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    Survey On IP: Policymakers Believe Junk Statistics; North-South Divide Dissolving

    Published on 5 December 2012 @ 2:22 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Preliminary findings of a survey aimed at mapping the current prevailing ideas on intellectual property confirmed recognised trends that academics and intergovernmental IP professionals look more favourably on weaker IP protection, and traditional North-South differences toward IP rights are becoming less clear cut. It also found that policymakers tend to rely heavily on statistics from industry to help them with their decisions, whether reliable or not.

    The International Centre on Trade and Sustainable Development invited IP specialists to attend an informal dialogue on 26 November to present the preliminary findings of a survey carried out by Jean-Frédéric Morin, professor of international relations at the Political Science Department of the Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). The dialogue was aimed at understanding where prevailing ideas originate and how they are being transmitted.

    According to Morin, the underlying assumption of the survey is that ideas matter to explain policymaking and lawmaking. The survey, he said, was carried out across a large target of professionals devoting at least 10 percent of working time to IP. These ranged across academia, law firms, businesses, intergovernmental organisations, governments, and non-governmental organisations, from which 1,679 completed the survey.

    The main findings presented a rather moderate view on IP protection across a number of IP-related professions.

    Academics, IGOs Mellowing on IP

    The survey reveals that NGOs tend to have a “minimalist” position towards IP protection. However, academics and international civil servants answered that over the last 10 years, they had become generally more favourable to weaker IP protection.

    In particular, according to Morin, academics have more minimalist views than all other professional groups, except for NGOs. He said that those views could be linked to the academics’ scepticism on the social and economic impact of IP, and that they tend to take a precautionary approach, while NGOs are more focussed on the negative social impacts of IP.

    The survey also shows that IP professionals who devote more than 50 percent of their time to IP activities tend to be more maximalist than professionals less involved in the subject.

    North-South Difference Blurring

    Although global debates often present a north-south divide on IP issues, the survey shows that while developing countries still are more minimalist than developed countries, it is not to a large extent, Morin said. The survey also found that NGO advocates in developed countries hold more minimalist views than NGO advocates in developing countries.

    The survey found that years of education had the opposite effect of years of experience in terms of the way IP protection is considered. Surprisingly, Morin said, professionals from developing countries having received an education in a developed country such as the European Union or the United States, come back with more minimalist views than counterparts who were educated in their home country.

    The number of years spent in a developed country university accentuates the effect, the survey results show, but further investigation would be required to confirm this finding, given the relatively small sub-sample of government officials born in a developing country.

    Policymakers Influenced by Statistics, Good or Bad

    The survey also revealed what arguments are most likely to be convincing to government officials in their policymaking. The results highlighted by the survey are both “very interesting and disturbing,” said Morin.

    According to the responses received, for policymakers from both developed and developing countries, “what really makes an argument convincing for them is to come with numbers and come with statistics,” he said. This “is disturbing for a number of reasons” he added, since from the survey, he found that very few policymakers have any training in economics.

    Moreover, he added, “I know very well that a lot of junk statistics [are] being circulated on IP.”

    “It is perfectly fine for me if the brand name pharmaceutical companies and generic companies like to circulate information on how many jobs will be created if they adopt this or that policy, but I consider those numbers as being junk statistics,” said Morin. “I am getting really concerned if policymakers believe that those statistics are actually meaningful.”

    Another disturbing point, according to Morin, speaking from an academic point of view, “is that most policymakers are more convinced if information is coming from someone with firsthand experience,” than if it comes “from what is perceived as a neutral source of information.” Academics like to think of themselves as being neutral, he said.

    “The policy implication of this research is linked to the fact that statistics seem to be very convincing although there are very few reliable statistics available,” Morin said. “This, partly because there is few data, and partly because it is extremely difficult to model innovation,” he said. “People need to be aware not only on what we know, but importantly on what we don’t know and we don’t hear enough on what we don’t know and might never actually know,” he added.

    Most respondents came from high-income countries, Morin said, adding that the survey being web-base might have restricted the responses of low-income country persons surveyed. Some 40 percent of the respondents worked in application or examination, 34 percent in policymaking, and 16 percent in litigation.

    The survey established a “maximalist index” based on the responses. It is used to evaluate the respondents’ general views on IP to show whether they would favour a stronger IP protection of rather a weaker system.

    It is difficult, said Morin, to come to definitive conclusions from the survey. This difficulty arises mostly from the uncertainties regarding the representativeness of the sample, and the relatively small size of some sub-samples, creating some bias.

    The study based on the results of the survey is expected to be released by ICTSD in the near future.

    Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     


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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.

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