Prof. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been quoted previously in these pages, reports on the recent World Intellectual Property Organization meeting focused on intellectual property issues with respect to developing countries. Snippets:
The agenda, which was initially proposed last summer by Brazil and Argentina, has quickly gained momentum. The most tangible result so far is the emergence of the Friends of Development coalition, comprised of 14 countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Venezuela. The coalition’s support for the development agenda at the Geneva meeting remained steadfast against U.S. opposition, as these countries made it clear that global intellectual property rules must do a better job of meeting the interests of both the developed and developing world.
While the attendees agreed to resume the development agenda dialogue in the coming months, the IP digital divide should not be underestimated. Countries from both the developed and developing world may be discussing intellectual property but they do so from perspectives that at times appear to be polar opposites.
The United States stands at one end of the spectrum with its vision of an intellectual property development program premised on “technical assistance” including the creation of stronger intellectual property administration and enforcement. Ignoring the fact that most developed countries were slow to adopt strong IP protection during their developmental phase, it disputes the notion that intellectual property rules have become one-sided. Instead it maintains that stronger IP laws will lead to developmental benefits for all countries, regardless of their economic status.
India eloquently presented the perspective from the developing world. It argued that the current emphasis of technical assistance on implementation and enforcement issues is misplaced, emphasizing that the focus should instead be placed on assessing the impact of intellectual property rules on the developing world.