An international group of experts on science ethics, economics, science and society, and law gathered by the University of Manchester and the Brook World Poverty Institute has produced a Manifesto focused on the problem of ownership and scientific innovation. The critique of the current way of managing intellectual property is directed towards a “dominant model (that) can be radically flawed”, at least if we want innovation to meet welfare goals at a global level and not just economic or corporate goals.
It is easy to agree with this text, which affirms that ownership rights over scientific knowledge should be evaluated according to their effects and not as good per se. Nevertheless, the analysis of the dynamics of science’s role for welfare and development is rather superficial, and the Manifesto’s proposals are vague and not innovative with respect to the debate on IP we have had during the last ten years.
Excerpts from the Manifesto:
“We recognise that innovation has an essential role in economic development, but its use for the pursuit of profit should not override, and ideally should not conflict with, achievement of welfare goals and scientific progress. Scientific information, freely and openly communicated, adds to the body of knowledge and understanding upon which the progress of humanity depends. Information must remain available to science and this depends on open communication and dissemination of information, including that used in innovation. ”
In the final claim, the Manchester Manifesto advocates for the “use of mechanisms such as patent pools, voluntary or compulsory licensing, and differential pricing. A range of alternative models is also possible: from those context which are related to the current rights system such as remuneration-based patents, through prize funds, to completely open-access models”.