Thursday, 5 February 2009

Patents, copyrights and knowledge governance: The next four years

Anne-Catherine Lorrain, Intellectual Property Expert at the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), writes about the TACD conference that recently took place in Washington from 12-13 January 2009:

'As a new Administration has just taken office in Washington, and the European Union (EU) renews its institutions in a few months, what should the political agenda be for intellectual property?

This was the subject of discussion at the two-day conference hosted by the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) in Washington, DC - Patents, Copyrights and Knowledge Governance: The Next Four Years.

High-level specialists from both sides of the Atlantic, including law and economics Professors and two Nobel Prize winners – Joseph Stiglitz and Eric Maskin – and Bernt Hugenholtz, as well as NGOs, among them TACD members (Knowledge Ecology International, EFF, Public Knowledge, Health Action International) and industry people, among whom William Patry from Google and Richard Wilder from Microsoft took part in the discussions. Have a look at the full programme.

They discussed a wide range of crucial issues, such as:

  • the future of patents on medicines
  • consumer access to digitized content
  • “access to knowledge” (A2K)
  • the protection of the public domain and software standards.
The globalisation of the challenges faced by consumers and rights holders have made intellectual property policy one of the main features of global trade policy, and stimulated both international and domestic debates about how best to promote innovation and access to knowledge, including “knowledge embedded” goods such as:
  • medicine
  • software
  • agriculture
  • inventions that address climate change
  • scholarly research
  • databases
  • films or recorded music.

Both the United States and the European Union (EU) are facing demands to modify policies on patents, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property protection, coming from different perspectives.

There are high profile right-owner lobbying efforts directed at higher standards and tougher enforcement of intellectual property rights, and growing interest among consumer groups, academics and many innovative businesses to protect the public domain and retain or even expand user rights.

There is also much interest in exploring newer approaches to the support of creative and inventive communities, that do not rely on notions of exclusive rights.

With the organisation of this event, the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue has been calling for policy recommendations from the speakers, to be addressed to the US and EU governments.

You can read the recommendations and find out more on the TACD IP blog.'

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