UN reports urges open-innovation-friendly IP for climate change

According to IP Watch, “the World Economic and Social Survey 2009, subtitled, “Promoting Development, Saving the Planet,” was released. The report, drafted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, a top secretariat office at headquarters in New York, focuses on climate change and calls for dramatic changes in the status quo in order to prevent destruction of the planet.”

One of the key findings is:

A key concern is the cost of new technologies, the research for which is often said to be incentivised by the possibility of monopolies through patents. The report found that the distribution of patent ownership of climate-related technologies is “very heavily” skewed in favour of advanced economies.

Specifically, it concludes and recommends:

William New:

“The current legal and policy framework governing intellectual property (IP) and technology, as contained mainly in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), might therefore represent a barrier to technological diffusion and negatively affect both adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries,” UN-DESA said in a release on the report. Multilateral actions to improve the IP framework should be a “top priority” in global talks, and these actions “can either be channelled to better exploit existing flexibilities or require a modification of the TRIPS agreement in the framework of the World Trade Organization.”

An in-depth chapter on technology transfer in the report details ways to take advantage of existing flexibilities built into TRIPS for developing countries, including limiting patentability and use of compulsory licensing. It also proposes ways in which TRIPS might be modified, creating a new “Declaration on TRIPS and climate change,” with exceptions for least-developed countries and small island nations and offer new incentives for the transfer of environmental technologies.

The report also works through possible changes to licensing schemes to streamline the process for developing countries, including possible temporary licences granted along the lines of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The report acknowledges the “great political difficulties” in modifying a WTO agreement, but said treatment of technologies might be less crucial than broader objectives of TRIPS, “as evidenced by the progress in respect of essential medicines,” It added that governments might stress common interests in advancing the global public good of a stable climate.

The report also urges open-source sharing of information access, and increased sharing of public research and development results. It suggested the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-Sharing of the international plant genetic resources treaty as a model.”

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