Even very small producers and innovators can benefit from the IP system

  • 31 May 2006

Delegates from countries in Africa, Asia, Central Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Geneva on 30 and 31 May to discuss how the intellectual property system can be used to help a country's development.

ICC’s Commission on Intellectual Property hosted a set of four panel discussions entitled “Making intellectual property work for development.” Experiences were shared on national innovation strategies; helping small and medium-sized entreprises gain access to the intellectual property system; access to educational and scientific information; and development of local enterprise, investment and know-how regarding genetic resources.

Anthioumiane N’Diaye, Director General of Organisation Africaine de le Propriété Intellectuelle, spoke about his organization’s strategy in promoting technological innovation in francophone Africa. He explained how they help innovators during three important phases: giving technological information before the research starts; providing funding during the research phase; and subsidizing patent fees. They also help inventors meet businessmen and financiers and have established a special fund to support innovation and the creation of micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

“Governments have to put measures into place that improve the innovative potential of enterprises and their capacity to recognize and integrate new technologies. Governments must also raise awareness that the future of a country and the wellbeing of its population are greatly determined by those who invent and innovate,” Mr N’Diaye said.

Anil Gupta, President of the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) and founder of the Honeybee Network in rural India, described how his organizations had succeeded in documenting more than 50,000 grassroots inventions such as coconut tree climbers, amphibious bicycles and others which had been successfully patented and commercialized in India, the US and elsewhere.

“Inventors should be recognized and rewarded and not expected to subsidize the cost of societies’ search for cost effective and novel solutions,” Mr Gupta said. “Economically poor people are often rich in knowledge and putting in place appropriate measures can make a difference to their lives through agricultural and health technologies.”

Teresa Mera, former Director of Trademarks with the Peruvian government explained how in his country, where 75% of enterprises were micro enterprises, the trademark office had succeeded in helping small producers and artisans to be more competitive by using collective trademarks and appellations of origin like the Pisco drink or Cumbe fruit.

Brian Wafawarowa, founder of New African Books, general and educational publishing house in South Africa noted that piracy and instability in school curricula have contributed to the dire state of the publishing industry in Africa, which is mainly dependent on educational books. The African continent consumes more than 12% but contributes less than 3% of all books that are read in the world.

In the same panel addressing the issue of access to educational and scientific information, Maurice Long with the International Association of Science, Technical and Medical Publishers, described three programmes they have set up to provide institutions in developing countries with free or low-cost access to scientific journals relating to healthcare, agriculture and the environment.

Pascal Phlix from the European Patent Office (EPO) spoke about the large amount of technical information available to the public via the EPO patent databases. Much of this was freely usable by the public, especially in countries where patents were not valid. He explained how information found through this database allowed an association to produce solar hearing aids for children in Ethiopia.

On the topic of genetic resources, Novozymes Director and Senior Patent Counsel, Bo Hammer Jensen, talked about how his company searched for enzymes in natural products in different ecosystems. He also explained the steps it took to obtain permission from and share benefits with the communities and countries keeping these genetic resources, and to share benefits with them.

The event follows a similarly successful exchange held in February this year and is part of ICC’s Commission on Intellectual Property’s ongoing commitment to sharing concrete experiences of how the IP system can be used in developing nations to create wealth and employment.