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Experts urge reform of international patent system at eve of WIPO assembly

Maastricht -- An international seminar to discuss the contribution of Intellectual Property Rights to development has called on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to pay greater attention to the diverse needs and technological capacities of developing countries, instead of focusing on deeper harmonization of intellectual property standards.

Held at the eve of the WIPO General Assembly (taking place between 26 September to 5 October in Geneva), forty scholars and policy analysts meeting at United Nations University Institute for New Technologies (UNU-INTECH) warned that the current IP regime is undermining agreed sustainable development targets.

Of particular concern is the implementation of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, passed at the 4th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization.

Noting that the current system has become greatly skewed in favour of protecting private knowledge goods, without taking into account the social costs incurred, participants urged that greater efforts be paid to building an effective framework to govern the public knowledge arena, and strengthening local capabilities to develop alternatives to patented products.

The keynote speaker, Professor Richard Nelson (Columbia University) cited recent independent studies that have arrived at the general conclusion that "...while patents are the primary incentive for profit-motivated invention in some key technologies, they are actually causing harm in other areas, including some 'high-tech' industries involved primarily in R&D."

Several proposals on alternative ways of rewarding technological innovations that are in the public interest were discussed, including a new US bill The Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act (HR 417) that would create a fund to compensate innovators when they bring new pharmaceuticals to the market.

In marked contrast to traditional patents, pharmaceutical compan
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Contact: Wangu Mwangi
mwangi@intech.unu.edu
31-433-506-365
United Nations University
26-Sep-2005


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