WORLD IP DAY 2024: A Postscript

WORLD IP DAY 2024: A Postscript

WORLD IP DAY 2024: A Postscript

Adebambo Adewopo

Once again, the World IP Day is upon us. The legacy of World IP Day has never ceased to impress on global consciousness a profound theme that always affirms the benevolent gifts of creativity and innovation to mankind. Since its inception in 2000 when WIPO first designated April 26 as World IP Day to raise awareness about the significance of intellectual property (IP), each theme has faithfully defined the timeless role of creators, innovators, and inventors in the flourishing of society. This year’s theme ‘IP and SDGs: Building our common future with innovation and creativity’ ‘shines a light on the central importance of innovation, creativity, and IP to achieving the 17 SDGs.’ Envisioned as ‘our common future’, it echoes the complex dynamics of IP and SDGs in a world that is faced with multiple crises as the 2030 deadline to achieving the UN sustainable development goals draws closer and closer. The theme reminds us of the collective but unliquidated burden of peace and prosperity for people and the planet and the role of innovation, creativity, and IP in the liquidation of that burden. WIPO’s theme strikes at the heart of the fragile sustainable development ecosystem and the central role of IP as a strategic tool in facilitating the SDGs’ realisation for the benefit of everyone without leaving anyone behind. In the intricacies of creativity and innovation, the theme finds cogency and currency in the tensions of the fundamental objectives and narratives of IP policies and SDGs weaved into the trajectories of our common future.

According to the UN, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is ‘a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity’. At the heart of the agenda are 17 SDGs which cover wide-ranging themes carefully organised into five thematic clusters of people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. These themes include fighting poverty (SDG-1), good health and wellbeing (SDG-3), quality education (SDG-4), gender equality (SDG-5), affordable and clean energy (SDG-7), decent work and economic growth (SDG-8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG-9), climate action (SDG-13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG-16), among others. SDGs reinvent a renewed worldview in which to define an optimal or somewhat perfect state for humanity and effectively usher the world into the age of sustainable development. Since 2015 when the clock started ticking, it was both ambitious and onerous to accomplish such a range of missions in 15 years in an already fractured world faced with challenges of development. Nonetheless, it is attainable given robust cooperation at national and international levels. Particularly, in the last three years, the world has witnessed more crises that may probably take more than the decade deadline left on the SDGs trail. The SDGs have engendered complex geopolitical debates on the implications of national and international policies and regimes on the global goals with each SDG requiring specific policy initiatives.

While the whole idea of ‘sustainable development’ has been a subject of contestation among scholars and development experts for decades, it seems we are in a constant state of reconstructing the idea and its intrinsic values right from its ‘Brundtland’ roots to SDGs as we have it today. In SDGs, we have found a global consensus on a common future that is being shaped by a diversity of local and global development policy-making. WIPO’s fidelity to the vision of development is evident both in its founding and normative history. Prior to SDGs itself, WIPO had launched the WIPO Development Agenda (2004-2007) and established a Development Programme focusing on global challenges in the area of health, food security, and climate change. Even long before the development agenda, and indeed, in the annals of IP norm-setting, successive instruments from both the Paris and Berne Conventions, the original pair, to the Beijing and Marrakesh treaty, the most recent two of WIPO’s treaties, development considerations and a balanced international IP system have been recurrent decimal in WIPO’s institutional templates.

It is instructive to this year’s theme that two more treaties, in a single year, are expected this year as WIPO holds two landmark Diplomatic Conferences that will further shape the vistas of creativity and innovation, and advance the cause of SDGs and our common future. Both the proposed Designs Law Treaty (DLT) that will assist the community of designers to ‘obtain easier, faster and cheaper protection for their designs’ in the domestic and global markets and the prospects of a new treaty on IP, Genetic Resources and associated Traditional Knowledge (TK) to prevent patents from misappropriating TK and associated genetic resources with new ‘patent disclosure requirements’ are testaments to WIPO’s treaty-making process and the promise of SDGs as more creatives, innovators and indigenous communities can be brought into the future commons. As an integral part of the UN sustainable development group, WIPO’s theme for this year reinforces its commitment to the 2030 agenda.

The world has continued to witness the immense value of innovation and IP in providing solutions to diverse social problems such as in health, education, vaccines, climate and energy crises, renewable energy, agriculture, food security, digital and biotechnologies, human rights, economy, and more. Yet as our experience has time and again weathered the complexities involved, the recurring intersections of the IP system and SDGs have raised several questions particularly on how the constant evolution of IP norms challenges the SDGs landscape and whether new and dynamic approaches to IP policy-making can and will deliver on development aspirations and SDGs. It is no longer in doubt whether policymakers and legislators have misunderstood the debates whether IP, be it in the world of copyright, patent or trademark, has far-reaching implications for SDGs and is a key engine of social and economic development among nations. While the pursuit of development is not completely a new challenge for the IP system, SDGs present their challenges in a new wineskin such that questions abound about whether the IP system would not require dynamic shifts in the operating norms to adequately engage the SDGs exigences in a world that is facing enormous inequality. In the developing countries especially, access to knowledge, digital economy and digital technologies, patents’ unfinished business with access to medicines, and public health questions in a post-pandemic world have continued to question the global commitment to the balance of the IP system in the realisation of SDGs. It looks promising that several middle-income countries are ascending in the recent ranking of the Global Innovation Index (GII) attesting to the rise of ‘innovative economies’ and the progress in advancing the goals of sustainable development.

On the continent, Agenda 2063 reflects SDGs in Africa’s aspirations for inclusive and sustainable development and taken alongside AcFTA and its Protocols, inclusive of the Protocol on IPRs, it aligns with WIPO’s vision of ‘our common future’ through the instrumentality of innovation, creativity, and IP situated in the theme. Recent legislative and policy reforms are gradually improving the existing national IP architecture. Though modest, they remain important to the development of the Nigerian IP landscape and provide new companions to the SDGs. On the legislative front, the three new IP laws – the Copyright Act of 2022, the Plant Varieties Protection Act of 2021, and the 2022 amendment to the Trademarks Act contribute to expanding the compass of promoting and protecting creativity, and access to knowledge; promoting food security and agricultural innovation through the protection of new plant varieties; promoting trade facilitation and ease of doing business. The objectives and substantive tenor have wider implications and linkages to a good number of SDGs, in particular SDG 1 (Fighting poverty), SDG-2 (Hunger), SDG-3 (promoting good health), SDG-4 (Quality Education), SDG-8 (economic growth) and SDG-9 (industry and innovation), SDG-12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG-14 (life below water), and SDG-15 (life on land). On the policy space, the draft national IP policy and strategy (NIPPS), the institutionalisation of the creative economy as a government ministry, significant in the milestones of the Nigerian creative industries, and the harmonisation of IP administration, another anticipated milestone this year in the context of the long-standing implementation of the 2014 White Paper on the rationalisation of government agencies, are pivotal initiatives in mainstreaming IP in national development policy architecture. The singular and combined impacts of policy, legal and institutional reforms are the impulses that are further advancing the dynamics of aligning IP and SDGs in the country.

Mindful that the task of harnessing the earth has always been man’s burden and his ingenuity from time immemorial, but as humanity trudges along the limits of a digital Pangea, the global community cannot relent in its aspiration for a future that all the creativity and innovation of its citizens can engender. Now, with a sparse 12 percent of SDGs achieved, a sub-optimal milestone in a post-pandemic era characterised by war, poverty, inequality, hunger, migration, climate crises, and other deprivations, the very antithesis of SDGs; more dynamic, and transformational interventions are on call to accelerate the SDGs milestones and revamp the broken global economy. This is how momentous the theme of this year’s World IP Day is, as it compels greater attention to the knowledge governance systems to implement pro-development and balanced frameworks that will help to achieve the sustainability that is so direly needed in these turbulent times we live in.

No Comments

Post A Comment