Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

High-Level Forum Discusses the IP needs of LDCs

September 2009

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and International Publishers Association Secretary General Jens Bammel signing the aRDi Partners’ Statement of Intent. (Photo WIPO/M. Martínez Dozal)

Overcoming the development gap separating least developed countries (LDCs) from the rest of the world was at the heart of discussions during a WIPO high-level forum held on July 23 and 24 in Geneva. The forum brought together ministers and other high-level officials from LDCs to discuss the strategic use of intellectual property (IP) for national prosperity and development. Discussion covered a wide range of topics, including the need to bridge the technology gap and the importance of integrating IP into national development policy.

Opening the forum, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry stressed that access to technological information, and acquiring the human capital to use it, was key to realizing the creative potential of LDCs and to speeding their integration into the global knowledge economy. He underscored the importance of databases such as WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE®, which offers free access to the accumulated knowledge contained in some 1.6 million patent documents.

Noting that concrete steps in bridging the technology gap were needed, Mr. Gurry announced the launch, during the forum, of a new service for LDCs – aRDi (Access to Research for Development and Innovation). aRDi will provide LDCs with free access to a series of important scientific and technical journals (see box). He also drew attention to a major WIPO conference to be held in November, designed to mobilize extra-budgetary resources from around the world to finance activities such as capacity building for LDCs, enhancing their ability to leverage such technical information in line with their national requirements.

IP for sustainable development

During the forum, Mr. Dilip Barua, Bangladesh’s Minister for Industries spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordination Council of the LDCs. Ministers from Benin, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Maldives, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda also addressed the meeting, touching on a wide range of issues and concerns.

The view was expressed that, while LDCs once regarded the IP system as a monopoly tool, they now saw it as “an instrument for sustainable development.” However, they faced huge challenges in building IP institutions and systems and developing the necessary human resources in order to benefit fully from IP.

The need to formulate national development policies that integrate the strategic use of IP was underscored. The goal should be to achieve the effective use of all aspects of IP for national wealth creation. Several ministers noted that comprehensive IP legislation was being put into place in their countries, helping both to protect domestic creativity and innovation but also encourage technology transfer, adaptation and use, and foreign direct investment.

Many references were made to the critical challenges LDCs face regarding science and technology and, in particular, to the need to facilitate access to technological information contained in patent databases and scientific journals. Ministers called on WIPO support in bridging this technology gap and welcomed the launch of the new aRDi service.

The need to protect and leverage the wealth of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources to be found in LDCs was heavily underscored. Several ministers also made reference to the possibility of adding value to national products, for example, in the agriculture and handicraft fields, through the use of such IP tools as trademarks, geographical indications and industrial designs.

Presentations given during the forum included: the strategic importance of technology transfer and technological capacity-building; the contribution of copyright and collective management societies for LDC economies; protecting and preserving traditional and cultural assets; regional cooperation in IP; linking universities and research centers to the public and private sector for the management, promotion and commercialization of IP assets; and public policy issues.

Ministerial Declaration

A Ministerial Declaration adopted at the end of the meeting urged WIPO to intensify its capacity-building assistance for LDCs and to support LDCs in improving the competitiveness of their enterprises through regular access to new technologies. The Declaration appealed to development partners to make more funds available for LDC-specific projects. It also requested WIPO to cooperate fully with LDCs for the preparation of the Fourth United Nations Conference for Least Developed Countries, regarding the use of IP as a tool for development.

aRDi – a new partnership for development

Access to Research for Development and Innovation (aRDi) is a new public-private partnership involving WIPO and leading science and technology publishing companies including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Physics, Elsevier, Institute of Physics, John Wiley & Sons, National Academy of Sciences, Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, Sage Publications, Springer Science+Business Media, and Taylor & Francis.

The aRDi program will support least developed and developing countries in realizing their creative potential and facilitate their integration into the global knowledge economy. It provides industrial property offices, universities and research institutes in least developed countries with free access and industrial property offices in certain developing countries with low-cost access to selected on-line journals whose subscription cost would normally exceed US$400,000 a year.

The aRDi program was launched with the support of WIPO’s sister UN agencies – the World Health Organization; the Food and Agriculture Organization; and the United Nations Environment Programme – who offer access to journals in their respective fields of activity through the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) and Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) programs, respectively, as well as the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers. aRDi complements the valuable access to technical information contained in patent documents, which WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE search service already provides.


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