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Posts Tagged ‘IP’
The World Intellectual Property Organization is starting into its busy schedule of committee meetings with its first meeting of the year on 4 to 8 February of the Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions (IGC). The documents for this meeting are available here. This is one of the many areas where WIPO is engaging in decision-making efforts to change the landscape on global IP policy. In this case, the IGC has a 2013 agenda of three meetings – this one to discuss genetic resources, another in April to discuss traditional knowledge and a third longer meeting in July to discuss traditional cultural expressions and then to consolidate all three. The goal is to reach a consensus on new policy regarding the definition and management of IP rights in these three areas, whether in the form of soft law or a new legal instrument, with a decision to be made in July about the terms of reference for a possible diplomatic conference. The members will consider further efforts to build a consensus drawing on draft options from their last meeting on genetic resources a year ago, and they will subsequently do the same on the two related issues in April and July. This one, though, seems to be the most contentious.
The interests of indigenous peoples are being addressed in all three IGC meetings, and this starts with an Indigenous Forum on Monday, 4 February, featuring the Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Persons at the Human Rights Council James Anaya. The increasing engagement of non-governmental organizations representing indigenous groups has elevated such concerns as the impact of IP rights for smallholder farmers on conservation, development and the use of genetic resources. Debates continue to be lively regarding the requirements for disclosure of the origin of genetic resources in patent applications, the role of sanctions for mandatory disclosure versus the tracking of the content of patent applications in databases and other information sources. There were strong divisions in the past debates on how broad the new policy should be, whether applying only to patents or to intellectual property generally, and whether the new policy should take the form of a recommendation or a legal instrument. On the agricultural front, one sees the engagement as well of representatives from the Crop Diversity Trust and seed banks. The recent launching by Syngenta of its patent pooling platform called TraitAbility is also addressing these concerns about patent rights and pooling platforms for seeds primarily in the vegetable sector. So we see this as a richly engaging debate. Take a look here for more information about TraitAbility.
From the CMBD News 11 February 2013
I enjoyed your current weekly newsletter, especially your interview with WIPO DG Francis Gurry. (“Bridging Faultlines”, CMBD News 23 April 2012)
On patents, I would add a couple of observations from my stint as the US government’s lead negotiator for bilateral S&T agreements from 2004-2006. Every S&T agreement includes an IPR section, carefully vetted by USTR patent lawyers, so this was very much part of my job.
A major fault line, not mentioned by Mr. Gurry, also occurs between those countries which reward basic scientific research and those that prefer applied (commercialized) science. My team and I negotiated an S&T agreement with Brazil, and it puts a higher premium on the prestige that comes from leading-edge basic research. And, Brazilian academics are promoted, gain tenure, and are rewarded accordingly. Thus, Brazil leads the developing world in academic citations in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Conversely, it lags the world in patents applications.
Compare Brazil with Hungary, which even has an applied-science tech office in the Dulles Airport corridor here in Washington, looking for US co-investors. As the Hungarian science minister quipped to me about his country’s approach to science, “if we can’t apply it, we can’t afford it.”
My second observation refers to India, which is cited in your piece. It fell to me to finally conclude what had been a 10-year effort to negotiate a US-Indian S&T agreement. The stumbling block was IPR, chiefly pharmaceuticals. In the end, Indian industry agreed to every guarantee USTR wanted, and the agreement went forward. When the Indian science minister brought a 40-person business delegation with him to Washington for the signing ceremony, I was able to decipher the reason for the Indian about-face. Indian captains of industry in pharmaceuticals confided to me that they realized they could make much more money legally, providing cheap research for Western labs, than they every dreamed of by churning out cheap, counterfeit drugs. If you look at the number of global pharmaceuticals which have since invested billions in Indian labs, one can understand their appeal.
We have similar fault lines in the USA. At NSF, they tend to view applied science in the same way that a Victorian gentleman or lady would turn up their nose at business persons “in trade.” As a senior NSF official remonstrated with me, “if you can think of a commercial purpose to our research, we are not thinking far enough out.” Compare that with virtually every tech university in America where professors are allowed one day per week to apply and patent their own research, and all of these universities have “incubators” for what they term “science to market.” Fortunately, the USA is still big and rich enough to accommodate both perspectives.
Former Executive Director
International Labour Organization
We draw your attention to an excellent article published by IP Watch, regarding intellectual property rights and their consideration in the upcoming UNCTAD XIII Conference in Doha. Leaving aside for the time being the continuing controversy regarding UNCTAD’s remit with respect to IP, not to mention a host of other important policy considerations on regulatory balance and other areas (we will come back to this in the next week), it is useful to note that UNCTAD XIII is just one more setting where the developing countries have a different view regarding IP than does the developed countries establishment. Simply put, the developing countries regard IP, Foreign Direct Investment and Trade and Development considerations to be intertwined, and hence policies regarding them should be developed accordingly. This view while not expressly stated in the position paper presented by the Group of 77 plus China, is apparent in an appeal for balance between public interest and private privilege. The LDC position is more explicit, with an appeal to more liberal technology transfer through reference to the TRIPS provisions of WTO rules. Perhaps most forceful is the relevant statement coming from the BRICS at the close of their Delhi conference in late March, which was very supportive of the developing country views.
So UNCTAD XIII will meet in Doha this week, from 21-26 April, with “Development-centred Globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development” as its theme. The outcomes document is already in preparation but in its current form it is a negotiating text with lots of bracketed items, to be marked up and altered during the conference. We will watch with great interest how IP issues are resolved (or not).
The World Intellectual Property Organization has an exhibit at its headquarters in Geneva on “The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World”. The exhibit is open to the public from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday through 26 April (World Intellectual Property Day). The theme for World IP Day this year is “Visionary Innovators”. The exhibit shows the trademarks and patents in Steve Jobs’ name that illustrate how his visionary work in making digital technology simple and accessible created a “new paradigm for the delivery of entertainment”. More information is here.