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[FYI] WIPO decides to set up Policy Task Force


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         Press Release PR/99/166

         Geneva, April 15, 1999


The Policy Advisory Commission (PAC), set up by the Director General
of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil
Idris, to advise him on matters related to policy-making, decided on
Thursday at the end of its inaugural meeting to set up a task force to
consider, amongst others, three issues: the text of a possible
declaration or charter on intellectual property, a study on the
balance between private intellectual property rights and the public
good and the economic and social developmental dimension of
intellectual property, especially for developing countries. 


Discussions focused on the critical role of intellectual property as a
tool of economic development. During the talks, members called for the
establishment of a vision first and transforming that vision into
tangible benefits to the individual, using intellectual property as a
tool. The impact of globalization on intellectual property was
discussed as well as the necessity to engage and integrate all
interested parties, including the private sector and civil society.
The PAC underscored the role of intellectual property in facilitating
the transfer of technology. Stressing the importance of public
awareness initiatives at all levels, one member from a developing
country expressed certainty that "intellectual property protection, if
made widely known, will release the genius of our people." All members
emphasized the critical need to implement extensive public awareness
campaigns which reached out to young people in particular.

Emphasis was also placed on the need to depoliticize the intellectual
property debate so that it is not seen as a question of "haves"
against "have-nots". A crucial issue was how to approach intellectual
property matters so that the protection of inventions and other
creations should not be an end in itself, but serve a wider social and
economic interest. The rights of inventors have to be balanced by
wider considerations of the good of society so that inventions could
benefit people as well as bring commercial gain to the inventor. At
the same time, members felt that it was essential to avoid returning
to the debate of the 1970s on whether intellectual property was
beneficial to developing countries. The governments of developing
countries have built infrastructures designed to ensure respect and
protection of intellectual property rights. What is important is to
ensure that they share in the benefits of such protection. It was felt
that WIPO had an important global proactive role to play in respect of
all the issues mentioned.

The PAC concluded with an agreement to set up a task force to consider
the text of a possible Global Intellectual Property Charter or
Declaration that would help place intellectual property in a wider
economic, social and cultural context. This would recognize the
emergence of intellectual property as a new critical factor of
production like capital or manpower. At the same time, it could
reaffirm the critical role intellectual property can play as a tool
for economic development, in particular for developing countries. The
task force would also look into elaborating a vision to define the new
and future roles of intellectual property and WIPO. 

The task force would also study the question of the use and abuse of
intellectual property rights and the balance between private and
public benefits. Emphasis was placed on the need to heighten
international cooperation to promote intellectual property issues so
that they can truly become a vital tool in wealth creation for the
benefit of all peoples.


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