Interview: Prof. Chidi Oguamanam On “Intellectual Property In Global Governance”

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In this interview, Intellectual Property Watch’s William New sat down with Prof. Chidi Oguamanam, a professor in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, to talk about his recent book, “Intellectual Property in Global Governance: A Development Question.” The book, published by Routledge, covers issues of the knowledge economy, structures and regime dynamics, human rights, agriculture, traditional/indigenous knowledge, traditional cultural expressions/folklore, and management of intellectual property in global governance.

Intellectual Property Watch (IPW): Could you please tell us about the book?

Chidi Oguamanam (CO): The first thing that will strike you is how the work brings the concept of global governance into IP analytical framework. Normally, when you talk about global governance, it resonates with the social and political scientists, administrators, development and international relations practitioners and miscellaneous actors at the global level, but hardly with those involved in IP law and policy. So, this work adds to the new trend in interdisciplinary exploration and understanding of IP.

IPW: How does the book address international organisations and IP policy?

CO: Most discussions about IP have been about regimes and institutions, such as WIPO, WTO, UNESCO, FAO, WHO, UNCTAD, etc. These include core IP regimes and institutions as well as those that are peripheral in regard to the subject of IP. But rarely has there been an attempt to weave the operational dynamics of these actors and institutions within the framework of global governance with a dedicated focus on IP.

The book explores how has IP has increasingly become ubiquitous in almost all critical sites of international law and policy, including trade, development, health, agriculture, environment, climate change, biotechnology and ICTs and their ramifications for north-south relations which constitute an integral aspect of global governance dynamic. Seldom would you see literature that maps the tension and dynamics around how IP is implicated within the broader framework of global governance. In this framework, we debunk the tendency to construe IP as a strict legal regime and as a neutral construct. The global governance paradigm explores how a variety of actors (old, new, and emergent) and their interests converge within the complex sites or international forums. And we see IP issues retain a perpetual pressure and constitute a level of high tension and political horse-trading in different forums, the aggregation of which help to tease out the interface of IP and global governance.

IPW: So the book looks at governance in a new way.

CO: The whole concept of global governance is not really a concept of global government but rather how actors and interests come together in a complex interplay of issue linkages that now shape and shift interests around innovation, intellectual property and creativity.

Among other things, what you see is a text that engages in a comprehensive exploration of hot button IP issues, ranging from what the book characterises as the interface of “four Bs” – biodiversity, bioprospecting, biotechnology and biorevolution – as a conceptual outlook for understanding familiar discourses around traditional knowledge, access to medicines, food security, access and benefit sharing over the utilization of genetic resources in multiple innovation contexts that have ramification for the most vulnerable in the global south. In this matrix, we are able to appreciate how IP is engaged in a contested manner around knowledge governance with largely inequitable outcome.

IPW: What are the implications for IP policy?

CO: Over the last several decades, IP has been a target of maximalist protection strategies that have been contested within and across regimes in a manner that reinforces the traditional asymmetrical power relations between the global north and south. But with the rise of so-called medium-level powers of the global south such as Brazil, India, South Africa and, if you like, China, and their economic alignment under the BRICS banner, it remains to be seen how much leverage these countries have to shape the future direction of IP policy.

Because of the significant prevalence of poverty in the demographic of these countries and the urgency for development, it may be appropriate to expect that they are likely to influence global IP policy direction in a less maximalist or protectionist direction toward a more public interest oriented direction. However, doubts remain whether these regional players would perpetuate the status quo of maximalist IP protection when they attain what Peter Yu characterises as the “cross-over point” as technologically strong IP exporters.

END

For more information about the book:

Routledge: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/catalogs/routledge_research_in_law/1/11/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Intellectual-Property-Global-Governance-Development-ebook/dp/B0076XCPHK

 

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

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