Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Proposal from Chile

Chile has submitted a proposal to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with two very important and challenging suggestions:

1) WIPO should protect the public domain, and should focus on protecting knowledge, rather than private intellectual property rights.

2) WIPO should do a study that would look at the ideal level of intellectual property protection country-by-country. The study would look particularly at each country's level of development, and the economic and social effects of IP in each country's situation. It might suggest limitations to or exceptions from intellectual property protection if that was seen to be more advantageous to the country's development.

In the past, WIPO has been more focused on expanding intellectual property rights rather than limiting them. In WIPO's view, the way to protect knowledge was to encourage its publication and commercialization by granting intellectual property rights. To an extent, to protect private intelectual property rights wasto protect knowledge.

The problem is that, now, most IP rights are owned by the US, and much of the unprotected knowledge floating around in the public domain for free use by anyone - especially in developing countries - is at risk of being snatched up by this expanding rights regime and by Americans who want to claim and commercialize it. Plus, new technologies have brought new ways of thinking about the dissemination of knowledge - publication and commercialization is no longer seen as the primary way of protecting knowledge. Sometimes IP-rights lock up knowledge. Knowledge in the public domian is often much more accessible than it once was, thanks to technology and communications.

A country-by-country study could look at the social benefits of having knowledge available in the public domain and at the use of that knowledge in a country's own development - and at the effects of having that knowledge commercialized by private owners. With both sides being considered, the study would lead to a more balanced and realistic view of the role of intellectual property in well-being today.

Chile's report.

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