It is that time of year again when IP's great and good pool together at Fordham Law School near Columbus Circle in Manhattan to debate, learn and have fun. After some introductory remarks from the ever entertaining Professor Hugh Hansen, the first session was quickly under way on the topic of the future of copyright and trade mark.
Antony Taubman (WTO) reminded the audience that the WTO came into being 20 years ago and from its inception there has been a perceived rivalry between the WTO and WIPO. WTO could proudly extend this rivalry by the fact that they have just reached their 5th anniversary of no work at all on the GI register which is mandated by TRIPS. WTO's work jams, like WIPO's, seem pretty well entrenched. Antony echoed the sentiment that it is a period of real flux and a time to really think about what they should be doing in the filed of IP - there is a huge range of IP issues to tackle and a huge amount of interest to tackle these issues. But what should they be?
Is the panel optimistic about the future of IP reform? Antony said we can do tremendous things if we have greater alignment in international process and ensuring that the facts on the ground make their way into the international fora. Mark said that we need more space to discuss what is the problem we are trying to fix and is there even a problem? Is there a market solution, not a legislative solution that will have more impact? We just need a bit more time, he said, to think through these questions and possibilities. Shira is optimistic because there is more buy-in than there was 10 years ago on the concepts of IP. In the past 10 years we have seen much greater expertise and understanding of the issues globally. In a lot of bi and mutli-lateral conversations there is a considerable level of shared interest and concerns and a ripening of mutual understanding. Dimitris responded that the EUIPO is optimistic, but there is more work to be done to implement all of the reform provisions. Maria Pallante is also very optimistic, especially because copyright law has become ubiquitous in 21st Century life. She noted that solutions will be part statutory, regulatory and voluntary agreement-based. Michele is also optimistic, despite often feeling on the defensive with respect of the copyright system which is a good thing as it gives us a chance to explain the relevance of the system. Member States clearly want to use all aspects of copyright and they see the value, but reform is a slow process. However, as other panellists noted, there is an increasing level of knowledge and competence to help move the ball forward. Michele also stated its a very fun time to be in IP, especially copyright (i.e. Internet of Things). Maria Martin-Prat concluded by stating that her definition of "fun" is slightly different, but she is also optimistic, albeit a bit more cautious. Maria really hopes for more rational debate with less room for exaggeration than what has been seen in copyright debate in the past 10 years.