Rethinking Innovation and Development: A Critical Review of Recent Trends in international IP Policy Reforms


Sisule F. Musungu, IQsensato, Geneva

The importance of innovation as a prerequisite for sustained development and as a determinant for success in trade and industrial growth is now widely established. Transforming the power of innovation into positive outcomes/impacts, especially for people in developing countries, and in the context of new challenges, such as climate change, however, remains one of the biggest challenges of our time. Part of the reason for this is that the international institutions with the responsibilities for developing norms and international cooperation policies on innovation and related issues are struggling to cope with the challenges of technological transformations and the competing ideas about how the knowledge society should be governed. An important issue in this struggle has been how to deal with intellectual property (IP) rights.

The need for reforming or supporting international institutions to adequately respond to technological transformations and IP policy challenges and for building the capacity of various stakeholders, particularly developing countries to participate effectively in IP-related norm-setting and policy processes has come in particularly sharp focus in the last ten years. Two main reasons explain this increased attention to reform. First, it has been argued that the treaties and rules on IP established through organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have failed to take into account development and public interest concerns. Secondly, it has been argued that some of the issues regulated or addressed by these organisations could be better addressed in other international organisations. The issue of innovation and public health and the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) is a case in point.

The efforts at reform have led to a number of important international developments in the IP policy arena. Some of the milestones include: the adoption of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in 2001; the creation of the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) in 2003 and thereafter the adoption of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property in 2008; and the adoption of a development agenda for WIPO in 2007. What do these events mean for the governance of innovation and IP, and in particular, for how innovation can be applied to address development needs in developing countries and least-developed countries?


About the speaker
Sisule F. Musungu is the president of IQsensato (Geneva), a research and communications organisation whose goal is to shape international policy-making on development. Mr. Musungu is a leading researcher and policy analyst on the development dimensions of intellectual property, trade and innovation as well as on human rights law. In addition to his research and policy work, he is also working on his PhD thesis on graduation and progressive regulation as a basis for differentiation under WTO patent law at the the Institute of European and International Economic Law, Faculty of Law, University of Bern. Mr Musungu also has affiliations and/or holds a range of other positions, among others: Chairman, Board of Directors, Health Action International (HAI) Africa; Member, Advisory Board, 3D – Trade, Human Rights and Equitable Economy; and is a Co-Founder and Joint Editor, Africa International Trade Review, a trade law and economics journal. Previously, he worked as an Associate Research Scholar at Yale Law School, as the Coordinator of the Innovation and Access to Knowledge Programme at the South Centre in Geneva and as an Associate at the law firm Hamilton, Harrison and Mathews in Kenya. He has also consulted for, and/or acted as an advisor, to various UN agencies and international organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), funding agencies and national governments. Mr. Musungu holds law degrees from the University of Nairobi and the University of Pretoria. Mr. Musungu’s research specialisation and interests are in intellectual property law and policy particularly the relationship between various categories of intellectual property and development; knowledge governance and access to knowledge; innovation for development; and international human rights law particularly issues related to the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. He also has an interest and has participated in a number of scenario building processes.

Venue: Keizer Karelplein 19, conference room

Date: 23 April 2009

Time: 14:00


UNU-MERIT