Wednesday, 3 September 2014

New constitutions, new commitment -- but can Egypt and Tunisia deliver?

The August 2014 issue of the world Intellectual Property Organization's WIPO Magazine has just appeared online. It contains an article of obvious relevance to this blog, "Egypt and Tunisia Underscore the Importance of IP". Penned by Ahmed Abdel-Latif (Senior Programme Manager for Innovation, Technology and Intellectual Property, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Geneva), it draws attention to the commitment by both Egypt and Tunisia to the knowledge economy, as reflected in their respective new Constitutions. Commit is however nothing unless it is concretised in reality. As the author concludes:
The clauses relating to the knowledge economy in the constitutions of Egypt and Tunisia reflect the priority given to promoting innovation and creativity within the new socio-economic policies pursued since the Arab Spring. The reference to “building a knowledge economy” in the Egyptian Constitution is particularly revealing in this regard. The reference to private sector participation in research efforts reflects recognition of the weaknesses that have characterized the national innovation system and the need to address them. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent this priority will have a tangible impact on the ground, particularly in light of the difficult economic circumstances prevailing in both countries, the limited resources available, and competing public policy objectives.

The reference to IPRs in the Egyptian and Tunisian constitutions is part of a general trend towards the “constitutionalization” of IP protection within a human rights framework deriving either from the rights of inventors and creators or the right to private property. It also reflects higher levels of awareness and engagement with IP issues since the adoption of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In light of the general wording of the IPR clauses in both constitutions, ultimately the manner in which these clauses are implemented through national laws and judicial decisions will be critical in ensuring that a balanced approach to IP protection is adopted; one which takes into account the level of development of each country and one which is supportive of their respective public policy objectives.
You can read this article in full here.

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