Letters and Comment

January 2007

WIPO Magazine welcomes comments on issues raised in our article or on other developments in intellectual property. Letters should be marked "for publication in the WIPO Magazine" and addressed to The Editor at WipoMagazine@wipo.int or to the postal/fax address on the back cover of the Magazine. Please include your postal address. We regret that it is not possible to publish all the letters we receive. The editor reserves the right to edit or shorten letters. (The author will be consulted if substantial editing is required.)

IP in universities – far from rosy

I am curious to know how much of the article and follow-up letters about IP in universities (Putting Policies in Place - Issue no. 5/2006; Letters and Comment – issue no. 6/2006) were written by administrators or lawyers, whose jobs are actually parasitic on the backs of active academics, with whose intellectual products the article was concerned.

From a UK perspective, the article paints far too rosy a view of the interaction between universities and industry, and fails signally to mention the important problems that have arisen in the past. Notwithstanding the idealistic notion that Academe and Industry can ─ and perhaps should ─ work together for mutual benefit, the reality is that there is a fundamental disparity of objectives, which in many cases, even if not always, prevents the cosy symbiosis presented in the article. Industry is about making profits for shareholders. A university should be a place where minds are trained, preferably in a disinterested environment.

Big industry is used to paying as little as it can get away with for the research it wants. It demands secrecy, non-disclosure agreements, and holding back on patenting in order to get ‘lead-time.’ It is able to cut short any research programme which is not moving fast enough. These factors, together with the over-riding short-termism of much industrial research, are directly at odds with good practice in the education of researchers. SMEs are even worse, because in many instances they cannot actually afford the necessary cash for their contributions, which therefore often end up being ‘in-kind.’ Twice, in my own experience, the managing directors of SMEs with which I had collaborative research programmes walked away from the programmes with the entire IP and sold it elsewhere to their own profit.

Moreover, the basic rights of academics to their own ideas are being eroded. While most university websites now describe how income from the IP of their academics is shared ‘fairly’ between the originators and the university, it is never clear how much say the academics themselves have had. Cambridge academics fought hard, but unsuccessfully, to prevent the University changing employment contracts so that all faculty IPR belong to it alone. One wonders how Isaac Newton would have fared in Cambridge today?




Nepal’s IP needs

I have been practicing law in the field of IP in Nepal for 10 years. And having been reading your worldwide popular Magazine since 1998, I am disappointed never to have seen a mention of my country. Nepal has become a member of WIPO and WTO, and has acceded to the Paris Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. But the relevant multi-lateral treaties are little understood from the perspective of the protection of IP rights in Nepal. Inadequate manpower and knowledge to deal with IP is causing us many troubles.

Nepal, a least developed country, is rich in biodiversity, traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. But because of our lack of knowledge of how to protect them, third parties have for years been free-riding on the reputation of our intellectual assets. With growth and development becoming increasingly knowledge-driven, the IP system, which provides the means for converting man's ideas and creativity into property, has assumed critical importance. But first we need a strong national IP system, including technical assistance to promote IP rights in Nepal.



Teaching respect for creators’ rights

I was interested to read about the copyright teaching manual produced by a group of students in Spain (Teaching Copyright to Teenagers, issue no. 6/2006). At Pro-Music France, we are similarly involved in trying to educate young people on these questions. How can we explain to children and teenagers - as well as to adults - the idea that intellectual "goods" exist in the same way as physical goods, and that just because these are easy to get hold of, or copy, is no reason not to respect their creators or rights-owners?

Whereas in the 20th century IP was only really of interest to businesses, nowadays, in our digital world, it directly concerns every citizen, consumer and client. And until the average citizen has woken up to the importance of this notion, then all our efforts to condemn P2P file-sharing, or to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) technical protection measures, will be in vain.

Through promusicfrance.com, we try to capture people’s interest by talking about all those involved in the business of making music. A song-writer or artist cannot succeed alone. He has to be able to live from his music, and so to must his producers, manager and everyone else who makes his success possible.




From: Rémi Bouton, Editor in Chief, www.promusicfrance.com


Readers’ letters are a hit

The different ideas on your Letters Page catch the reader’s attention like shining stars. For me, in a country where copyright is not so complicated, reading the article and letters about the Lancôme and Kecofa perfume case (issues no.5 and 6/2006) was like listening to a musical top hit.

From Raul N. Norbe, Filipino Inventors Solidarity For Christian Brotherhood, Manila, Philippines




From Ram Chandra Subedi, Advocate, Supreme Court of Nepal



From Bryan Harris, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science, University of Bath, UK.

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