Intellectual Properties: Alternative Strategies to Value Creation in Life Sciences
Paper in proceedings, 2006
Intellectual properties (IP) has not been an important issue when discussing development in poorer countries in the South. One reason is that the patent system, which is one essential component of IP, was developed based on needs of the industrialized countries to stimulate and protect their innovators. Consequently, the share of patents granted to developing countries during the past 15 years has been almost negligible. However, both among academics and policy makers there is a growing awareness that IP could become important for development in the South. First, the legal infrastructure and its practice, such as ownership rights and intellectual properties can be of great importance, including using properties as capital for financing investment in innovation. Second, there is also a growing interest in IP because of the market potential of innovations based on the bio-diversity assets. Part of this potential could be developed based on what indigenous people already are aware of, which poses specific questions on rights and ownership.
In some countries in the South there has been a non-patenting tradition as a response to the difficulty to protect local knowledge. Scholars looking at the issue from an academic standpoint suggest publishing as a general strategy of protection of ideas from the South. Also within the framework of WIPO, there have been discussions on the role of IP in the South, including creating special conditions for the South, e.g. to promote free sharing of IP among developing countries (PIPRA) while at the same time protecting this IP from the competition from the North. Another issue is if it is ethical to protect foreign innovators rights in a developing country, as it blocks imitation, which could be a viable road towards development for countries in the South. Especially, the strong conflictive dimensions of bio-innovation systems for the South have been emphasized, e.g. the very weak attention by the international biomedical research a genda to ‘illness of poverty’, the difficulties to enforce norms that protect the environment and the bio-diversity, and the discussions about IP rights concerning use of biological knowledge.
In the industrialized world there is a new trend, which closely combines intellectual property with entrepreneurship – particularly within knowledge-based industries such as internet-/software-based and life sciences. Knowledge-based innovation, through start-up of new firms or renewal of existing firms, is also an important strategy for development in some countries in the South. However, in many countries the structures for intellectual properties are very weak, and the understanding both within industry and university is limited. In addition, the law enforcement is practically non-existent which even more limits the interest of the industry and university to use intellectual properties for value creation.
The paper analyzes the status of intellectual property in two Latin American countries and discusses alternative strategies for promoting and protecting knowledge on national as well as on university and company levels, with specific reference to the situation for life sciences.
The discussion primarily refers to the situation in Latin America, and more specifically to two of the poorest countries in the region in terms of economic development, Bolivia and Nicaragua. These two countries are however simultaneously immensely rich when it comes to bio-diversity. The analysis is based on 110 interviews with representatives for different stakeholders, such as industry, government, university, financial sector, NGOs, patent offices. With this analysis as a base, the paper presents alternative strategies for promoting and protecting knowledge in order to make it available and utilized on markets (to make business from or trade) and by society. The necessity of developing different and complementary strategies to satisfy needs from different stakeholder perspectives is emphasized, e.g. for indigenous populations, local and international business, universities and society. The paper concludes that there is not one answer to the question on how to create value from indigenous knowledge, and there is not one strategy that fits all possible applications. Instead, there is a need of developing competence in analyzing and selecting among different strategic alternatives, including the use of IPRs. This competence development includes intellectual assets management and intellectual property management, which today both are weak in countries in the South. However, for value creation based on biodiversity and bioscience, there is also a need of developing capabilities in the area of intellectual capital management, which can be seen as a very big step, but a necessary step in order to take part in value creation in an interconnected world, where economic development to an increasing extent is dependent on knowledge based industry.