The use of IP systems is highly concentrated and there are still a number of countries not yet reaping the benefits. Many countries still are unable to experience the positive effects that IP rights can have in helping them achieve their social development and economic goals. While we provide assistance today, our efforts do not always result in meaningful progress. Effective programs that facilitate access to IP rights and their management to drive advancement must take into account both the benefits that the IP system brings and the other challenges faced by Member States.
This holistic approach, anchored in policy coherence and an approach to technical assistance based on a medium-term strategy and appropriately adapted to context, is necessary for WIPO’s technical assistance to produce a lasting impact. However, it does not require establishing entirely new programs. Instead, we can better utilize WIPO’s resources and talent by coordinating our efforts across the organization. Each project we take on should be customized for each Member State with an aim towards independence. Our work should feature outcome-driven objectives, analyzed regularly to empower us to change course to adapt to shifts in the environment or priorities. It should also embrace programs to expand IP benefit to different fields, like rural tourism development and agroindustry, which tend to benefit from the quality of their products.
Putting innovation policy into context is crucial to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. WIPO must take a leading role in engagement within the UN regarding policies and programs that foster innovation (SDG 9). Efforts to reduce poverty and inequalities and to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth are accelerated by innovation and are therefore central to WIPO’s mission. This creates an imperative to engage with the UN system and Member States accordingly.
While WIPO can guide Member States seeking assistance, countries must ultimately take the reins to design work programs that will achieve their own objectives. The best results consistently emerge when Member States take on the role of a partner rather than a passive participant. The Inventor Assistance Program (IAP), a program under my leadership, is a good example of this. The IAP empowers the local patent office to engage in outreach and to more fully support their under-resourced inventors with guidance from WIPO. This demands moving away from ad-hoc assistance and towards strategically designed engagements that put countries on a more sustainable pathway.