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July 22, 2005

IPI's intervention at WIPO IIM/3

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I was surprised and pleased that in the brief interim between when I posted this intervention and when I pulled it back down again, several websites linked to it, especially my friends at IPCentral. So I'm making it available again, just so everyone understands that this is a draft intervention. I'll post separately the text of the actual intervention that I plan to deliver Friday morning, since the text may change somewhat.

This IS the final intervention.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to speak on behalf of the members of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a public interest NGO. Our participation in these meetings is a direct outgrowth of our program of research and advocacy on the means of fostering high levels of economic growth. As per the instructions of the chair, I will limit my comments to the matters directly at hand.

Compatibility with other International Agreements

Regarding the suggestion that WIPO's mission should be compatible with and support the objectives and provisions of other international instruments, there hasn't actually been much discussion of this proposal. We would assert that promoting intellectual property ownership is already compatible with several important international agreements. I would like to quote from a few of those:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 27: "Everyone has the right to the protection and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author."

This article clearly asserts that the right to intellectual property protection is a human right

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
Part One, Paragraph 10: "While development facilitates the enjoyment of all human rights, the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights." Remember, the right to the ownership of one's discoveries and creations is a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration on the Human Genome
Article 14: "States should take appropriate measures to foster intellectual and material conditions favorable to freedom in the conduct of research."

These references to other international instruments and agreements makes it clear that WIPO's mission of promoting intellectual property ownership is fully compatible with other international agreements.

Friends of Development Proposal

With regard to the proposal of the Friends of Development, in the previous April and June IIMs, we have already made it clear that, in our view, the Friends of Development proposal represents extending WIPO's mission into areas outside of its core competency--areas that are already within the core competency of other UN organizations. We fear that this proposal would distract WIPO from its important mission and weaken WIPO's effectiveness. Additionally, we have observed that much of the rhetoric used to justify this proposal has represented a broadside attack on the very concept of IP. Much of this rhetoric has been inaccurate and devoid of any sound economic rationale.

But to oppose a restructuring of WIPO's mandate, to oppose the creation of new offices, to oppose the expansion of WIPO's efforts into areas already serviced by other UN organizations is not to oppose development. Surely, everyone in this room is in favor of development. Many of the nations represented in this room are making extraordinary efforts to facilitate development. As important as intellectual property is, it is not nearly so important as other factors, such a rule of law, an independent judiciary, protection of real property, and participation in markets.

Involvement of NGOs

There has been discussion about what WIPO might do to facilitate the involvement of civil society groups in WIPO's deliberations. I would like to point out that WIPO has already been quite generous in this regard by granting ad hoc accreditation to a number of groups, including my own, for purposes of attending and even making interventions during the development agenda discussions. In addition, WIPO has tolerated interventions that in some cases had very little to do with the matters under discussion. So we see no need for any wider latitude in this regard.

The Proposed Declaration

On the matter of the declaration suggested by Brazil, it strikes us that such a declaration is unnecessary, and it is similarly unnecessary to change WIPO's charter. The existing IP system already allows considerable national discretion in these matters, and flexibility to reflect the distinctive legal traditions and cultural norms. There is nothing preventing nations from pursuing, for instance, an open source model of software development. There is nothing stopping artists in developing nations from utilizing a creative commons license. There is nothing preventing nations from using a prize fund or other alternative to patents to incentivize innovation. While the Institute for Policy Innovation would not suggest these models, and is skeptical about their long-term utility, it is unnecessary to modify WIPO's charter or to pass the suggested declaration in order to make alternatives to IP available. WIPO is not the World Innovation Organization, or the World Free Culture Organization, or the World Public Domain Organization.

Moving Forward

As to a means for moving forward, as we have already made clear in previous interventions, it has always been our position that these matters properly belong within the PCIPD, and we support the proposal to reinvigorate the PCIPD, including more frequent meetings.

Finally, in the interest of facilitating continued discussion and dialog, we invite comments and responses to our intervention on our IP-related web log, located at

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