Trade & investment

How IP benefits developing countries

  • 21 June 2005

Developing countries can and do benefit from the intellectual property (IP) system. This was the robust message conveyed by panellists in an ICC-hosted discussion in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) yesterday. It sought to reassure developing countries which had questioned whether IP, and particularly the patent system, was of benefit to their people.

Representatives from innovative and creative industries in Brazil, India, Argentina and Egypt told delegates at the WIPO Inter-sessional Intergovernmental meeting on a Development Agenda for WIPO how IP had helped boost their industries’ competitiveness in local and international markets and contribute to the development of the local economy.

Denise Naimara described how Companhia Vale do Rio Doce , the biggest diversified mining company in Brazil with operations in 18 countries, acknowledged and rewarded intellectual property contributions by their employees. “When we license our patented technologies, we know that this contributes to Brazil´s economic growth and the creation of jobs. Since we started protecting our intellectual property, our export revenue has increased, helping to contribute to Brazil’s sustainable development.”

Peter Bloch, Chief Operating Officer of Light Years IP, an NGO specializing in helping developing countries increase export revenue through IP rights, described how LYIP was helping the Ethiopian government use intellectual property techniques to capture a larger share of the intangible value of its premium Harar coffee. “The project could add US$50 million to Ethiopia’s export income,” said Peter Bloch. ” We firmly believe that intellectual property has a function in poverty alleviation and can be a significant factor for all countries that are struggling to compete in export markets against the world’s most efficient producers and manufacturers.”

Dr P V Venugopal, Director of International Operations at the Medicines for Malaria Venture, a public-private partnership formed to develop drugs against malaria, told WIPO delegates that more than one third of the world’s population lacked regular access to essential medicines. “Patents are not the problem, let’s stop arguing about whether patents are necessary or not,” he said. “Medicines can only be developed if pharmaceutical companies are part of the R&D team and they will only play their role if intellectual property rights are protected and proper contractual terms established.”

Mohammed Ramzy, Chief Executive of El Nasr Film Company in Egypt, made an impassioned plea to WIPO and governments to act against piracy of intellectual propoerty. “None of my efforts as a creative producer would lead to the successful completion of a film unless I was protected by copyright. To continue to make films that support economic growth and cultural diversity in the Arab world, I need international intellectual property norms that are the same in all the countries where our films may travel .”

For Laura Tesoriero, Chief Executive of EPSA Music, an independent Argentinian record label specializing in tango and folk music, “Copyright is what enables cultural creativity in the music industry, not only nationally but also internationally, not only in the physical world but also in the digital one, through the Internet. Artists, interpreters, composers, producers, technicians, we all depend on copyright to enable us to continue to practise our craft.”

ICC organized the panel to stimulate discussion on the role of the intellectual property system in developing countries today. “ICC’s mandate is to foster economic growth in developed and developing countries alike, to better integrate all countries into the world economy,” said Peter Siemsen, Brazilian Vice-Chair of the ICC Commission on Intellectual Property. “We believe that intellectual property rights are an invaluable tool for growth and progress and are ready to assist governments and intergovernmental organisations, such as WIPO, in helping individuals, communities and businesses in developing countries make better use the intellectual property system to this end.”