This can help reconcile differences:WIPO Director-General

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a United Nations body, has pointed out the need for a second interpretation of global intellectual property law, one that balances social benefit with the need to protect investment.

This balancing could help reconcile the differences between developing nations such as India, and the concerns of multi-national companies and developed nations, according to Francis Gurry, Director-General of the WIPO.

“I think there are two definitions of intellectual property. One has been defined by the need to innovate, and, therefore, the need to protect investment. The second way is that it should not solely be about protecting the interests of investment, but instead should be about balancing social benefit with the whole mix,” Dr. Gurry told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

He was here to attend the 7th Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Dr. Gurry’s comments come at a time when the Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny Swiss major Novartis a patent extension for cancer drug Glivec has prompted some multi-national drug firms to re-think their India research and development investments.

Replying to a query, Dr. Gurry said that there could be a shift towards a social benefit intellectual property regime at some point in the future.

“While I don’t want to comment on the Novartis decision, I think that, yes, an intellectual property regime that balances social benefit perhaps could be in the offing. In the end, it is basically a problem of variance in purchasing power between countries. There is a global market, but no global consumer as of yet,” Dr. Gurry said. “In the end, the right balance must be found repeatedly. We will have more and more situations like Novartis in India, and we must see how IP can not only be about protecting investment, but also social benefit,” Dr. Gurry added.

(The correspondent is in Istanbul at the invitation of Microsoft)

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