The function of the intellectual
property (IP) system is to encourage innovation and creativity.
Patents, in particular, are a statutory mechanism encouraging
innovation. Upon describing the details of a new invention,
and filing appropriate papers and fees, and inventor can obtain
a certificate excluding others from practising the invention,
provided that certain statutory standards have been satisfied.
However, the real world points should be mentioned.
First, any legal mechanism is imperfect and the patent system
is an example. Second, the real working of the patent system
varies from industry to industry. Third, attitudes toward IP
are cyclic over time.
At the international level, there have been
recent efforts to negotiate stronger patent principles at WIPO.
In addition, there are substantial efforts, particularly by
the US, to negotiate bilateral arrangements to strengthen IP
rights. Meanwhile, major patent offices are facing enormous
increases in their search load and are looking for ways to share
Within the developed world, there has been a
recent series of critiques of the patent system. Not only do
these critiques seek to change the standards for granting patents,
they also seek to facilitate the use of patented inventions
in the course of research.
For developing nations, the issue is whether
the patent system as currently practised, or as reformed in
ways suggested, is economically beneficial. For example, the
2002 Report of the independent UK Commission on Intellectual
Property Rights, one size does not fit all.
Envisaging an IP system for the future and considering
a WIPO Development Agenda, Professor John Barton outlined five
recommendations relating to:
- Sensible standards on patents;
- A management system for bilateral agreements;
- Intellectual property and antitrust;
- Technology transfer barriers; and
- Sectoral agreements (e.g. pharmaceuticals,