WIPO Wants Its Pro Bono Patent Lawyer Scheme To Aid Developing Countries’ Inventors 18/10/2016 by Peter Kenny for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment 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)Imagine you’re an inventor in the Philippines and want to file a patent for, say, a fishing implement you’ve invented, but your $9,000 a year income thwarts your ability to pay the legal fees to register it and develop it commercially. You could be stumped from the start. There is a way forward though, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. It has launched a global program in which patent attorneys provide pro bono help to people in developing countries who want to file a patent for their invention but lack the means to do so. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry launches the IAP In cooperation with the World Economic Forum, WIPO officially unveiled the Inventor Assistance Program on 17 October in Geneva after an international seminar on its work. “WIPO is dedicated to ensuring that everyone can benefit from intellectual property, in developed and developing countries alike. This new program is helping and I hope it expands rapidly,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at the launch of the IAP. Prior to this, the IAP had helped a dozen inventors through a pilot project in Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines to file patent applications for the new technologies they invented. Marco Aleman, WIPO’s acting director in the Patent Law Division, said, “The IAP helps level the playing field for inventors. Everybody has the opportunity to see their invention examined in substance by the Patent Office.” He said that for society in general the IAP exploits opportunities offered by new inventions and facilitates technological progress. Former United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David J. Kappos, a legal partner at Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP in New York, spoke at the seminar on the Role of Pro Bono in Facilitating Access to the Patent System. Nurturing New Business His talk centered on how patents play a key role in nurturing new businesses or increasing enterprises’ economic value. Referring to the IAP, he said it was a “remarkable success” that was not on anyone’s minds five years ago” and he praised the WEF for enabling it to “get traction.” “Pro Bono is about the spirit of service and is a concept that spans humanity,” Kappos said, noting that in the legal context it has the added notion of doing by adding the most value for others. “What they are doing here is getting people access to the innovation system to go from raw vision to the marketplace and the high costs are bridged through the Pro Bono system.” Kappos singled out a dedicated group of people in the US state of Minnesota, particularly attorney Jim Patterson who got the concept started and “got WIPO to pick it up.” Panellists discuss the new WIPO pro-bono Inventor Assistance Program. At left, Kappos and WIPO’s Marco Aleman IAP is important, he said, because it helps innovative people bring ideas to the marketplace and it creates opportunity for people who do not have resources to put products into the marketplace and brings funding. Its mission is to increase market access through people in countries around the world for those who need to create patents. “Think of a lens that enables a society to identity and champion the innovation that is there,” said Kappos, explaining that if people can protect their ideas through patents for a limited period then they can draw funding because that makes investors comfortable. “IAP provides an entrance ramp to the intellectual property system,” said Kappos. “It is for developing countries, for least-developed countries, even for many people in developed countries who have little knowledge of the IP system who have little resources to spend on the legal system but have great ideas … to put their ideas to work.” Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines are three countries making progress, “but we want more countries to come on board, want to evolve a global network of IP attorneys all working together to ensure access to the intellectual property system,” he urged. Kappos said the aim of the IAP is that “no great idea will be left behind…. The idea is to have creations of the mind elevated to the level of respect they deserve.” Jimmie V. Reyna, a judge in US Federal Circuit Appeals Court who had been an international trade attorney, expanded on Kappos’ notion, asserting that patents create incentives for people. “The fruits of invention and creativity and invention provide the seeds with which to grow the human spirit,” said Reyna, citing Thomas Jefferson, inventor and US founding father who wrote, “Compensation for innovation is expression for free thougtht.” The judge noted that there are an unprecedented number of people inventing. This, he said, is at a time of unparalleled access to knowledge through the internet and when more people than ever have access to education. “So there is no better time than today for expanding intellectual property systems to serve new inventors, to grow worldwide innovation…for freedom to innovate,” in order to expand “the human spirit of invention,” he said. In making the case for IAP to give people in developing countries a chance with their inventions, Reyna noted Kenya in East Africa has only 10 patents a year. Speakers said that through the IAP qualified attorneys can help by providing free legal advice to inventors who would otherwise be unable to afford the legal costs of obtaining a patent. They said research shows many patent applications are rejected on procedural issues that IP lawyers can help avoid. “The IAP is an innovative way of opening up access to global legal infrastructure to inventors who can create value not just for themselves, but also their countries and the world,” said Richard Samans, managing director and member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum. Rapid Growth of Ecommerce He said product life cycles are decreasing in all countries and many old Fortune 500 companies have in recent times fallen off the map, while there has been a rapid growth of ecommerce. So the world needs to rethink what innovation consists of. Samans said digital economies, if they are well connected, allow for lower barriers of entry and enable small companies to enter the market, creating increased chances of export for developing countries. He explained: “Ensuring that as many people as possible have the opportunity to turn great ideas into economic assets is an important part of creating societies that are both inclusive and prosperous.” Some seminar participants from developing countries told Intellectual Property Watch afterwards that they think the IAP has great potential but they were not sure it addressed the matter of conflict of interest when a Pro Bono’s lawyer may represent a client and at the same time have another who has a rival interest in the invention. Image Credits: Peter Kenny 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 Peter Kenny may be reached at email@example.com."WIPO Wants Its Pro Bono Patent Lawyer Scheme To Aid Developing Countries’ Inventors" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.