Tuesday, 18 December 2012

IP and the Public Interest: this year Rio, next year Cape Town

Here's some news from Dr Isaac Rutenberg, Director of Kenya's CIPIT.  Writes Isaac:
I have just concluded attending the three-day Global Conference on IP and the Public Interest, which was held from 15 to 17 December in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. CIPIT attended the conference in its new capacity as the East Africa Hub of the Open A.I.R. project.

The conference was interesting and educational, to say the least. The most notable aspect may have been that it was truly a global conference. Attendees were present from six continents. 

As a conference devoted to the Public Interest, there was naturally a heavy slant against maximalist IP policies and institutions that live or die based on strong IP protections. In fact, the overriding theme seemed to be open access in a variety of areas. For example, breakout sessions were devoted to: 

  • access to medicine; 
  • access to open scholarship and 
  • access to software using open source. 
It was no surprise that pharmaceutical companies were not represented, did not present, and did not attend (as far as I could tell). 

Copyright issues were on center stage for much of the conference. Specifically, the difficulty of libraries to access materials was described, as were the proceedings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a little-mentioned and ongoing trade negotiation that is being heavily pushed by the United States, has the potential to directly impact 40% of the world's population, and may (when adopted) have provisions that seriously influence IP policies (particularly on copyright).

An emotional speech was made by Egyptian academic Nagla Rizk, who painted a depressing picture of the state of IP issues in post-Arab-Spring Egypt. Unfortunately, open access and other IP issues have been pushed aside as more important issues such as security, women's rights, and human rights take center stage. 

Finally, some good news for those of us on the African Continent. The 2013 Global Congress is scheduled for 9-13 December, 2013, and will be held in Cape Town, South Africa. Looking forward to it!

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