Experts Examine Strategies For IP And Sustainable Development 07/01/2009 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 2 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)By William New Developing nations increasingly are receiving tools to help them participate in and benefit from the global intellectual property system, according to a group of experts who met recently on IP strategies. And now is a critical time for those nations to learn to use those tools to stimulate local innovation and boost their economies, they said. An expert meeting entitled “Intellectual Property Strategies and Sustainable Development” was held on 24 November and convened by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). Kiyoshi Adachi, legal officer on the IP team at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), described joint efforts on the “development dimension of intellectual property, which aims to ensure IP policy “makes sense in the context of development policy.” The initiative receives requests for technical assistance, especially to look at least-developed nations’ IP policies from the development perspective. The team is conducting a test case in Uganda following a request for assistance in January 2008. A field mission was held in May, and the current drafting stage is expecting to be completed by February 2009. The issues being addressed in Uganda include health and access to medicines related to patents, access to knowledge (copyright-related), and technology transfer, which involves the general IP regime. Ahmed Abdel Latif of ICTSD described a “diagnostic toolkit” for assessing IP technical and financial cooperation needs in least-developed countries (LDCs). In a 29 November 2005 decision, the World Trade Organization Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights requested LDCs to provide comprehensive information on their needs for assistance in implementing their TRIPS obligations. The aim was to facilitate technical assistance and financial cooperation, and the deadline was supposed to be 1 January 2008. LDCs must implement TRIPS by 2013, allowing flexibility until then. ICTSD worked with Saana Consulting to launch needs assessment studies in LDCs. The pilots, upon their request, were Sierra Leone and Uganda, out of which came the toolkit. The toolkit covers the national development context, the IP policy and legal framework, infrastructure for IP rights administration, an enforcement and regulation regime, and promoting innovation, creativity, technology transfer and access to knowledge, Abdel Latif said. A primary funder for the project was the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). A Chinese official presented on the situation in China, describing the rapid rise in patenting. But he pointed to problems such as the small number of domestic IP applications (about 50 percent), the domestic focus in applications on utility models and designs compared with the foreign focus on inventions, and the domestic focus on products such as food and traditional medicines rather than high technologies, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals. China has embarked on a national IP strategy to change this. The first speaker from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dalila Hamou, underlined that WIPO, with its new leadership, is looking ahead to strengthening cooperation with other UN agencies as well as civil society. In the context of the UN Millennium Development Goals and in the implementation of the year-old WIPO Development Agenda, WIPO is helping developing countries integrate IP in national development programmes and exploit IP for sustainable development, a participant said. As a first step, WIPO is assessing the benefits of IP, looking at current IP policies, priorities and strategies for development, management and commercialisation of IP rights, the participant said. The links between IP strategies and national innovation systems also was highlighted during the meeting, according to a participant. Discussants proposed lessons to be drawn by developing countries, in this regard, from the experiences of Japan, Korea and other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) taking into consideration their own levels of development and the fact that there is no “one size fits all approach” and each country has to address its own needs and define its own priorities, the participant said. Many participants emphasised the need for greater cooperation and coordination between UN agencies in providing advice to developing countries on the formulation and implementation of IP strategies which are supportive of their development efforts and consistent with their public policy objectives. WIPO’s IP and New Technologies Division has been working with member states for the past six years to promote innovation and economic development with a focus on the knowledge economy. Maria Soledad Iglesias-Vega of the division said that for some, the global focus has moved from a technological digital divide to the knowledge divide. And the focus for knowledge-based societies is on knowledge as a mass-production, manageable factor in wealth creation, and how national policies and investments affect this. Since 2001, WIPO has examined how intellectual property is being used by member states as a strategic tool for development and since 2002 has studied how innovation and R&D affect local IP assets. The IP Assets Project launched in 2002 became the IP and New Technologies Division in 2004, now with six professional staff and three administrative assistants, Iglesias said. Since 2003, member governments have approached WIPO for help with assessments of national policies. A member state working with WIPO will prepare a national IP strategy document based on the national IP audit carried out by a local interdisciplinary team with the support of WIPO upon requested, Iglesias said. The document will be the basis or national framework for further governmental action (eg, for legal, policy or program development, plans of action or other implementation mechanisms once the national IP strategy is adopted by the country). It also will be the national framework on the basis of which to request international cooperation to specialised agencies, such as WIPO, and donors, in the form of technical assistance and capacity building plans for the country to implement its national strategy with its own defined goals and become a player in the knowledge-based economy, she said. In its IP audit assessments, WIPO considers prioritisation of a range of strategic technology sectors, such as education and skills, incentives for local scientists, legal choices (including flexibilities under international trade rules), funding, and technology transfer, Iglesias added. In order to assist member states with IP strategy implementation, she said, the WIPO new technologies division offers training tool-kits, or training materials, to help with skills such as drafting patent claims, submitting patent applications, drafting technology transfer contracts and licensing agreements, establishing IP policies at universities and R&D centres, and all aspects from commercialising research to managing IP assets. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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