WASHINGTON—Intellectual property rights have come under heavy attack in recent years from a loose coalition of academics, nongovernmental organizations, multilateral groups, and others whose opposition threatens to undermine much-needed innovations for advanced and developing economies alike, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).
Ahead of tomorrow’s World Intellectual Property Day, ITIF, the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, calls for a robust, coordinated effort on the part of countries that honor and protect IP rights to push back against opponents, make the case that IP is central to global progress, and strengthen the international framework of IP rules, norms, and cooperation.
“Opponents have been working to undercut IP rights covering everything from breakthrough drugs to information technologies to creative content. They claim IP rights benefit big corporations at the expense of human freedom and the diffusion of ideas, which is wrong. It’s time for countries that know better to mount a counteroffensive,” said Stephen Ezell, ITIF’s vice president for global innovation, who co-authored the report. “Left unchecked, opponents of IP rights will imperil progress on commonly shared global challenges such as climate change, disease prevention and treatment, and economic growth. We need a stronger and more wide-ranging consensus on the importance of IP to every country in the world.”
The ITIF report calls on countries that currently provide and protect robust IP rights—such as the United States, Commonwealth nations, European Union members, Japan, and Korea, among others—to recognize that new energy, new tactics, and a new strategy are needed to encourage more nations to contribute more and detract less from global innovation.
To chart a new way forward for IP internationally, the report recommends that countries:
- Reframe the debate from one that sees IP rights as a win-lose system to one that sees robust IP rights as a key to maximizing global innovation;
- Develop an “all-points strategy” in which nations and their key innovation-supporting institutions actively advocate for IP rights and contest the activities of IP opponents on all fronts; and
- Expand “non-agreement” cooperation by increasing funding for targeted IP technical assistance and capacity building, and by creating a global program to support scientific research in developing countries.
“There are legitimate debates to be had about how to balance IP rights and public interests in domestic law and trade agreements—such as whether patents should be subject to a second review—but there must be a shared understanding that it is critical to honor and protect IP,” said Nigel Cory, ITIF’s associate director for trade policy, who co-authored the report. “Opponents too often abandon all nuance and insist on a wholesale diminution of IP rights. They make specious, counterfactual arguments, including that IP somehow depresses growth. The countries that best recognize the essential link between IP and innovation need to aggressively counter that narrative and make the case for the centrality of IP to global progress.”