13 July 2009

What Are Intellectual Monopolies For?

If you still doubted that intellectual monopolies are in part a neo-colonialist plot to ensure the continuing dominance of Western nations, you could read this utterly extraordinary post, which begins:

The fourteenth session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), convened in Geneva from June 29, 2009 to July 3, 2009, collapsed at the 11th hour on Friday evening as the culmination of nine years of work over fourteen sessions resulted in the following language; “[t]he Committee did not reach a decision on this agenda item” on future work. The WIPO General Assembly (September 2009) will have to untangle the intractable Gordian knot regarding the future direction of the Committee.

At the heart of the discussion lay a proposal by the African Group which called for the IGC to submit a text to the 2011 General Assembly containing “a/(n) international legally binding instrument/instruments” to protect traditional cultural expressions (folklore), traditional knowledge and genetic resources. Inextricably linked to the legally binding instruments were the African Group’s demands for “text-based negotiations” with clear “timeframes” for the proposed program of work. This proposal garnered broad support among a group of developing countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Fiji, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Yemen India, Peru, Guatemala, China, Nepal and Azerbaijan. Indonesia, Iran and Pakistan co-sponsored the African Group proposal.

The European Union, South Korea and the United States could not accept the two principles of “text-based negotiations” and “internationally legally binding instruments”.

Australia, Canada and New Zealand accepted the idea of “text-based negotiations” but had reservations about “legally binding instruments” granting sui generis protection for genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.

We can't possibly have dveloping countries protecting their traditional medicine and national lore - "genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore" - from being taken and patented by the Western world. After all, companies in the latter have an inalienable right to turn a profit by licensing that same traditional knowledge it back to the countries it was stolen from (this has already happened). That's what intellectual monopolies are for.

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Georg Greve said...

This may actually be a good thing, see http://fsfe.org/projects/wipo/iprip.en.html

More monopolies may not be the answer to the problems caused by over-monopolisation.

Glyn Moody said...

Great post - thanks.