Seminar on Intellectual Property Rights and Development
IPN Press release
Geneva, Switzerland – Members of civil society gathered today at a seminar on the grounds of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to discuss the role of intellectual property (IP) rights in ensuring sustainable social, economic, and cultural development.
Speakers included Leon Louw of the Free Market Foundation in South Africa, Barun Mitra, of the Liberty Institute in India and Margaret Tse of the Instituto Liberdade in Brazil spoke about their own country experiences with respect to intellectual property rights and development, more generally.
The seminar was set amidst ongoing discussions regarding a Development Agenda, proposed by Argentina and Brazil, and supported by 12 other countries, including Cuba, Venezuela and Myanmar. Those so-called “friends of development” and a group of NGOs who also support the proposal, are calling for a re-evaluation of the WIPO’s activities and resource allocation to ongoing projects with Member States, questioning the role of scaling up IP regimes in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Outlining the benefits of private property rights that have spurred a rate of innovation in wealthy countries, Louw stated that, because low-income countries are at such a lower level of economic development, laws on property rights have to be enforced at a greater rate “in order to encourage more research and development being geared towards areas of direct concern to the world’s poorest people.”
IP and development work conjunctly, he said, as it is in “the direct interest of those who have rights-protected products and services for poorer people to become wealthier.” The South African argued that the respect for the rule of law in poorer countries is a “fundamental” aspect of promoting the conditions that spur creativity, innovation, technological advancements.
Mitra spoke of an emerging Indian pharmaceutical industry that can now invest in research and development of the diseases of poverty that remain so endemic in his own country - the result of recently passed legislation that recognises product patents on innovations for the first time in 35 years. Illustrating how better IP laws benefit patients, Mitra focused his presentation on the diseases of poverty, which, he says, have already received greater attention from domestic researchers.
Using malaria – a disease that over 625 million people around the world contract yearly - as an example, Mitra highlighted some of the positive developments as a result of research conducted in India within the past few years. Those, he said, have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for the millions who contract the disease annually around the world.
Bring examples of the lack of respect for property rights in local and national courts and also law enforcement agencies across Brazil, Tse drew attention to the fact that almost 65% of the country’s workforce must now operate in the informal economy. “Brazil’s inconsistent stance towards property rights hinders investments in important innovation, stifles creativity, and poses an enormous barrier to development,” she said.
The third session of discussions devoted to the Development Agenda at the WIPO will take place on 20-22 July, 2005.