Day Marked By Initiatives On The Benefits Of IP, Open Technology

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Intellectual property rights have been around for centuries in some cultures, but in recent decades have taken off as a global set of rules, bringing with it many business opportunities and policy concerns. Today, on the annual day designated for the celebration of IP rights, some new industry and civil society initiatives were launched and several gatherings in praise of IP were held.

One initiative launched today, called Ideas Matter, was formed by businesses and industry associations to demonstrate the benefits of IP rights for people’s work and daily lives.

“The aim of Ideas Matter is to emphasise how companies and individuals who are reliant on IP are boosting today’s economies by creating jobs, growing GDP, driving innovation and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs,” the group said in a release.

Organisers include: DSM, International Chamber of Commerce, International Trademark Association, Lundbeck, Microsoft, NBC-Universal, NL Octrooicentrum, Philips, SAP and Technicolor.

Ruud Peters, chief intellectual property officer at Philips, said: “So many of the technologies that society needs for the future – from the increased need for healthcare to clean energy – will need major R&D investments and returns that IP alone can provide. IP protection also enables open innovation, where ideas and technologies can be exchanged between companies, universities and research institutes.”

“At Ideas Matter we firmly believe that IP has a strong significance for companies as a clear business asset, for economies to boost the knowledge economy and job growth, and for real people both in their work and everyday lives,” he said.

On perhaps another end of the spectrum, the New America Foundation think tank in Washington, DC used today to announce its Open Technology Institute (OTI), which aims to “convene the nation’s best thinking about internet freedom and open technology.”

The institute will “serve as a hub of impartial research, open discourse, innovative fieldwork, and new tech development,” New America said in a release.

The OTI is led by Sascha Meinrath, who will be named a vice president at New America. “OTI believes that everyone has the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” Meinrath said. “In the 21st Century, this universal human right must extend to the Internet and include access to open technologies and platforms.”

“The internet is the world’s public square, where we must continue to defend liberty and access,” New America President Steve Coll said.

For World IP Day, the World Intellectual Property Organization focussed this year on “Visionary Inventors,” those whose inventions change lives, and suggested others organise activities. Today, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry posted a video calling on young people to talk about IP, and discussed visionary inventors and the contribution of IP to innovation and “cultural creation.” Gurry mentioned, among others, US songwriter Bob Dylan.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents the major US copyright industry associations, took up the call and hailed [pdf] visionary inventors across the spectrum of creativity, noting their contribution to culture and economies. The group also called on nations to prevent barriers to legitimate creative content, including copyright piracy and market access barriers.

IIPA included documents highlighting their priorities for international IP protection.

Also among those responding to the call, venerable Brussels IP law firm Gevers announced an initiative today it called “best Visionary Innovator client.” It is looking for details on innovations from those who recently filed patents, trademarks or design applications.

“Explain us how it started, how it was implemented, what it achieved, what its impact was. For you, your company, its clients or employees!” they said in an email. “Very soon, a jury of eminent IP professionals will select the most visionary invention amongst the candidates. GEVERS’ team will then be very happy to present the winner with… an innovative award!” The participation form is available here.

The US Copyright Office, along with staff from the Library of Congress where it is housed, had a fête with independent filmmakers and local songwriters and musicians. The featured speaker was Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet.

Separately, the European Commission scheduled a conference on “Enforcement of intellectual property rights: the review of Directive 2004/48/EC“, and attempted to provide a webcast for Europeans or others. But the webcast was accessible only via Microsoft, a US product, and even when several users tried, it could not be accessed.

Public Policy Decisions Ahead

Meanwhile, many decisions still lie ahead for policymakers trying to balance the promotion of economic growth and domestic IP business interests with consumer and tech business interests and the best interests of rich and poor nations.

As an indication, today a letter was sent by consumer-oriented groups to leaders of the US Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, arguing that allowing a proposed merger between Universal Music Group and EMI would give the combined company “the power to distort or even determine the fate of digital distribution models.”

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Public Knowledge said “the combined market share would have a market share of more than 40 percent, far above the five companies targeted by the Justice Department in the agency’s recent suit against publishers alleging price-fixing for e-books.”

The nine-page letter is available along with the press release, here.

In another action today, the South Centre, a developing country intergovernmental group, released “IPR, R&D, Human Rights and Access to Medicines – An Annotated and Selected Bibliography.”

The bibliography is intended to help provide “the appropriate technical assistance and country support to developing countries, within a comprehensive and coherent national IP strategy, to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement that is consistent with the protection of public health and promotion of access to medicines,” the centre said in a release.

“The growing volume of literature being produced around the issue of IP, R&D, human rights and access to medicines in the last five years can help countries to find the opportunities and room to manoeuvre to protect the citizens of developing countries from the unhealthy environment created by the new international trade rules,” the Centre said.

The bibliography of selected references was created by Germán Velásquez, Carlos Correa and Xavier Seuba and is available on the South Centre website, here.

Open Access Publishing

And in Washington, DC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) released a guide with suggests actions that faculty, researchers, and others can take to help create a more equitable marketplace for scholarly journals, such as publishing in open access journals, understanding authors’ rights, and choosing publication venues for which to edit or review.

The guide, called “You’ve Signed onto the Boycott: Now What? A SPARC Guide for Campus Action” follows the online boycott of journal publisher Elsevier. SPARC, a library membership organisation which “promotes expanded sharing of scholarship,” said more than 10,500 academics have now signed the Cost of Knowledge’s boycott.

“Citing disapproval over exorbitant journal prices and profits, restrictive bundling requirements for journal purchasing, and support for legislation to further limit the free exchange of scholarly information, the number of signatories continues to grow steadily,” it said.

The group said boycott signatories played a significant role in the recent defeat of the Research Works Act – supported by Elsevier – that would have repealed a law requiring public deposits of government-funded health research. SPARC also called for support of the Federal Research Public Access Act, (FRPAA, H.R. 4004 and S. 2096) a bill currently in Congress that “would ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of research funded by 11 U.S. federal agencies.”

US Bioeconomy Blueprint

And finally, the Obama administration chose the day to launch a new “Bioeconomy Blueprint,” which it said is “a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment.” Officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the blueprint’s goals, it said.

The press release and blueprint information are here.

And as there is always another side, the ETC Group was quoted by the New York Times as raising concern that the new bioeconomy initiative could just further expand the power of multinational companies.

William New may be reached at

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