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Editor-in-Chief, Anatole Krattiger
The IP Toolbox
Topic Guide for Policymakers
Why This Topic Is Important
The types of IP protection that are available constitute the fundamental toolbox that policymakers can
make available in their country to inventors. This section provides interpretive introductions to each of the
main types of IP protection that are relevant in agriculture and medicine—including patents, trademarks,
plant variety protections (or plant breeders’ rights), database protections, and regulatory data exclusivity.
Most chapters describe the IP laws in the context of specific countries, while some provide more general
treatments of the legal IP concepts including those developed as international standards in TRIPS and
Key Implications and Best Practices: Section 4
Given that IP management is heavily context specific, these Key Implications and Best Practices are intended as starting points to be adapted to specific needs and circumstances.
- The statutory tools of IP, such as patents, copyright, trademarks, trade secrets, geographic indications, and plant variety protection, are tools that can be used to achieve a goal. The tool in itself is neutral; what matters is how the tool is used.
- When setting up a patent office, notwithstanding considerable latitude provided under TRIPS, there are advantages in implementing practices that are consistent and compatible with the practices of other countries. Doing so will facilitate greater opportunities for international collaboration in R&D and technology transfer. Particularly important is making patent applications and issued patents available online. This furthers innovation and licensing.
- Copyright is also an important form of IP that can be used to encourage innovation. The recent trend, at least in the United States, to provide for ever-increasing duration of protection (now exceeding four generations) should be avoided as this approach prevents the availability of important commercially but insignificant works.
- The use of trademarks is important for building integrity and stability in commerce and for offering new opportunities for national innovations. Trademarks can also be highly valuable for public sector entities.
- Judicious plant variety protection of new varieties will encourage investments in the development of crops that are essential for food security, a better environment, and economic development. As with patents, domestic innovation, the transfer of foreign varieties for increased production and productivity, and spurring national investments in crop breeding can be enhanced significantly through membership in international bodies, such as UPOV. This can lead to the earlier availability of improved varieties.
- Notwithstanding the above, countries can exercise significant latitude in regulating access to certain categories of plant genetic resources they consider strategically important. Plant breeding, however, and the enhancement of crops, is based on the stepwise improvement of existing varieties, and this requires broad access to genetic material. Related to this are geographic information systems and corresponding data protections that can add substantial value to biodiversity resources and traditional knowledge.
- Introducing stringent confidentiality of data and exclusivity laws can prevent early introduction of generics and promote competition critical for improving access to life saving drugs. There is a need to balance the various competing interests.
- IP protection mechanisms, however, depend upon effective and equitable enforcement by national governments. This requires effective, transparent, and enforceable contract law that can be implemented to protect natural, cultural, and economic resources, all by furthering useful interactions with the global community. This balance is critical.
Data Protection and Data Exclusivity in Pharmaceuticals and Agrochemicals
by Charles Clift
Plant Variety Protection, International Agricultural Research, and Exchange of Germplasm: Legal Aspects of Sui Generis and Patent Regimes
by Michael Blakeney
The Statutory Toolbox: An Introduction
by John Dodds, Anatole Krattiger