SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. 

I am pleased to be here to close this important event – the first IP Researchers Europe Conference, integrated with the annual WIPO-WTO Colloquium for IP Teachers.

The format of today's event has been innovative. For the first time, the colloquium is concluding its two-week programme by integrating with a fresh initiative, the IP Researchers Europe Conference.

I hope that this has led to even more productive and constructive exchanges. I look forward to hearing in more detail about the results of the scholarly debate.

I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to this initiative, including

  • our hosts at WIPO, in particular my friend DG Gurry,
  • WIPO Academy executive director, Mr Sherif Saadallah,
  • and their teams. 

In addition, my thanks go to the University of Geneva, in particular Professor Jacques de Werra, as well as to Professor Irene Calboli.

And of course, I also want to thank our colleagues in the WTO Secretariat.  

It is very encouraging to see such strong interest in intellectual property, and that this is coming from both young and experienced academics alike.

The law and policy of intellectual property is known for being a technically complex subject. At the same time, it is fundamentally important for a host of public policy issues.

It is hard to think of a global issue today that does not have a significant intellectual property dimension.

Consider public health, innovation and access to medicines. Consider climate change and the development of green technologies. Intellectual property is central to these issues.

And of course, it is also a big issue when it comes to trade as well.

You only need to glance at the headlines today to see the linkages between intellectual property and trade. And it's clear from these same headlines that the relationship can be complex or even controversial.

For example, intellectual property is a key concern in the current tensions which we see rising between major trading partners.

And just yesterday, a WTO panel report was issued regarding Australia's plain packaging measures for tobacco products. It looks at the consistency of these measures with the TRIPS Agreement and WTO law. The report on this dispute addresses these questions in detail.

The WTO's TRIPS Agreement connects with a wide range of legal and policy issues.

This includes human rights, the environment, food security, the digital divide, innovation policy and many aspects of sustainable development.

We know that these issues can be difficult and at times divisive. Yet, the TRIPS Agreement itself articulates the objective of the IP system in positive sum terms.

It refers to mutual benefits for both the producers and the users of new technologies. And it is clear about IP's role in promoting social and economic welfare. 

How to achieve that in practice, and how to learn from the experience accumulated to date, is a big challenge for the international community.

Adding to that we have also seen a number of recent developments.

Last year the TRIPS amendment came into force. This was the first amendment to WTO rules in the history of the organisation. The amendment creates a new legal pathway for access to affordable generic medicines in the most vulnerable countries. As such, it finds a central place in many of the debates about the IP system as a tool for public policy.

This amendment builds on the Doha declaration on the TRIPS agreement and public health. With this declaration, trade ministers all over the world stated that public health is of overarching interest and concern. And they stated that WTO rules – specifically the TRIPS Agreement – must form a positive part of the solution. 

Following the Amendment's entry into force last year, we are now working to build capacity and the necessary partnerships to put this important new legal tool into practice.

Legislators, policymakers, administrators and the judiciary are all seeking to give practical effect to the broad principles of TRIPS. And so, there is clearly a vast amount of practical experience that we can build on.

It is essential that we learn these lessons. How we frame, administer and enforce intellectual property laws has a significant impact on growth and development around the world.

Recognising the critical role of the intellectual property system is also essential to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Intellectual property has a big role in helping to generate the innovations that will be needed to achieve these ambitious goals.

Expert guidance is crucial to help policymakers navigate this challenging policy landscape.

That is why the role of researchers in IP law and policy is so important. They help to provide valuable insights on where we are today. They also help to provide ideas and tools to chart the way ahead.

IP academics and their research can help countries and policymakers develop the domestic IP systems that they need to achieve specific policy objectives.

Today's event is clear proof of that. The colloquium has been a fixture of the cooperation between WIPO and WTO, since it was created in 2004. Now it has been augmented by today's conference for researchers. And this has evidenced the diversity and significance of contemporary research in this area.

One of the real strengths of the Colloquium is that it is a true conversation among academics and our organizations.  It has also helped to build a platform that involves academics and universities from all around the globe, from developed and developing countries.

As a result, the Colloquium has given rise to a remarkable network of alumni, who have gone on to play major roles as academics and as policymakers.

The rising demand and positive feedback for this initiative has been very encouraging. Therefore, we have decided to expand this initiative and develop a series of regionally-based sessions – this started last year in Asia, continued earlier this year in Africa, and we hope, soon, will turn to Latin America. 

The Colloquium has also yielded an important peer-reviewed academic journal,the WIPO WTO Colloquium Papers. It provides a unique collection of research focused on the developing world, where we are seeing many interesting policy developments in the IP field.

I encourage participants to learn more about this initiative.

In conclusion, it is my hope that this seminar today has stimulated a constructive dialogue, and laid the foundation for continued collaboration and the fostering of academic networks.

As researchers, teachers, and participants in public policy debates, we need you to keep helping us understand the important developments in this challenging field. Your work can help illuminate this fascinating legal and policy landscape.

So thank you all for participating in today's event, for your intellectual curiosity, and for your cooperation.

Let's continue this good work.

Thank you and good evening.

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