February 19, 2024

Empowering Least Developed Countries Through the Strategic Use of Intellectual Property Rights

In a post on this forum, I discuss how companies should explore the opportunity of generating revenue through licensing their hardware or software. While not implicitly mentioned, such opportunities are available when intellectual property rights (IPRs) are secured and the company is domiciled in a country where IPRs are enforced by strong institutions. But what happens when a company is based in a country where IPRs mechanisms are weak? How do weak institutions that fail to protect IPRs impact a country's economic transformation?

Writing the Forward for a report entitled Harnessing Intellectual Property Rights for Innovation, Development and Economic Transformation in Least Developed Countries, The Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) explain that "In an era when knowledge and innovation are at the forefront of economic transformation, the role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in shaping the future of least developed countries (LDCs) cannot be overstated." They also point out that the "report is not just a testament to the potential of IPRs in fostering innovation and growth; it is a roadmap for LDCs to navigate the complex terrain of intellectual property (IP) and use it as a tool for sustainable development. In these pages, we delve into how IPRs can be harnessed to stimulate creativity, attract investment and promote technological advancement in LDCs, thereby contributing to their economic transformation and development."

The report's authors explain that the publication "explores how LDCs can develop IP regimes to accelerate innovation, inclusive growth and structural transformation. It examines the economic rationale for strategic IP protection in LDCs and explores practical ways in which LDCs can unlock IP-related benefits and sequence the development of IP regimes, tailored to their local needs, structural characteristics and stages of development, to support innovation and development in both the formal and the informal economies."

What is more, the report "explores various forms of IP protection, particularly copyrights; GIs (geographical indication); industrial designs; patents; trademarks; utility models; and the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and folklore. Using these more strategically could help businesses in LDCs develop competitive advantages, while also encouraging innovation, fostering the development of productive capacities and boosting trade and investment."

I appreciate how this report contributes valuable insights, policy perspectives and practical recommendations on how LDCs can strategically use IPRs to drive innovation and development.

What are your recommendations for how to empower LDCs through the strategic use of IPRs?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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