Caught in the middle: WIPO and emerging economies

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When the World Intellectual Property Organization was established in April 1970--with its origins tracing back to the adoption of the WIPO Convention in July 1967--the organization was at the center of a deeply divisive debate between developed and developing countries over the appropriate design of the international intellectual property system. A few years later, WIPO became a U.N. specialized agency. With the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, it coauthored the report entitled The Role of the Patent System in the Transfer of Technology to Developing Countries. The report’s pro-development views contrasted significantly with the traditional positions taken by WIPO and its predecessor. Those positions closely aligned with the views of inventors and their supportive developed countries.

More than five decades after the adoption of the WIPO Convention, the North-South divide continued to dominate debates concerning the international intellectual property regime. Notwithstanding these debates, the past two decades have seen the arrival of so-called "emerging economies." While this open-ended term has sparked disagreements among policymakers and commentators, most agree that the term covers countries such as Brazil, China and India.

How have emerging economies influenced the mandate, structure and activities of WIPO? What are the positive and negative impacts of these economies? Has their arrival transformed the U.N. specialized agency? Tackling these questions in turn, this chapter begins by describing the changing landscape in the international intellectual property regime. It then explores the emerging economies’ impacts on WIPO and its activities. The chapter concludes by offering insights into the organization’s future.

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Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series


Edward Elgar Publishing


Sam Ricketson

Book Title

Research Handbook on the World Intellectual Property Organization: The First 50 Years and Beyond