WIPO, A (Rare) Profitable UN Agency, Ventures Into World Of Donors 20/11/2009 by William New, 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)The World Intellectual Property Organization has been known to be different from the rest of the United Nations family in that it earns most of its own revenues, and typically operates with a budget surplus. But recognising that it could better meet the needs of its members with additional funds, it now is turning to the international donor community. In a first step, a conference was held recently to bring in representatives of the donor community and introduce them to the importance of intellectual property rights in development. The “Conference on Building Partnerships for Mobilizing Resources for IP and Development” was held on 5-6 November. The objective of the conference was two-fold, according to a WIPO official: to inform the donor community about IP in development and WIPO’s work, and to gain information about how to help WIPO members to access donor resources. There is a misperception that WIPO has all the funding necessary to meet its members’ needs, but in fact a lot more could be achieved with additional resources, the official said. In addition, it has reported this year a decline in its main revenue-generating activities, such patent filing, due to the economy. WIPO has nine funding trust arrangements, involving Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, the United States and the European Union. Of these funds-in-trust resources, potentially available for programming in 2010/2011, the projected balance for end of 2009 was CHF 3.6 million francs, with estimated contributions CHF 11.35 million in 2010-2011, for a total of nearly CHF 15 million. The funding trust information is found in Annex V on page 201 of the 2010/11 Program and Budget [pdf]. “Despite the funds that WIPO has available for development projects under its regular budget, more can be achieved with extra-budgetary resources,” the official said. WIPO officials stressed that the funding for implementation of the Development Agenda is not reliant on this and that the Agenda will be funded by WIPO as directed by members. An oral report on the conference was made to this week’s Committee on Development and IP, which oversees implementation of the Agenda. Donor Agencies Attending Agencies attending the WIPO conference included the World Bank, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). WIPO hopes to reach even more in the future. Participants such as those from USAID and DFID clearly signalled that their agencies had a lot more to learn about how IP rights can contribute to development. “We’re not quite there yet,” said DFID’s Fiona Shera. For some potential funders, intellectual property is linked to trade and technical assistance. Related areas of donor focus include aid for trade, science and technology for development, and closing the digital divide. From what some participating potential donors told the meeting, their organisations so far seem weighted toward enforcement and protection. USAID spent about $5 million on programmes related to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Shera stressed that DFID is a strong proponent of trade for development, is focussed on private sector development and works to help countries get up to TRIPS standards. Shera said IP is “critical” for encouraging innovation, research and development and investment. “We need to understand better the links between IP and development.” The agency will follow up on assessments being made and will try to find ways to embed IP more in trade policy, look at how the IP framework supports innovation and research, and who really benefits from IP investment. Hans Peter Egler of Switzerland also emphasised stronger enforcement as well as raising awareness of IP rights and modernising legislative and regulatory frameworks. Alfred Watkins, World Bank Science and Technology Program coordinator, said the Bank will hold a forum in December that will address the role of science and technology partnerships. It will look at five issues: “pro-poor” innovation for social and economic development; fostering technology transfer and entrepreneurship; training the next generation of knowledge workers; new mechanisms for financing; and a policy roundtable. “There is a sort of ‘rethink’ going on among development agencies,” starting to look at all dimensions of IP, the official said. “The conference helped push that forward a little.” Now comes the follow-up, which will be up to member states, he added. There also were donor relations experts from other UN agencies such as the International Labour Organization, World Health Organization, International Telecommunication Union and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The representative from UNICEF, which is particularly successful in fundraising, drew a small crowd after speaking. Views from the Conference There was a wide range of speakers at the conference – reflecting the cross-cutting nature of intellectual property rights – some of whom gave examples popular at WIPO about the success of IP in helping developing countries. WIPO Magazine captured some of the projects, here , and the presentations are now available on the WIPO conference website. The intent was to give real-life examples of IP working for development, and to give donors a “taste or shop window of what we offer,” the WIPO official said. But there seemed to be a lack of speakers who might raise concerns about the impact of IP rights, such as possibly inhibiting innovation. Richard Wilder of Microsoft told the meeting that the profit motive and intellectual property rights remain important elements of innovation. He highlighted several public-private projects, such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture in Geneva, which he said is a non-profit drug company, a public-private partnership aimed at reducing malaria by bringing “discovering, developing facilitating delivery” of new affordable drugs. The project came up with a child-friendly treatment, now approved by regulatory authorities, through funding from a variety of public-private sources. Wilder also gave an education example of Research4Life, a collective of three public-private partnerships providing developing countries free or low-cost access to scientific and social science research. The collective has a variety of partners including Microsoft, and allows publishers to keep their copyrights and build businesses by licensing or selling content. He further cited an example in agricultural biotechnology, where bananas in Uganda, a staple food there, may be infused with much-needed vitamin A. “Whether it is providing access to the latest scientific and medical research, developing needed drugs and vaccines, or new varieties of food crops to adapt to climate change,” Wilder said, “we need to be clear about the goal and manage the projects and the legal infrastructure, including IP, to get there.” All of these examples involve profits for northern businesses, but are intended to make a contribution to critical problems afflicting the South. Ambassador Pedro Carneiro de Mendonça, undersecretary for economic and technological affairs for Brazil, speaking at the opening of the conference said “effective” implementation of the Development Agenda should occur in a way that changes the fact that the “vast majority” of patents are held by a few countries. He stressed the Development Agenda mandate that WIPO be guided by the UN Millennium Development Goals and that WIPO intensify relationships with other UN agencies with an eye toward the widest possible participation in its activities. Carneiro de Mendonça also pointed to the “fundamental shortcoming” for social and economic development projects of taking intellectual property protection as a fixed parameter rather than one variable. “Efforts by developing countries to become fully integrated into the global knowledge economy may be thwarted by true barriers represented by ever increasing levels of IP protection of information, technology and the creative activity at large,” he said. Two areas the Brazilian cited that would gain from WIPO pooling its expertise with other agencies are: the abuse of IP rights by right holders, and the evolution of the culture of the exercise of rights. He said developing countries do not use competition law regularly like developed countries do, and debates about IP rights have a place in finding solutions to the great global challenges of the day. History of the Conference The idea arose in Recommendation 2 of the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda, which stated: “Provide additional assistance to WIPO through donor funding, and establish trust-funds or other voluntary funds within WIPO specifically for LDCs, while continuing to accord high priority to finance activities in Africa through budgetary and extra-budgetary resources, to promote, inter alia, the legal, commercial, cultural, and economic exploitation of intellectual property in these countries.” The first meeting of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP), the committee created by the Development Agenda, contained the idea of a donor conference. A project document was developed under the Development Agenda implementation, and several consultations were held with member governments, who made suggestions. The secretariat also went to countries to meet with donor agencies and discuss the conference. Participants seemed to recognise that this was a first foray for WIPO. The WIPO official summed it up as “a huge learning experience” about the process of how development agencies work, which “positions us much better to help our members.” 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 firstname.lastname@example.org."WIPO, A (Rare) Profitable UN Agency, Ventures Into World Of Donors" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.