Saturday, June 23, 2012

Considering International IP development trends and economic growth: Wither Caricom?

BY Abiola Inniss LLB,LLM,ACIArb In a recent article published in the WIPO ( World Intellectual Property Organization) Journal of May 2012 , titled "International Intellectual Property law and policy: Can the Caribbean region capitalize on current global developmental trends in IP rights and innovation policies?" this writer examined the WIPO report on the creation and exchange of intellectual property rights (IPRs) among developed and developing countries published in the last quarter of 2011and asked the question " In view of the current trends in innovation and IP development policies worldwide, how might the Caribbean region (Caricom) capitalize on current developments for economic growth?’ This question is of dire importance to the policy makers and citizens of the region who ought to become alarmed at the state of regional lassitude in this critical world economic sphere, especially since new technologies, the exchange of information, and knowledge management continue to develop at an astounding pace. The following paragraphs contain a few summaries of parts of the original published article ( available here http://www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk/Catalogue/ProductDetails.aspx?productid=412405&recordid=4050)and give additional commentary. In the examination of the The WIPO report for 2011 titled “The changing face of innovation” that focused on the growing trend of creation and exchange of IPRs among both developed and developing countries, it was disclosed that there was a growing demand for IPRs, which was directly related to the growth in innovation especially in the area of knowledge markets based on IP rights, a key element of which is the frequent trading and licensing of IP rights among firms. Royalty and licensing fee revenues internationally, had grown from 2.8 Billion USD in 1970 to 27 Billion in 1990 then to 180 Billion in 2009, far greater than the global GDP and there was also the observation of new market functionaries in the business of Intellectual property rights, such as brokerages and clearinghouses. Firms had specialized in particular areas of endeavor and had increased their levels of innovation and efficiency while increasing controls over which kinds of information were released or kept confidential. Maximized learning in open innovation initiatives to allow for greater creativity was also found to be a significant factor along with the control of information. Other key developments include the patenting of complex technologies, these are defined as technologies that comprise several different areas, each of which is patentable and which may have separate owners. This is especially applicable to communication technologies such as software, optics, audio-visual technology, tablet computers and smart phones, which have given rise to companies creating large portfolios of patent rights to the extent that it is felt that the process of innovation is significantly slowed because of the overburdening of patenting systems. It is proposed that efficient patent institutions are essential to the functioning of this system in order that the growth of innovative systems might not be hampered. The report revealed that several countries established systems and policies that would harness public research for innovation such as the creation of incentives for universities and other public research organizations which create patents and go the further step of commercializing them with the result of an increased rate of patent applications by these institutions. It was also found that filings by Universities and Public Research Organizations under the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty increased from minimal in the 1980's to more than 15000 in 2010, which could be attributed to the high income economies such as France, Germany, Japan , the United Kingdom, and the United States, though middle income countries have also made significant contributions to this trend. Among the important developments in this area suggested by this WIPO document were that while the high income countries maintain high levels of investment in research and development (R&D) low and middle income countries have increased their levels of participation and spending by 13 percent between 1993 and 2009. Increased publications in peer-reviewed journals in the relevant fields of science technology with co authorship of an international nature along with a list of patents with inventors from more than one country to be a clear indication of increased international collaboration in those fields. It also concluded that societies benefitted greatly from the collaboration in research and development, which lead to IPR creations and new technologies and concluded that joint IP production was usually the result of research and development alliances. Multilateral firms increasingly locate their research and development facilities within other countries, which has resulted in increased economic activity and growth in middle-income countries. Although, admittedly, it reports that among the difficulties with the data were the difficulties in distinguishing between open innovation strategies and established practices of collaboration (e.g joint marketing) and the inability to trace informal knowledge exchanges such as internal policies within firms and exchanges between firms. The argument is made however, that IP protection can shape creative and innovative policy in a substantial way: "IP protection is a policy initiative that provides incentives for undertaking creative and innovative activity. IP laws enable individuals and organizations to obtain exclusive rights to their inventive and creative output. Ownership of intellectual assets limits the extent to which competitors can free ride on problem-solving and related information, enabling owners to profit from their efforts and addressing the appropriability dilemma at its heart…..IP rights are an elegant means for governments to mobilize market forces to guide innovative and creative activity. They allow decisions on which innovative opportunities to pursue to be taken in a decentralized way. To the extent that individuals and firms operating at the knowledge frontier are best-informed about the likely success of innovative projects, the IP system promotes an efficient allocation of resources for inventive and creative activity" This is all very compelling information that favors the implementation of IP rights, policies and laws that can forge the development of this industry in the Caribbean region and which are critical to the development of the region. The major question is, what is the policy plan of the regional governance organization as regards the development of IP policies , strategies, and a cumulative legal and regulatory framework? There are several economic, political and sociological factors that have stymied the process of IP development in the Caribbean region (dealt with in detail in the WIPO Journal May,2012 here: http://www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk/Catalogue/ProductDetails.aspx?productid=412405&recordid=4050) but the time has surely arrived to craft the policy and legal framework which will allow the Caribbean region to partake in this area of global development In recent years there has been growing recognition of the significance of Indigenous IPR's and IP issues in climate change , while Caribbean governments have discussed these issues, there has been far too much talk and too little effort in garnering expert analyses which could help in the formulation of regional policy. There is the imminent danger of permanent relegation of the region to mindless consumerism of the dictates, policies and technologies of the rest of the productive world, and the eventual loss of any notable identity that excepts sun, sand and sea. Caribbean policy makers need to quickly grasp that Intellectual Property issues cannot be wished away and must be tackled head on right now. Bio data Abiola A.A.Inniss is a leading analyst, researcher and author on Caribbean Intellectual Property and the founder of the Caribbean Law Digest Online. She is a law teacher, alternative dispute resolution practitioner and presenter who has written extensively on Caribbean IP law and other areas of Caribbean law.Among her publications are two books on law, one on Public speaking ,several articles , issue briefs , academic papers and book reviews. She has lectured and presented papers in the Caribbean and the United States of America on Caribbean Intellectual Property, reviewed conference papers and conducted research. She is currently reading for a PhD at Walden University U.S.A.