LDCs Commit To Use IP For Development At WIPO; Use Of Exceptions, Flexibilities Omitted27/07/2009 by Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch 3 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Officials from least developed nations on Friday agreed to a strategy for using intellectual property to encourage local innovation, protect national cultural and genetic resources, attract foreign direct investment, and spur development at a World Intellectual Property Organization forum on the use of intellectual property for “prosperity and development.” But they did not appear to highlight other IP-related options for development such as exceptions and limitations to copyright or flexibilities they are permitted in applying IP laws. In a ministerial declaration adopted at the end of the two-day meeting, delegates at the high-level forum said the “creation, protection, management and use of intellectual property rights would contribute to economic development by facilitating the transfer of technology, increasing employment and creating wealth.”The declaration by mainly industry and economic ministers further calls on WIPO to undertake several actions to aid least developed countries (LDCs) in their efforts to integrate IP strategy with development plans. Such actions include assistance in protecting traditional cultural expressions, help in branding exportable products from LDCs that can be protected by geographical indications or trademarks, and help in promoting public-private partnerships and the commercialisation of research products from LDC universities.This document will be the “blueprint for expanding and strengthening WIPO’s future cooperation with LDCs,” Narendra Sabharwal, WIPO deputy director general on cooperation for development, told Intellectual Property Watch.The 23-24 July event, titled the “high-level forum on intellectual property for the least developed countries: the strategic use of intellectual property for prosperity and development,” attracted top political figures from least developed countries, including 10 ministers. Speakers from academia, government ministries, and intergovernmental agencies presented ideas and experiences for the use of IP rights in LDC settings.Another outcome of the meeting was the launch of the Access to Research for Development and Innovation Service (ARDI), a public-private partnership between WIPO and an association of science, technology and medical publishers, as well as the International Publishers Association that WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said will provide free access to least developed countries to a series of journals whose subscription cost would normally total $400,000 a year.An unofficial copy of the draft version of the ministerial declaration is available here [pdf]. A finalised copy is not yet available, but is expected to include amended text “underscoring the use of IP for economic, social and cultural development,” according to participants, and a call for the WIPO director general to make a separate section in the biennial programme and budget for LDCs, among other changes.Gurry told the plenary he was “delighted” with the declaration, which he added would help WIPO’s work programme in a number of ways.Notably, the document does not contain specific references to exceptions, limitations, or flexibilities in intellectual property rights, which have been a common theme in other discussions on development and intellectual property, including in the WIPO Development Agenda.Civil society organisations and other non-governmental observers were not invited to the forum.New Initiative Attempts to Bridge Knowledge Gaps“The majority of innovations are made by those with substantial education in science and technology,” said Dilip Barua, the minister for industries in Bangladesh. Access to information in scientific journals is therefore extremely important, he added, while introducing the new ARDI project.Currently ARDI provides access to 50 journals to all LDCs as well as 58 developing countries who have an access price of $1,000 annually, its website says, though Gurry said negotiation is ongoing and new titles are being added.“This represents a commitment on the part of this organisation to the Millennium Development Goals as well as the WIPO Development Agenda,” said Gurry, adding it also “represents our desire to open this organisation to the rest of the UN system, and ensure that we play a part in the rest of the UN system.”“We often focus on developing countries as receivers of know-how but with the right tools they are also significant potential producers of knowledge,” said Sergei Ordzhonikidze, director general of the UN Office in Geneva, adding that ARDI will be one such practical tool.This is the second LDC forum that WIPO has held. The first, in December 2007, concluded that “IP can help LDCs attain their development targets, contribute to wealth generation, and propel them in achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” according to the press release.IP for Development: Problems and Opportunities“When we organise invention and technology fairs, we discover that there is much talent,” said Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo, Mali’s minister for industry, investments and trade, speaking at the event’s opening plenary. The problem is, he added, “once the awards are handed out, we don’t know where to go… we do not know how to implement the inventions that have been designed.”Tanzania “faces challenges, especially in budgetary constraints to support research and development in research universities,” said Mary Nagu, minister for industry, trade and marketing.Consequently, she added “the output is limited as far as delivering technology for industry,” and these inadequacies “allow extreme dependence on imported technology,” reducing the country’s bargaining power and representing a major barrier to development.But patent documents contain a wealth of information that is freely available, and enables anyone skilled in the art of a technology to use it. This can be, said Nagu, a great advantage for LDCs, in which many patents are not protected.However, “only when [intellectual property] is fully integrated into national strategies can we benefit from it,” said Juneydi Saddo, Ethiopia’s minister for science and technology, highlighting a particular need for capacity building.Designing IP systems for LDCs is a complex issue, however. “The optimal system won’t be the same in all countries,” said Keith Maskus, associate dean for social sciences at the University of Colorado (US). Systematic evidence of the effects of IP in LDCs is scarce, he added, and contains causality problems, such as whether “the availability of stronger IP rights improve innovation, or the other way around,” he said.Some ideas for such strategies were presented. Getachew Mengistie, an IP consultant and attorney and the former director general of the Ethiopian IP Office, talked about the use of trademarks to protect Ethiopian coffee growers. Ethiopian coffee, he said, was selling for over US$20 a pound (Harar beans for $24 in 2004 and Sidamo for $26 in 2005) while only 5-10 percent of the money was making it to Ethiopia, and only 50 cents was going to the actual coffee growers. The country is trying to capture more of the market by trademarking Ethiopian names.Paulin Edou Edou, director general of the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI), said OAPI is looking into the use of geographical indications to boost revenues from agriculture, which is practiced by large percentages of the population but contributing little to GPD – for example in Senegal, 70 percent of the population farms, but only 11 percent of the GDP is from agriculture; in Mali the figures are 73 percent and 40 percent.IP might also be used to protect traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions from misappropriation, said a panel of speakers from WIPO, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisations and Indigenous Knowledge Systems in South Africa. However, the WIPO committee charged with finding a way to do so has had trouble reaching agreement over its decade of existence.Anecdotal evidence, said Maskus, suggests that patent reforms do not raise local innovation in the short term, but can improve technology transfer and can help reduce the reliance on trade secrets to protect ideas.There is evidence that weak IP can also damage local markets more than foreign markets, Maskus said, citing two studies. The first, from India, found that traditional apparel artisans were selling to a two-tier market: one abroad, with IP protection, where designs are high-end; and one locally, where there is no such protection and the artisans are low-income. The second, from Senegal, showed the same trend for musicians, where “rampant local piracy limits incomes” except for the small handful of artists who are selling and performing abroad.At the conference, a question was also raised to the heads of the OAPI and ARIPO on the status of a proposal to set up a Pan African Intellectual Property Organization.Separately, a concern also was raised about whether development can bring challenges such as the possible loss of flexibilities afforded to LDCs. Mohamed Rasheed, the Maldives minister for economic development, said his country is expected to graduate from LDC status in December 2010, which will necessitate the implementation of a host of obligations under the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.“This will have a big impact … [as it will] mean we have to be in full compliance with TRIPS by end of 2010,” Rasheed said. This “provides challenges for a small and vulnerable economy like ours.”An official from Bangladesh in a Thursday press conference with Gurry said that countries like Bangladesh find it difficult to accept measures that go beyond TRIPS. “It is up to us to decide how far we can go, and when we exercise our flexibilities,” he said. Part of the usefulness of meeting as LDCs is to “come together on what we want,” he added. But this may not be reflected in the draft declaration.Robinson Esalimba, an intern with Intellectual Property Watch, and William New contributed to this report. 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