South African Trade Minister Opens WIPO Conference With Call For Appropriate IP 07/04/2016 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A two-day international conference on intellectual property and development opened today at the World Intellectual Property Organization with calls from speakers for the IP system to be applied by nations in ways appropriate to their economies, even if it means allowing copying – just as the biggest IP-holding nations did when they were developing years ago. The theme was set by the opening keynote speaker, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies. The WIPO International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development is taking place on 7-8 April. South African Trade Minister Rob Davies addresses WIPO Conference “Strengthening and extending IPR regimes and enforcement are strongly advanced by countries at the cutting edge of innovation globally,” Davies said in his remarks, a copy of which is available here. “One can understand that, for those countries, it is of strategic value to use IP protection as a mechanism to preserve the rent-generating and other advantages that arise from the technological capabilities built up by their firms.” But, he said, “in the history of development and ‘catching up’, successful strategies always appear to have involved ‘emulation’ that requires measures that are targeted at acquiring knowledge in increasing returns activities. Furthermore, all successful catching-up episodes occurred under condition of weak IPR regimes that permitted easier knowledge acquisition and imitation. During the 19th Century, today’s advanced economies used the IP system and the flexibility it accorded in a judicious manner as they pursued their industrialization. This allowed those countries to strengthen their IP regimes at their own pace, and in support of overall progress in their economic development.” He cited Switzerland and the United States, two of the world’s strongest IP proponents nowadays. Davies then noted that a small number of countries have moved from developing to developed countries, and followed a “heterodox of policy measures” to do so, including a variety of IP policies. He cited Korea, Singapore, and now India. He characterised the different sides of the ongoing arguments for and against patents as a promoter of innovation. “There are arguments that patents are unlikely to foster innovation in developing countries at early stages of industrialization,” he said. “The evidence on the extent to which patent protection, which is of particular relevance in the context of industrial policies, contributes to encouraging innovation is, at best, inconclusive.” “Proponents of stronger IPR regimes, by contrast, suggest that IPR protection fosters innovation in reforming countries,” he said. “They also argue that stronger IPR facilitates transfers of technology to reforming countries, increases foreign direct investment (FDI), and spurs industrial development.” “While generalized conclusions can offer insightful guidance, it may not be applicable at all times to all countries,” said Davies. “If that is the case, it is vital that research is undertaken in a manner that context specific, taking into account the level of development of the country under consideration, with a clear focus on its industrial profile and capabilities.” “What are we to make about these complex, varied, and sometimes divergent accounts of the historical, theoretical and empirical dimensions of the question of IPR and industrialization?” he asked. He said he would summarize the answer as follows: “First, historically, different paths have been taken to economic development and the IPR protection provided. Second, IP protection has been strengthened and evolved in different countries over time. Third, there is no unambiguous evidence that stronger IPRs foster industrial development and countries may require different approaches and policies dependent on their level of industrial development.” “The range of unanswered questions suggests the need for a cautious approach to reform of IPR,” he said. Davies also highlighted the flexibilities found in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And as regards its national policy, he said, “South Africa has had a long history of IPR protection and, as signatories of the WTO, we have adopted and implemented all our obligations under the TRIPs Agreement. As we review our IP policy, we are seeking to ensure that appropriate balances are struck in providing protection for innovation and ensuring that benefits are shared in society. In particular, we are interested in ensuring that the IPR regime in South Africa supports our wider development objectives and underpins our efforts at industrial development objectives.” He described South Africa’s involvement in efforts toward a Pan-African IP Office, and activity in the regional IP offices of Africa. He also detailed efforts and hopes with WIPO, concluding: “In all these efforts, we would want to be in a position to continue to call on WIPO, through the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) and pursuant to its development agenda, to support us to craft IP policies that support our objectives for African industrialisation. We look forward to continued dialogue and to hearing the advice and learning from experts at this conference over the next two days.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related William New may be reached at email@example.com."South African Trade Minister Opens WIPO Conference With Call For Appropriate IP" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.