In his opening remarks to the seminar, Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun highlighted that we are approaching the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), signed in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 15 April 1994. He said:
"That Agreement was a landmark recognition of the importance of the knowledge component of trade. Yet in the years since conclusion, digital disruption has utterly transformed the interplay between trade and knowledge. This radical transformation creates a compelling need to update our understanding of the context for TRIPS rules and the intellectual property system within the framework of trade and development policy.
"We need to fundamentally update both our theoretical understanding, and the empirical, factual base we work from. This is important, too, because in this period, development policy has laid increasing emphasis on the knowledge component of trade, and has raised practical questions of how developing economies can make best use of the opportunities provided by the knowledge economy: SDG 9, notably, identifies innovation as such as a goal for sustainable development." His full speech is available here.
Organized by the WTO's Intellectual Property, Government Procurement and Competition Division (IPD) in partnership with the Trade in Services Division and the Economic Research and Statistics Division (ERSD), the seminar aimed at reviewing the current legal and policy landscape for trade in knowledge and providing an integrated overview and broad-based range of cutting edge expertise from the world's leading experts in this area.
Over 20 internationally renowned economist lawyers and policy makers examined, together with participants, how to map and assess the impact of knowledge flows across borders and contributed to charting the legal, economic and policy dimensions of such flows. Professor Keith Maskus of the University of Colorado, United States, delivered the keynote presentation.
Five main themes were covered by the seminar, including: mapping the interface between trade, intellectual property rules and knowledge flows; measuring trade in knowledge; the impact of knowledge flows on trade and development; policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks; and the way forward on trade rules and economic implications for cross-border knowledge flows. See the full programme here.
The 29 government officials, currently working on IP and trade-related issues and the digital economy, were from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Republic of Korea, Seychelles, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
The group also included 13 Geneva-based delegates representing nine WTO members: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, the Russian Federation, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The seminar was backed up by extensive economic, legal and policy research materials on IP and knowledge flows in the digital area. The WTO Secretariat intends to provide an updated foundation for future technical assistance. Speakers and other international experts contributed to finalising th materials in the form of a set of capacity building tools for developing country officials, both as a tailored website and as a book.
In their feedback, participants said the seminar provided concrete data that can be used to further develop the understanding of the complex role of IP in the contemporary world and highlighted the value of presentations to better understand the link between IP and trade in services, particularly in terms of measuring knowledge flows.
Participants underlined that the seminar provided the opportunity for a fruitful exchange of ideas and best practices among countries as well as for understanding the intersection of IP, technology and trade, and various enforcement issues. These include internet service provider liability, voluntary initiatives addressing IP infringement in the online environment, federal criminal enforcement and international cooperation initiatives, and copyright protection and enforcement.