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Intellectual Property Rights

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2003

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Last September, the Government welcomed the report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights "Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy" as a valuable contribution to the debate on the complex issues surrounding the interaction of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and development policy. I am now able to announce the publication of the Government's response. This is available in the Library of the House and on the websites of the Commission, the Patent Office and the Department for International Development.The Government believe that IPRs can play a vital role in the course of the development process for developing countries today, just as they did, and continue to do, in the UK, other developed countries and the most successful developing economies. The Commission's report emphasises that a prerequisite for sustainable development in any country is the development of an indigenous scientific and technological capacity. As the Commission recognises, an IPR system is capable of being an important element in developing that capacity, notably in those countries which have already developed a scientific and technological infrastructure. But, as the Commission's report makes clear, an intellectual property system cannot of itself ensure a country attains its developmental goals. The degree to which this occurs depends on many different factors, particularly the economic, social and environmental policies it chooses to pursue, for example, openness to trade and effective governance.We agree with the Commission that IPR regimes can and should be tailored to take into account individual country's circumstances within the framework of international agreements such as the Agreement on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The Commission also raises the important issue of how technical assistance from developed countries and international organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) can be provided so as to ensure that developing countries fully understand how to create an effective intellectual property system appropriate to their needs. The Government are committed to this goal, both in its own technical assistance programmes and in influencing those of international organisations.In setting up the Commission, the Government's intention was to explore how IPRs could work better for developing countries within the overall framework of development policy. The Commission has found that intellectual property does indeed have a role to play in promoting development but it has made a number of detailed recommendations designed to improve the way these rules are developed and applied, both nationally and internationally.The Government remain firmly committed to the effective protection of IPRs in order to stimulate continued innovation and creativity. This commitment is consistent with the use of various flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement by developing countries as the Ministerial Agreement on the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in November 2001 demonstrated in one important area for developing countries.I would like to thank the Commissioners for a comprehensive and well-written report. While there are those who disagree strongly with aspects of the report, just as others are in wholehearted agreement, nobody should ignore the importance of the issues it raises and the quality of its analysis. We hope it will continue to serve as a stimulus to ongoing debate on these important issues.