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WIPO Seminar Discusses Economics Of IP

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

28 November 2007


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Monday and Tuesday hosted a discussion bringing together 15 leading economists from around the world to talk about the economics of intellectual property (IP).

The aim of the International Roundtable on the Economics of Intellectual Property was to review the available economic literature in this field and to identify empirical research projects that could be undertaken in developing countries and countries in transition.

Opening the meeting, Sherif Saadallah, Executive Director of WIPO’s Office of Strategic Use of Intellectual Property for Development, explained that:

“The focus is on projects that could provide valuable insights to policy-makers...and contribute to the overall understanding of the economics of IP in developing countries and countries in transition and contribute to the international debates in this field.”

In light of the recent adoption by member states of a WIPO Development Agenda, Mr. Saadallah said he expected an increase in requests for WIPO to study issues relating to IP and economic development.

He added that “the Development Agenda is a landmark agreement in the history of the Organization which reflects the desire of member states to ensure that the IP system is not perceived as an end in itself but as an instrument to promote technological innovation and creativity, as well as the transfer and dissemination of knowledge”.

Mr. Saadallah continued: “Many developing countries in particular have expressed their interest in assessing the impact of the IP reforms undertaken over the past decade on innovation, creativity, technology transfer, access to technology and other important elements of countries’ development strategies. It is, therefore, extremely important for WIPO to be ready to undertake such studies.”

The economists reviewed relevant empirical evidence, identified gaps in the literature and discussed methodological approaches that could be applied to study the issues in developing countries and countries in transition.

The basis for discussions were six draft papers on the following themes: Innovation and Appropriability Strategies, IP and International Technology Transfer, IP Rights in the Pharmaceutical Industry, The Economics of Copyright, The Economics of Geographical Indications, and IP Rights and Knowledge Transfer from Public Research Organizations and Universities to Industry.

According to WIPO, participants generally recognized that there had not been adequate empirical economic research on IP in developing countries and that this could limit the capacity for evidence-based policy-making in this field. It was highlighted that the lack of data, and difficulties in understanding the intricacies of the IP system by economists, may be among the reasons why limited research has been undertaken in this area.

Participants acknowledged that empirical research undertaken over recent years in industrialized countries could provide interesting insights on how to study the issues in developing countries, but that greater efforts should be made at ensuring that research was adapted to the realities and policy-making needs of developing countries.

On each of the six themes, suggestions were made on the types of research projects that could be undertaken, and discussions enabled participating economists to test their ideas with colleagues and jointly explore possible projects.

The draft papers prepared for the roundtable will be revised on the basis of discussions and the final papers are expected to be published in the first half of 2008.

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