Patent information enables rainwater harvesting in Zambia

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO

The patent system promotes innovation by rewarding inventors for the time, energy and money they invest in coming up with new and improved technologies. But just as importantly, it ensures that information about technology is shared effectively.


Part of the deal when applying for a patent to protect a new technology is that each applicant has to tell the world what their technology can do and how it works. At a certain point in the patenting process, this information is published. So every time a patent is granted, the pool of publicly available technological information expands. This information can inspire new inventions and is also extremely valuable as a means of identifying technologies that can be adapted for use in resource-poor countries.

The knowledge and technology embedded in patent information can be used to tackle poverty, support economic growth and create employment opportunities without having to reinvent the wheel. Enhancing the capacity of least developed countries (LDCs) to access publicly available patent information can ensure that resource-poor communities get access to the technologies they need, and thereby significantly improve their livelihoods.

Helping Least Developed Countries benefit from patent information

In a move to demonstrate the benefits of strengthening use of IP-related and other technical knowledge in LDCs, WIPO recently developed and launched a pilot project under its Development Agenda. The project is being rolled out in three countries, Bangladesh, Nepal and Zambia. Its aim is to show how LDC governments can use IP-related information to identify and support the transfer of appropriate technologies and the social and economic benefits that can flow from this. Two priority areas for development have been identified in each country.

“Patent information is an invaluable resource, yet remains largely underexploited as a tool to tackle some of the major development challenges facing LDCs. This initiative seeks to demonstrate the practical value of such information to LDCs,” explains Kiflé Shenkoru, Director of WIPO’s Division for LDCs.

Such information can be used to improve agricultural productivity, for example. Poor food security is a constant threat to the livelihoods of millions living in resource-poor countries. But with the skills and wherewithal to access, manage and use IP-related and other technical information in the area of food production, these countries can boost yields through better soil management, irrigation and cultivation practices.

Harnessing IP to harvest rainwater

The water harvesting project undertaken in Zambia as part of the Development Agenda pilot illustrates the dramatic scope for improving the lives of rural...

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