Sangeeta Shashikant

The advent of the TRIPS Agreement advanced the globalisation of intellectual property protection and enforcement standards. Developments in the last 16 years clearly show that the TRIPS Agreement was only the beginning of a relentless upward march of IP rights at the cost of development policy space for the developing countries. There has been a ratcheting up of IP protection and enforcement standards through multilateral, plurilateral, bilateral and unilateral initiatives, trade and investment agreements. These initiatives necessitate TRIPS-plus legislations and continue to threaten the gains made by the development oriented movements especially the A2K and A2M movements. Unlike the initial days of the TRIPS Agreement, IP norm setting is no longer confined to WTO and WIPO. Today, the global IP architecture is influenced by a multitude of international organizations (e.g. the WTO, WIPO, WHO, ITU, UPOV), and initiatives including decisions of political forums such as the G8 Summits, APEC, BRICS, EU, IBSA, AU etc.

The A2K and A2M movements have played a critical role in interrogating the IP maximalist agenda sponsored by OECD governments and businesses where such an agenda has adversely affected access to medicines and access to knowledge mainly advocating the use of flexibilities available within the TRIPS agreement and resisting TRIPS plus provisions that may affect A2M or A2K. However, there have been few attempts to develop strategies to interrogate IP in the context of right to development of developing countries.

The TRIPS Agreement has erected major barriers for developing countries’ development pathway. It has denied developing countries the strategies used by developed countries when industrializing and building their national scientific and technological capacity. Indeed the ever-increasing demands for IP protection and enforcement are further aimed at “kicking away the ladder” and to prevent catch up by developing countries.

At the same time, increasingly developing countries (in particular their IP offices) are being induced through systematic training programmes and technical assistance activities offered by national agencies of developed countries (such as USPTO) and international agencies (such as Interpol, WIPO) to adopt IP frameworks (some of which go beyond that adopted in developed countries) that may not be appropriate for their national interests.

This situation requires critical reflections on the existing approaches and strategies and an exploration of new ideas and approaches that can be pursued within and outside the IP framework, at the national, regional and international levels to enable developing countries to achieve their development including public interest objectives.

As such it is hoped that the workshop will consider inter alia the following issues:

  • What characterizes the current global IP architecture (institutions, stakeholders, geoeconomics), its dynamics, including developmental challenges? Are there signs that the IP maximalist agenda may be shifting? if so, what are the drivers?
  • Identify where reforms are needed in the global IP architecture (national/regional/international).
  • Reflect on the A2K and A2M movements, their strengths and weaknesses, progress made in promoting reform of the IP architecture. How can these movements be strengthened?
  • Reflect on the need for a broader movement (beyond A2K and A2M) to galvanise the developing world to take progressive measures to counter the call for stronger IP protection and enforcement?
  • Assess “development agendas” being pursued at the multilateral level, the impact on the global IP architecture, way forward;
  • Explore national, regional and international initiatives including South-South cooperation that needs to be undertaken to promote a development-oriented and public interest understanding of and approach to intellectual property;
  • Consider strategies/approaches/tools available within and outside the IP framework to advance development-oriented IP policy and to promote national development agendas (i.e. human rights, right to development);
  • National IP policies are being established in many developing countries. Discuss what are the challenges and way forward to build-in “development” into such policies and their implementing legislation.