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Address delivered during the FORUM III

by Mr Henri Philippe SAMBUC
Strategic Leadership Senior Advisor
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

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On behalf of Dr Kamil Idris, Director-General of the Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), I would like to congratulate UNESCO and its Secretary General, as also ICSU and its President, for this very well organized initiative.

We all hope that the results of this week of discussion will lead to concrete changes and improvement for scientists from everywhere in the world and that major changes will occur both for the benefit of scientific communities and that of our societies.

WIPO is a specialized Agency of the United Nations whose mission is to promote, protect and disseminate intellectual property rights as  international cooperation in this area.

The place of science and scientists in societies is thus of greatest concern for WIPO which entirely adheres to all efforts undertaken to foster the development of a worldwide diffused, democratic and socially-oriented science.

WIPO's concern is deepened by the fact that science is at the heart of   creative intellectual activity and that Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are no longer  merely legal techniques but are the strategic backbone of economic development in an information-based society.

We have thus all reasons to pay special attention to some crucial questions asked by several participants during this Conference, especially as regards:

  1. free access to scientific information versus enlargement of  legal protection;

  1. the impact of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) in today's development of the developing countries.

I think it necessary to clarify the role of WIPO as regards these legitimate worries.

  • IPRs are rights enacted nationally by countries and have not been formulated by WIPO.
  • The TRIPS Agreement has been negotiated and accepted within the World Trade Organization in Marrackech in 1995 without any implication whatsoever of  WIPO.
  • WIPO has been requested to provide to developing countries its backing and support for the adaptation of their legal system,  which we are doing.

It seems necessary also to reiterate that, as a matter of principle:

  • IPRs ordinarily represent progress and a necessary tool for protection of legitimate interests of intellectually creative people.
  • Law protects the small and the weak. Usually it is better to have laws than not.

But it is true that IPRs are supposed to be used in a competitive market.

So if there are tensions today and these tensions have been expressed, it is primarily due to unbalanced market forces, which calls for legal, economic or financial remedies.

Having said that, please note that WIPO has already launched and will further launch global initiatives and tools which all aim at narrowing the gap between the South and the North, especially in scientific matters:

  1. WIPO is preparing a program to inform scientists about the use of IPRs to help lead to the application of their research.

  1. The WIPO Worldwide Academy has - in less than one year - already created an impressive network of high-quality universities and institutions in order to dispatch numerous distant teaching IPR courses and training.

  1. The WIPONET project is under construction to build a global secure network linking 220 intellectual property offices in 170 countries giving access to basic e-mail and information exchange facilities as well a number of applications related to Intellectual Property Business.

  1. WIPO is studying the possibility of extending the scope of WIPONET to scientific information. WIPONET could bring an answer, partially in any case, to the scientific information gap.

I kindly ask the present scientific institutions from the North and from the South and the capacity-building organizations not to hesitate to contact us. We think that we have a collective responsibility to get effective results as soon as possible through plain and open cooperation, without duplication.


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