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Scritto da nel Internazionale, Numero 19 - 16 Giugno 2007 | 0 commenti

Intellectual Property, Development and the WIPO

Discussions about a Development Agenda for the World International Property Organization (WIPO) were initiated in 2004. Before that, there was a worldwide discussion triggered by concerns related to the expansion of Intellectual Property (IP) rights beyond what is justifiable to give incentives for creativity and innovation and without due consideration of development. Similar concerns were raised by many voices[1]. Beyond the IP arena, the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations and the Doha Development round of multilateral negotiations of the World Trade Organization among others have also recognized the vital place that development should occupy for the international community.

So, the story goes on like this. In 2004, a group of countries named “Friends of Development” (FOD) proposed to the General Assembly of the WIPO the insertion of Development into its core Agenda[2]. An Intergovernmental Committee was created to evaluate the proposal. The debate encountered procedural obstacles and opposition to the core ideas of the Agenda. The main substantive resistance has come from industrialized countries. For instance, the United States has argued that development is sufficiently incorporated in WIPO mainly through its technical assistance activities and that protection of intellectual property rights is in itself conducive to economic growth and development. The discussion is thus highly controversial as it emphasizes the need for tailoring IP policies in the light of broader societal concerns.

Then, in 2005 the General Assembly appointed a Provisional Committee on Proposals related to the WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA). In spite of the controversy that has accompanied the whole processes of negotiations; a long list of proposals ranging from statements of principles to specific courses of action was generated. The PCDA came up with a list of 111 items and two meetings were planned for discussion during 2007[3].

Last February PCDA's meeting was deemed by different stakeholders as a “breakthrough”. At this week's meeting (11-15 June) the PCDA will address more controversial issues, including a Treaty on Access to Knowledge, recognition of policy space, exceptions and limitations in norm-setting activities, promotion of collaborative research and specific measures to ensure technology transfer to developing countries. Thus, discussions for a Development Agenda in WIPO have reached a critical stage. Choosing the most significant proposals and best strategies to accomplish progress of the Agenda will be a key element to attain success.

Towards an strategic roadmap

Coordination and policy coherence among developing countries will be essential to achieve any significant outcome from the introduction of the Development discussion in WIPO. This means that as above stated, developing countries should decide on which proposals to focus, taking into account the probability of their success. Building up consensus entails among other things, taking care of all worldwide relevant forums where important debates for the goals of a development agenda take place. Innovation, development and intellectual property are indeed addressed in many different Institutions, comprising the WHO, FAO, UNESCO and UNCTAD among others. However, the extent to which those debates have actually shaped the standards for intellectual property protections has been limited. An important component of the Development Agenda will be to coordinate in multiple ways among the relevant interested and involved parties.

Coordination between different countries, stakeholders and organizations committed to mainstreaming development in WIPO is both a challenging and essential aspect. The road that will lead WIPO to embrace a fully Development approach is full of obstacles and opportunities to enhance a more responsible and development-oriented debate in the International Community. In this sense, one impediment is the lack of coordination between negotiators and national agencies (including Ministries of Health, Education, etc). It is not only important to generate debate at the international level but also to bring these important discussions to each national space.

Furthermore, an efficient strategy for developing and LDC's would involve, among other things to proceed with the Agenda step by step. Of foremost importance are those aspects that will allow these countries to be in a better position to participate and set the future WIPO agenda. It is widely acknowledged that developing countries have played a reactive more than active strategy with poor outcomes in the IP standard-setting processes. Enabling and enhancing participation of different stakeholders and building networks between national authorities, Geneva negotiators, NGO's and academia has proven to be effective and will be an important prerequisite to succeed in establishing a serious Development Agenda within WIPO.

Another important factor to consider is the fact that WIPO is not the only forum engaged in creation of IP standards in contradiction with development goals. Developing and LDC's should move forward proposals that enhance their ability to participate efficiently into WIPO and advance deeper proposals at a latter stage, while attention should still be given to the strategic use of other forums. Experiences of strategic forum shifting suggest that the multilateral system should be reformed but not abandoned, in the light of more damaging outcomes under bilateral negotiations. Historical examples of forum shifting among different multilateral forums such as the UNCTAD, which lost its central role on trade, intellectual property and development, are also illustrative. Active participation with other UN agencies that have IP competences might contribute to advance a truly comprehensive Development Agenda that creates positive externalities in other forums.

Finally, interested parties and the PCDA itself have acknowledged that moving forward the proposals at a timely manner is a key aspect of the negotiations. The meeting that is taking place this week (11-15 June) will address more controversial issues. To ensure success it is then necessary among other things, to build up consensus among developing countries, foster intelligent debate and continue promoting the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

Questo e altri articoli relativi al tema Proprietà intellettuale e Sviluppo possono essere letti nel sito:

[1] Including the Report by the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development, Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, 2002, at

[2] Document WO/GA/31/11, at


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