WIPO Development Agenda

The South Centre Monthly, July 2019

Inequality is one of the greatest challenges that the world needs to face. Inequality is intimately linked with poverty. Although there has been progress in reducing poverty, a large part of the global population (overwhelmingly living in developing countries) is still denied access to a dignified life. While no poverty and reduced inequality are two of the outstanding Sustainable Development Goals, these and other goals are unlikely to be achieved by 2030. In fact, inequality is on the rise. Changing this situation will certainly require significant efforts at the national and regional level. But it also requires an international architecture that supports those efforts by respecting the policy space that countries need and coordinating constructive actions within the multilateral system. The current initiatives to ‘reform’ this system will only be legitimate if they recognize the gaps in the levels of development and contribute to effectively address them under a fair, pro-development system of rules. Please see last month’s SouthViews on “Understanding global inequality in the 21st century” by Jayati Ghosh, development economist and Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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Research Paper 95, July 2019

Mainstreaming or Dilution? Intellectual Property and Development in WIPO

In 2007 Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) unanimously adopted a set of 45 recommendations which constitute the WIPO Development Agenda. Developing countries sought to give new direction to WIPO through the Development Agenda, away from the pursuit of facilitating and strengthening protection, acquisition and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights as an end in itself towards an approach that would be sensitive to the impact of IP on development, both in terms of opportunities as well as costs. This paper explores whether development considerations have been adequately addressed by WIPO since its creation as the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI) in the nineteenth century. The paper also analyses whether the implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda adopted in 2007 has shaped the current vision of the WIPO Secretariat and its Member States to address the impact of IP on development; and whether implementation of the Development Agenda has facilitated the use of IP law and policy as a tool that responds to advancing innovation, industrial, health, agricultural, education and other development policies in developing countries. The paper finds that the approach towards IP in WIPO continues to be dominated by a perspective that pursues acquisition, protection, management and enforcement of IP rights as an end in itself. Conflicting interpretations of development orientation have adversely impacted the implementation of the Development Agenda in the spirit in which the developing countries had proposed the Development Agenda. The paper recommends developing countries to undertake cross regional coordination to enhance their level of engagement on IP and development, advance specific suggestions for achieving greater impact on addressing development challenges through specific activities including projects in the areas of technical assistance as well as norm-setting, pursue governance reforms in WIPO to ensure greater representation of developing countries in the decision making bodies of WIPO and in the staff composition of the WIPO Secretariat, amend the WIPO Convention to align its mandate on IP promotion to the development needs and challenges of its Member States and the development goals of the United Nations (UN), and also pursue a review of the relationship between the UN and WIPO as a UN specialized agency in the UN Economic and Social Council.

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