in order to help foster a
                           legal environment where electronic commerce
                           can develop to the benefit of all

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