WIPO Deliverables to Sustainable Development of Intellectual Property Systems in the Least Developed Countries

(Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries)

Brussels from May 14 to 20, 2001

I. Introduction
II. Transfer of Knowledge in Favor of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
III. The WIPO Worldwide Academy
VI. Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Folklore
VIII. Concluding Remarks

I. Introduction

1. In preparation for the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) organized three regional seminars, for African, Arab and Asia and the Pacific LDCs, and a national seminar for Haiti. The regional seminar on the modernization of the intellectual property system for Asia and the Pacific LDCs was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from May 16 to 18, 2000. For Arab LDCs it was held in Khartoum, Sudan, from October 23 to 25, 2000. For African LDCs the seminar took place in Kampala, Uganda, from December 18 to 20, 2000. As Haiti is the only LDC in the Latin American and Caribbean region, a multifaceted national seminar was organized from September 25 to 27, 2000. Participants in each of the seminars agreed on a set of conclusions of common concern to them all.

2. Following the above seminars, the High-Level Interregional Round Table for the LDCs was held in Lisbon, Portugal, on February 1 and 2, 2001, to deliberate on the forward-looking theme of “Innovation, Knowledge Society, Intellectual Property and the Least Developed Countries,” with a view to articulating policy and technical issues and contributing to institution-building in the area of intellectual property in the LDCs in the era of the knowledge-based economy. During their deliberations, ministers, heads of international and regional organizations and senior government officials recognized that, despite their efforts to build intellectual property systems, the LDCs faced certain severe constraints, such as a shortage of resources, a weak intellectual property infrastructure, a lack of skilled personnel and inadequate awareness of and information on the various treaties and conventions in the field of intellectual property.

3. In the Lisbon Declaration on Intellectual Property that was adopted following their deliberations, ministers and senior government officials stressed that a new vision for the new millennium should incorporate a wide range of objectives, among them the following: to transfer knowledge to the LDCs as part of WIPO’s contribution to the eradication of poverty in the LDCs; to participate actively on the wealth-creation effect of traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources; to encourage invention and innovative activities in the LDCs; to promote the establishment of collective management societies, and to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They said that intellectual property should be conducive to development that improves the living conditions of the people in the LDCs, and invited the Director General of WIPO to convey the result of the High-Level Roundtable to the Conference in Brussels.

4. Given the enormous structural problems they face in institution-building in the field of intellectual property, as identified in the Lisbon Ministerial Declaration, the LDCs require a special program with the vision and resources to bring about a quantum leap in the state of their intellectual property systems. In this connection, the following major areas of deliverables were identified as part of WIPO’s contribution, to be implemented in phases during the current decade.

II. Transfer of Knowledge in Favor of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)1

5. WIPO has a crucial role to play in the assistance afforded to the LDCs by giving more, better focused, quantifiable and realistic development aid in the building and modernization of their intellectual property (IP) systems.

6. WIPO has taken a number of measures to enhance the ability of the LDCs to achieve the goals of national IP institution development. Because of the links between different sectors, policies to address capacitybuilding must consider the overall situation and take account of the ways in which capacity deficits in one sector or area affect capacity in others. So the full potential of IP can only be realized by simultaneously building capacity in the key areas and sectors to which it relates in the LDCs. The participation of civil society and nongovernmental organizations is also encouraged in this context.

7. In the light of the above, building “knowledge capital” through transfer of knowledge in the LDCs is vital. Knowledge capital, which is composed of excellence in policy leadership, management and administration skills, professionalism and entrepreneurship, can be built up by exploiting information input, data and technology, education, training and institution building. This investment in selected areas in the LDCs will serve to build up knowledge capital in the public and private sectors and in society as a whole. The various existing WIPO programs can contribute effectively to the fulfillment of these needs of the LDCs.

III. The WIPO Worldwide Academy

8. The WIPO Worldwide Academy is WIPO’s center of excellence and knowledge, and serves as an educational institution for providing teaching, training, advisory and research services in IP. The development of human resources has become a vital strategic component in the effort to modernize and use the IP system effectively for economic, social, and cultural development in the LDCs. In this connection the WIPO Worldwide Academy assists the LDCs, through its specially tailored programs, in acquiring the specialized knowledge and skills with which to take advantage of the IP system. The Academy plays a central role in providing teaching, training and advisory and research services in intellectual property. It creates a forum for policy and decision makers in the LDCs to debate the importance and implications of IP in the economic and social development of their countries.

9. Drawing on the potential of information and communication technology, the Academy designs programs and produces materials to help promote the teaching of intellectual property in the LDCs. As the role of intellectual property continues to expand in today’s global economy, the Academy offers the following IP training designed to meet the individual needs of the LDCs:

  • a distance learning program, the Academy offers teaching, training and capacity-building, via the Internet and other electronic media, according to the needs of specific target groups in LDCs. The program can be adapted to the different degrees of access to information technology infrastructures that exist in the LDCs;
  • introductory and advanced training courses for the managers and technical staff of intellectual property offices, government agencies and other sectors in the LDCs, including those involved with research work in universities and research and development (R & D) institutions. It also offers a summer school on IP for students and young professionals from the LDCs;
  • a policy training program of the Academy for the benefit of the LDCs is targeted towards policy advisers, decision-makers and diplomats. This program includes discussion sessions that promote policy debate and afford a deeper understanding of the role of the IP system in national and international development;
  • collaboration with selected universities in developed and developing countries which offers joint diploma courses and degree programs for the benefit of the LDCs.

IV. The WIPO Global Information Network (WIPONET)

10. Recent developments in information and communication technology have provided countries with better ways of tapping into the world’s knowledge and technology for products and services, and have afforded them better access to the relevant technical information. A particularly important aspect of technological innovation is the quest for new ways of capturing, processing, transmitting and accessing information.

11. It was in that context that WIPO, recognizing the strategic importance of information technology to the enhancement of its services, launched the WIPONET project to develop and establish a global information network that would benefit all Member States of WIPO, including the LDCs. It will install WIPONET services and equipment for the LDCs as part of its effort to build and modernize IP offices in the LDCs. Through WIPONET the Organization will do the following:

  • provide the LDCs with office automation software including electronic data exchange services;
  • open up the communications of the future to the LDCs, in which the transmission of information involves minimal cost, distance is irrelevant and content is instantly accessible. It is an informationintensive (and hence technology-intensive) way of doing business, and makes for the mobility of certain production factors;
  • promote international cooperation by facilitating the exchange of IP information. It will facilitate access to IP data, and will also serve as a platform from which new services may be introduced;
  • provide a platform for the delivery of a growing number of new and established IP services directly to LDC Member States, and will also serve as a vehicle for the dissemination of published IP information for national offices.

V. Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights2

12. Collective management organizations are an important link between creators and users of copyrighted works because they ensure that, as owners of rights, creators receive payment for the use of their works. Composers, writers, musicians, singers, performers and other talented individuals are among the most valuable assets that the LDCs possess, as creative genius enriches the culture of the LDCs.

13. To develop their talent and encourage them to create, individuals have to be given incentives, namely remuneration in return for permission to make use of their works. Collective management organizations most commonly take care of the right of public performance, the right of broadcasting, the right of cable distribution for musical, audiovisual or dramatic works, for example, and the right of reprographic reproduction in the field of literary works as well as related rights for performers and producers of phonograms.

14. WIPO has adopted an overall strategy for the LDCs to:

  • create a set of national collective management societies for copyright and related rights;
  • link national societies of the LDCs via the Internet to a center so that the hardware,
  • software, management and data resources required by each society may be shared, with support services common to all the societies being provided by the center. This arrangement avoids much of the duplication of resources associated with stand-alone operations, and eliminates the related costs, so that it is possible for small societies in the LDCs to operate more cost-effectively and to maximize their income.

VI. Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Folklore3

15. Traditional knowledge has provided the basis for much of modern medicine and centuries of herbalist knowledge accumulated in the early writings of travelers, clerics and historians. The traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities has significant economic value in areas such as biotechnology (including medicine and agriculture), entertainment and education, apart from which it provides a basis for the protection and conservation of biological diversity and the sharing of its benefits. Yet it is unclear to what extent the tradition-based creativity and innovation of such communities, many of which are located in the LDCs, are recognized and protected under existing IP regimes. The lack of clear legal obligations means that traditional knowledge is often accessed and used for the development of new commercial products without a requirement that the commercialization benefit also the original holders of the knowledge.

16. WIPO is exploring ways in which the protection of creativity and innovation can be made available to holders of traditional knowledge by means of the IP system. As far as the LDCs are concerned, the focus will be on new opportunities for the conservation, protection and dissemination of the traditional knowledge assets of the LDCs in the global economy. This process of achieving that end will start with the first meeting of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Folklore, which was established at the 26th session of the WIPO General Assembly, held in Geneva, from September 25 to October 3, 2000. In that context WIPO will focus its concern for the LDCs on the:

  • establishment of appropriate machinery at the national level to coordinate the views and contributions of all relevant government bodies with a view to effective and full participation in regional and international meetings on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore;
  • development, at the national level, of strategies (policies, plans and machinery), including IP-based tools, for regulating access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources and the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore;
  • development of model legislation, machinery, contractual terms and practices for regulating access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources and for the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore, which could contribute to the development of internationally accepted standards;
  • organization of national, regional and interregional meetings on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.

VII. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)4

17. SMEs in the LDCs are often the driving force behind invention and innovation activities. Their innovative and creative capacity is not always fully exploited, however, as many SMEs in the LDCs are not sufficiently informed, or are hesitant to seek protection for their inventions, brands and designs, and fail to take full advantage of the IP system. If left unprotected, a good invention or creation may be lost to larger competitors which are better equipped to market the product or service at a more affordable price, leaving the original inventor or creator without any financial reward. Adequate protection of a company’s IP is therefore a factor in deterring potential infringements and in transforming ideas into business assets with a real market value. IP protection enables SMEs to fully exploit their innovative capacity and creativity.

18. SMEs in the LDCs may also take advantage of the wealth of technological and commercial information available in patent and trademark databases to learn about recent technological breakthroughs, identify future partners and to learn about the innovative activities of their competitors. Managing IP effectively and using it to devise business strategies is becoming an essential task for entrepreneurs worldwide. While the challenge is great, WIPO is committed to assisting national governments, SME support institutions and entrepreneurs in LDCs to enhance their productivity and competitiveness through effective use of the IP system.

19. WIPO’s activities for the benefit of SMEs in the LDCs will be guided by the need to look at the practical concerns and challenges faced by SMEs. In that connection, the role of IP rights in the overall business strategy of SMEs will be presented from a managerial viewpoint, and the relevance of patents and utility models will be highlighted within the context of the product development strategy of an SME. Similarly, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications will be portrayed as tools with which to enhance an enterprise’s marketing strategy, including the need for market access, market segmentation and product differentiation. In this field WIPO aims to:

  • enhance the ability of national governments to formulate national policies and strategies to meet the IP needs of SMEs;
  • work with, and improve the ability of, relevant public, private and civil society institutions to supply Iprelated services to SMEs;
  • provide SME support organizations in the LDCs with web-based assistance on IP issues;
  • assist in the development of comprehensive and user-friendly promotional information materials and training programs for LDCs (both in web-based form and through seminars and workshops).

VIII. Concluding Remarks

20. Some of the main reasons for the lack of sustainable institution-building in the field of IP in the LDCs are attributable among other things to their weak productive capacity and competitiveness.

  • IP institutions are weak and need to be properly established in operational terms.
  • The internal capacity necessary to generate development is weak, largely because human resources have not been adequately developed. Science and technology development and their adaptation is poor. The physical infrastructure, including power, telecommunications and transport, is still costly.

21. In view of the above, therefore:

  • in accordance with the commitment made by ministers and senior officials in the Lisbon Declaration, LDC governments could introduce special measures to encourage the modernization and development of national IP institutions, to facilitate access to new technology and to provide training to improve management skills in IP systems;
  • governments could encourage SMEs in the LDCs to take advantage of WIPO’s assistance in this area;
  • governments could encourage cooperative business networks so that SMEs can share information and cooperate in production, design and marketing;
  • governments could also provide a package of incentives for scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs to encourage them to invest in technology-based enterprises, while at the same time facilitating the involvement of the private sector in the development of science and technology;
  • WIPO will continue to ensure that the Lisbon Ministerial Declaration on Intellectual Property for LDCs is implemented by the formulation of programs designed to complement the domestic initiatives, programs and policies of individual LDCs with tangible, measurable and achievable outputs;
  • the Third United Nations Conference on the LDCs will provide an opportunity to evolve a new strategy of cooperation for development; that new strategy should be driven by a desire to find innovative approaches to the design of programs that will enhance the productive capacity of the LDCs and their competitiveness in a rapidly evolving global context. WIPO is one of the organizations in the United Nations system participating actively in the preparations for the Conference, and is committed to the implementation of tangible and measurable results.

1 Transfer of knowledge in favor of the LDCs as a further contribution to the fight against poverty (Paragraph 6 of the Lisbon Declaration)

2 Paragraph 5 of the Lisbon Declaration

3 Paragraph 4 of the Lisbon Declaration

4 Paragraph 7 of the Lisbon Declaration

Least Developed Countries