Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

WIPO decides to set up Policy Task Force

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.