Note: This page is intended to be viewed as part of a larger report.
> Return to Network of Global Agenda Councils 2011-2012 report


Issue Overview

The global Intellectual Property (IP) system is a tool for regulating and facilitating trade information and knowledge, along with innovative and creative goods and services. As economies become increasingly dependent upon knowledge, the economic stakes involved in getting the IP framework right are increasing.

The IP system incentivizes creators by protecting the economic rewards of their creations. At the same time, public benefits arise through the creation of markets and the disclosure of new inventions and cultural works, which ultimately pass into the public domain where they are freely available to all. By leveraging this public bargain to advance technology and cultural diversity, IP plays a critical role in addressing global challenges such as climate change, energy and food security, biodiversity and public health. However, while the successful application and transfer of IP has created great benefits and opportunities for many of the world’s citizens, the system today is under stress.

These strains affect the global IP system’s level of performance as the custodian of stable, secure, affordable, and transparent generation, protection, and sharing of innovation and knowledge. In response, global IP rules and practices need to adapt to new expectations and demands arising, among others, from the digital environment and the intensification of innovation.

 Council Focus

The Global Agenda Council has developed five streams of activity which it hopes to make progress on over the following year and years to come:

The Future of the Intellectual Property System

What will the Intellectual Property System look like in 2030?

IP Policy for Growth and Development

How do we support effective, evidence-based policy development in IP to support growth and development?

IP for the Poor and Marginalised

How can we improve access to the benefits of IP for the “bottom of the pyramid”?

IP and Creative Content

How do we support IP for creative content under conditions of increasing fragmentation and globalization?

Transparency in the IP System

How can we better map and access knowledge and improve disclosure in the IP system?


 The Future of the IP System

The Council has identified fundamental questions that need to be discussed, as they would potentially have a considerable impact on the IP system’s development, and therefore future:

  • Mechanics or machinery: How does the current IP system, which is largely a territorial system, operate in a world of global markets where there is international use of technology?
  • Compliance: How can the system for protecting intellectual property rights help to combat piracy and counterfeiting more effectively?
  • Governance: How can national and governmental IP policy-making processes be accelerated and made more efficient? How can multilateral IP policy-making processes be made to function better?
  • Architecture of Collaboration: What advances can be made in collaborating across the various institutions in the IP system?

IP and Online Creative Content

Copyright seeks to ensure that authors and other creators can accrue the economic benefits from their works. The internet, in making possible near zero-cost copying and global distribution of works, has undermined many business models traditionally associated with copyright, causing a perceived crisis in the system. These pressures are likely to intensify as we enter a new phase, where distribution of much digital content moves to a “services” rather than a “goods for sale” model, based upon streaming content from the “cloud”.

Markets in digital content and the legal framework supporting those markets have not kept pace with these changes. An important next-stage response is to ensure that the markets in which digital content rights are bought and sold are characterized by low transaction costs, speed and transparency. Such markets can encourage competition by making access to markets easier for new and innovative entrants. They can also be governed by codes of practice or protocols reflecting the balance of interests involved in the digital rights exchange.

As markets become more efficient, business models will adjust in response and it will become clearer how best to approach debates about the scope of copyright law against a background of continued, rapid technological change. In this new context, it will also be possible to re-assert effective mechanisms for enforcing copyright.

 IP Systems to benefit the poor and marginalized

IP Systems can benefit the poor and marginalized in a number of ways, such as:

  • Leveraging IP systems to foster the creation of new technologies and social innovations that benefit the poor and marginalized.
  • Developing new market incentives for IP owners to extend the benefits of IP to the poor through delivery of goods and services.
  • Leveraging IP systems to build capacity in poor, resource-constrained regions by licensing IP around important innovations of humanitarian value to these regions, transferring technologies and related know-how.
  • Harnessing innovative ideas of the poor by fostering a more inclusive IP regime.

There are a number of mechanisms that are currently being used to encourage the application of technology to the needs of the global poor and foster technology partnerships for real impact. However, to date there has not been a comprehensive review of these mechanisms and how they are being applied.

 IP policy to support growth and development

This stream focuses on the role of IP policy-makers, and considers the challenges they confront at a time of heightened public and political expectations from sound IP policies, along with demands for ever more inclusive and broadly based consultative processes, and increasing complexity of technological, legal, social and economic issues. Substantive questions such as patenting of genetic material and enforcement of copyright on the internet are multidimensional and controversial in character. Legislators and political leaders look to the IP system with strong expectations that it will function as a tool of innovation policy and as a means of ensuring competitiveness and innovation-driven growth in the knowledge economy.

The demands on today’s IP policy-makers are daunting; they are expected to:

  • advise on the IP dimension of a host of public policy issues, ranging from promoting cultural industries to addressing climate change
  • move IP policy-making to the centre of planning for development and knowledge-led economic growth
  • develop an inclusive and coherent policy framework for IP law and its administration, reflecting an evolution of the nature of IP beyond a technical legal measure
  • support IP-related policy debate and justify particular policy options and legislative and administrative measures for IP protection through the more systematic use of empirical data
  • work within an increasingly complex international legal framework and yet deliver tailored and appropriate solutions that correspond to distinct national needs and priorities, and consider not merely the mechanisms for granting and administering IP rights but also the context of their exercise, including through policies for managing publicly funded research and measures to encourage, or even to enforce, appropriate licensing practices

Transparency in the IP system

Patents grant exclusive ownership rights for a limited period of time in exchange for disclosing the technology and elements within it. This information is vital for SMEs and inventors young and old to inspire new ideas and enhance the value of products’ usefulness to consumers and companies.

The increasing availability of affordable information technology, coupled with progress towards widespread access to the internet, has made the theoretical promise of the patent system – near-universal public access to a global information service across all fields of technology – something approaching a practical possibility. Patent offices have taken impressive steps to shift from a base of paper-based disclosure to the provision of open and accessible online data services, with increasing recognition that managing patent data is not a formal bureaucratic process but rather the responsible custodianship of a global public good. But to realize the policy potential of patent information will require continuing investment of resources at the level of individual patent authorities, and coordination between offices.


1. Raise awareness on the central role of IP

Under the leadership of the US Trademarks and Patents Office (USPTO), a short presentation ( was created to explain to a broad audience a vision for a brighter future for our planet, for our world, in which IP plays an important role in ensuring that innovations become available to human beings everywhere, that they create economic activity and growth for countries developed and developing.

Together with a three-page document, this presentation is intended to be widely distributed, and made available to organisations, individuals and associations.

Next steps: Based on this presentation, a short film will be produced, with the intention that it is shown at conferences all over the world on diverse topics such as IP, innovation, global development, economic policy, global business, international relations, and related issues.

The audience covers a wide range of backgrounds and education levels, from world leaders and policy-makers to lawyers, business executives and staff, scientists and engineers, students, and lay people with little formal education. It should be accessible to audiences across the globe.

 2. Review and Report on IP system to benefit the poor and marginalised

The Global Agenda Council on Intellectual Property seeks to commission a survey of potential mechanisms that incentivise IP rights holders to address humanitarian problems. In particular, the purpose of the survey is to evaluate existing mechanisms – which work and which don’t – and to provide recommendations on how they might be improved as well as those enabling factors that might make them operate more effectively.

In addition to the survey, the report would aim at pointing out possible enabling factors that could assist the implementation of these mechanisms. Some of the possible mechanisms to be analysed are, not exclusively, Patent Pools, Open Licensing Schemes, Humanitarian Market Places, Public-Private Partnerships, Pull Mechanisms, Direct Investments, Patent Buybacks, Changing Legislation, Standard Licensing Terms, Differentiation of Rights, by territory or use, etc.

Next Steps: A consultant has been identified by the Council and will conduct the survey. His results will be available in July 2012.

3. Raise awareness on key initiatives enhancing the access to the benefits of knowledge for the “Bottom of the Pyramid”

Global Access in Action: Global Access in Action believes that licensing IP for applications to benefit the poor can be achieved without compromising core commercial markets of IP owners. Incubated by the Global Agenda Council on the Intellectual Property System, the initiative has matured in focus, governance and impact over the past year. From a governance perspective the Global Access in Action organisation has been incorporated and a board established to oversee the development. It is suggested to further support the initiative, which will identify companies, research institutes, and universities who have IP policies consistent with the ability to engage in technology transfer benefitting the poor.

The GTIF Invent for Humanity Marketplace: The LESI Global Technology Impact Forum (GTIF) is an annual event dedicated to the promotion of intellectual property (IP) licensing and technology transfer for the betterment of humanity. This year the GTIF will co-host the Invent for Humanity™ Technology Transfer Fair. Invent for Humanity showcases field-ready sustainable innovations, known as “Appropriate Technology”, leveraging the experience of licensing professionals to match and structure the actual transfer of such technology to meet recognized needs of emerging market economies. The council will support Invent for Humanity and use the GTIF as a mechanism to promote some of the work of the council.

USPTO’s Humanitarian Program: The USPTO is developing a pilot programme to recognize uses of patented technology that address humanitarian needs. The program seeks to develop business incentives for patent owners to participate. The council will support the USPTO’s efforts by promoting awareness and encouraging participation.

 4. Workshops on IP and Policy-making

The Council is currently discussing putting together a series of workshops/symposia leading to a Global Agenda Councils guide for IP policy-making comprising the following elements:

  • Broad principles that can be used to guide the development of IP policy
  • The practical craft of IP policy-making
  • Case studies and individual narratives – war stories – would be invaluable, but given all the more benefit from being set within a broader conceptual framework
  • Current substantive policy themes such as:
  • How do the real IP systems operate? Comparisons on copyright, patent and trademark systems among several countries, from less innovative to most innovative (Keith Maskus data and studies might be helpful)
  • How do IP systems integrate and globalize? The description of the main treaties concerning IP global governance. WIPO: Paris System and the PCT; Madrid System and Singapore; Hague System; Lisbon System. WTO: the TRIPS agreement.
  • Problems concerning IP system operation and use and IP system inconsistencies

Next Steps: The Council will follow up on the Brazilian and Chinese Patent Offices to host such workshops.


The opinions expressed here are those of the individual members of the Council and not of the World Economic Forum or any institutions to which they are affiliated.