Establishing IP Institutions in the Least Developed Countries (Part IV)


This is the last in a series of four articles. The preceding articles looked at some of the challenges faced by the least developed countries (LDCs) in seeking to build effective intellectual property (IP) institutions. We conclude by focusing on assistance available to help LDCs meet these challenges. And we report from the recent LDC conference in the Republic of Korea, a developing country... (see full summary)

Korea's example

On October 25 to 27, 2004, ministers and senior government officials from 21 of the World's LDCs met at the Seoul Ministerial Conference, organized jointly by WIPO and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) to exchange experiences regarding efforts to integrate IP into national development policies. The ministers declared their determination to address the problems facing their countries on IP institution building "with a renewed sense of common concern, purpose and objectives, by seeking opportunities to strengthen regional and international cooperation for using IP to promote national development".

Setting the conference in the Republic of Korea served as a vivid reminder that establishing effective IP systems is not an end in itself, but a means to promote economic and social advancement. For government representatives from LDCs, seeing the Korean success story first hand was inspiring. Here was a country which, 50 years ago could have been termed an LDC, had that classification then existed; and which today had risen to become a world leader of innovation in electronics, cars, telecommunications and information technologies. Hi-tech Korean multinationals such as Hyundai Motor Company and Samsung Electronics, visited by the Conference participants, have won widespread trademark recognition. The Republic of Korea is now the seventh highest filer worldwide of international patent applications via the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Meanwhile, the average per capita GNP in LDCs remains less than one-sixth that of the Republic of Korea. That fact helped drive animated discussions at the conference of the reasons underpinning Korea's success in building a knowledge-based infrastructure. Factors identified ranged from the foreign aid connected to its geo-strategic location, which helped kick-start development of its technology sectors, to the sheer hard work, focus and inventiveness of the Korean people. Keynote speaker Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate and former Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, stressed the importance of investing in education and research, and creating centers of excellence. He recommended that a trust fund be established for technology transfer from Korea to LDCs. "If Korea can do it, so could we!" - was the message that heartened LDC participants took back to their respective governments.

Recap: Cornerstones of IP institutions

Appropriate legal and regulatory framework to enable the protection, enforcement and commercialization of IP, while safe-guarding the public interest;

Efficient, transparent organizational structures to administer the system, including streamlined agencies within a national framework; and networks linking public and private sector IP actors;

A trained work-force equipped with both the technical IP expertise, and the management skills to deliver results;


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