Technology is bringing the world, developing and developed, closer together and that increased connectivity has spurred an explosion in patent filings. It is a synergy of shared ideas and inventive thinking, but in a global economy built on information how do the owners of intellectual property capitalize and thrive on their work? Dr. Kamil Idris, an expert in this field of thinking, having served as the director general for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in Geneva, wants to create the framework that can address that question.
The challenges of globalization include counterfeiting, piracy, and the privacy issues surrounding the piles of patents awaiting approval, and this is in the developed world. Kamil Idris, a citizen of Sudan, has the vantage point of someone familiar with intellectual property from a region of the world that is failing to reap its financial benefits. This is supported by a staggering statistic: less than 2% of international patent filings originate on the African continent.
The issue can be represented by a fact far simpler than patents though: black market channels are clogged with a glut of fraudulent designer items. There are more nefarious examples too, such as the prevalence of foreign companies setting up shop in developing countries. They familiarize themselves with local knowledge and then sell what they’ve learned to the world. Idris sees these financial costs in the greater context of the toll that economic loss has on the human and social networks with which it is intertwined.
The framework to confront this issue is in the nascent stages, but the World Trade Organization (WTO) has instituted the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty. Idris, as director of WIPO, has championed and promoted both treaties by celebrating April 26 as World Intellectual Property Day. His hopes are that these are just the first steps towards confronting the demands of technology. As they currently read, both treaties are nothing more than agreements that intellectual property law needs to be reformulated for the digital world. Kamil Idris hopes now to see governments fall in line with WIPO’s lead.