Building coalitions on intellectual property strategy vital for developing countries

September 15, 2008

Waterloo, Canada - Developing countries have an unprecedented opportunity to restore balance to the global intellectual property regime by building coalitions that would better advance their interests in future negotiations. This is the finding of a paper released today by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) on the eve of the 2008 General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) taking place in Geneva from September 22-30, 2008.

Building Intellectual Property Coalitions for Development argues that developing countries can improve their influence in international negotiations around intellectual property by coordinating their efforts and building coalitions. Establishment of such Intellectual Property Coalitions for Development (IPC4D) could reduce the push by the European Community and the United States to ratchet up global intellectual property standards in the face of opposition in many developing countries.  If successful, such efforts could enlarge the policy space that these countries need for the development of their intellectual property, trade and public health policies.

The author proposes four coordination strategies that can be used singularly or in combination to develop intellectual property coalitions: (1) initiation of South-South alliances, (2) facilitation of North-South cooperation, (3) joint participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process, and (4) development of regional or pro-development fora.

The CIGI Working Paper argues that IPC4D can take many forms, such as blocs, alliances, regional integration and other cooperative arrangements. Working in coalition on strategic issues, developing countries could combat the external pressure that each country faces on its own from powerful trading partners. With appropriate arrangements, these coalitions may even facilitate the transfer of technology from "haves" to "have-nots," targeting a major weakness of the current international intellectual property regime.

The paper states that collective action on this front is crucial for developing countries because they lack sufficient representation in the WTO, which dominates current international intellectual property discussions. Moreover, the impending cessation of the Doha Development Round may mean even less of a focus on developing country issues in the next round of WTO negotiations.  Recent expansion of the international intellectual property regime has created a complex conglomerate that is likely to harm developing countries, the author states. On the positive side, there is an opportunity to take advantage of recent momentum to recalibrate the balance in the international trading system.

Building International Property Coalitions for Development was written by Peter K. Yu, the Kern Family Chair in Intellectual Property Law and the founding director for the Intellectual Property Law Center at Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa . To view or download a copy of this paper, please visit

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