The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) hosted on November 26 and 27, 2007 a discussion grouping 15 leading economists from around the world on the economics of intellectual property (IP). The aim of the International Roundtable on the Economics of Intellectual Property was to review the available economic literature in this field and identify empirical research projects that could be undertaken in developing countries and countries in transition.
Opening the meeting, Mr. Sherif Saadallah, Executive Director of WIPO's Office of Strategic Use of Intellectual Property for Development, said that the roundtable provided an opportunity to review the empirical evidence, identify gaps in the literature and discuss methodological approaches that could be applied to study the economics of IP in developing countries and countries with economies in transition." He added "The focus is on projects that could provide valuable insights to policy-makers...and contribute to the overall understanding of the economics of IP in developing countries and countries in transition and contribute to the international debates in this field."
In light of the recent adoption by member states of a WIPO Development Agenda, Mr. Saadallah said he expected an increase in requests for WIPO to study issues relating to IP and economic development. He added that "the Development Agenda is a landmark agreement in the history of the Organization which reflects the desire of member states to ensure that the IP system is not perceived as an end in itself but as an instrument to promote technological innovation and creativity, as well as the transfer and dissemination of knowledge." Mr. Saadallah said "Many developing countries in particular have expressed their interest in assessing the impact of the IP reforms undertaken over the past decade on innovation, creativity, technology transfer, access to technology and other important elements of countries' development strategies. It is, therefore, extremely important for WIPO to be ready to undertake such studies."
The economists reviewed relevant empirical evidence, identified gaps in the literature and discussed methodological approaches that could be applied to study the issues in developing countries and countries in transition. The basis for discussions were six draft papers on the following themes: Innovation and Appropriability Strategies, IP and International Technology Transfer, IP Rights in the Pharmaceutical Industry, The Economics of Copyright, The Economics of Geographical Indications, and IP Rights and Knowledge Transfer from Public Research Organizations and Universities to Industry.
Discussions focused on the type of empirical research that could be undertaken in developing countries and countries with economies in transition in these areas. Participants generally recognized that there had not been adequate empirical economic research on IP in developing countries and that this could limit the capacity for evidence-based policy-making in this field. It was highlighted that the lack of data and difficulties in understanding the intricacies of the IP system by economists may be some of the reasons why limited research has been undertaken in this area.
Participants acknowledged that empirical research undertaken over recent years in industrialized countries could provide interesting insights on how to study the issues in developing countries, but greater efforts should be made at ensuring that research was adapted to the realities and policy-making needs of developing countries. On each of the six themes, suggestions were made on the types of research projects that could be undertaken and discussions enabled participating economists to test their ideas with colleagues and jointly explore possible projects.
The draft papers prepared for the roundtable will be revised on the basis of discussions and the final papers are expected to be published in the first half of 2008.