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    UNCTAD Report Sees Sustainable African Growth In IP Flexibilities

    Published on 15 June 2012 @ 10:30 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    The United Nations trade and development agency this week published its Economic Development in Africa 2012 report, which argued, among other things, that the region’s sustainable future depends on using flexibilities in intellectual property rights as appropriate.

    The Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Sustainable Development (UNCTAD) report, which this year focusses on structural transformation and sustainable development in Africa, is available here.

    The report provides a range of suggestions for achieving what it calls a “sustainable structural transformation.” In outlining the role of the international community, UNCTAD said African governments must play the leading role in formulating and implementing strategies, but an international enabling environment must be established.

    For instance, the international context should uphold previously agreed responsibilities such as one in which African countries are “not … hindered in their pursuit of accelerated economic growth and structural transformation and should seek to enhance environmental sustainability by means of relative, rather than absolute, decoupling, the latter being much more relevant for developed countries that have already achieved high living standards.”

    In addition, developed countries should “provide financial support and facilitate technology transfer to support [sustainable structural transformation] and design the international trade regime and intellectual property rights regime in a way that facilitates the sustainable development process.”

    In terms of technology transfer, UNCTAD said, most African countries will be “technology followers rather than technology leaders.” This makes it necessary to create “global institutional arrangements that increase international cooperation and collaboration in all areas relevant to [sustainable structural transformation] and to accelerate the transfer, adoption and adaptation of relevant technologies in African countries.”

    “This,” it said, “is how leapfrogging can become possible.”

    The report highlighted several ways such international cooperation can happen. For instance, a large body of technological knowledge lies in the public domain.

    “Many of the environmental technologies that developing countries are seeking to access are off patent,” it said. In that case, better access to such technologies is needed as well as the “know-how” needed to use them. UNCTAD suggested a technology bank to facilitate search and access.

    For obtaining licensed technology, lack of financial resources could be a “key barrier,” UNCTAD said, so there may be a case for establishing international funds to help developing countries to purchase and manufacture some technologies.

    In addition, “major efforts” should be made to increase the possibility for technologies to enter the public domain as well as to stimulate the transfer of publicly funded technologies to developing countries, especially those in Africa.

    And the report called for attention to be paid to ways in which the IP system impacts technology transfer that support “environmental sustainability objectives.”

    “It is important in particular that IPR facilitate technological development and do not act as a barrier preventing African countries from accessing and using the technologies necessary for leapfrogging,” it said. “This is a complex issue.”

    The report supports the notion that a “delicate balance” needs to be found between the advantages and costs of IP rights for countries that must obtain technology. It therefore suggests several reforms to the global IP regime that could be supportive. These include:

    - “broader room” for compulsory licensing. In the area of environmental sustainability this would replicate the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and public health amendment, which reinforced countries’ ability to use such flexibilities.

    - strengthened standards for patenting, particularly standards of breadth and novelty

    - limiting the length of patent protection

    - allowing innovators to use existing patented knowledge in order to generate new innovations

    Separately, the report also called for more development assistance for agricultural research and development and the extension of sustainable agriculture in Africa.

    Among considerations for international trade, the report looks favourably upon South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation in order to accelerate the “transfer, assimilation and deployment of environmentally sound technologies (EST) in Africa.”

    This could involve technical assistance for African countries “on the use and deployment of EST, grants for the purchase of patented EST, training of African nationals abroad in the area of green technology use and adaptation, and support to African technological research institutions and universities.”

    It said research shows growth in environmentally sound technologies, and transfer occurring to larger developing countries such as Brazil, China and India. Research from the World Intellectual Property Organization, it said, argued that transfer of such technologies is not always “unidirectional” from developed to developing countries. This suggests that triangular cooperation mechanisms should be fostered, it said.

    The WIPO research UNCTAD cites is a 2011 “Global Challenges Brief” entitled, “When policy meets evidence: What’s next in the discussion on intellectual property, technology transfer and the environment?”

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. June 19, 2012 says:

      [...] [by William New] The United Nations trade and development agency this week published its Economic Development in Africa 2012 report, which argued, among other things, that the region’s sustainable future depends on using flexibilities in intellectual property rights as appropriate. Click here for the full story on IP Watch. [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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