In Search of New IP – Era of Sharing, Cooperation and Trust

(IPRinfo 2/2009)

Niklas Bruun
Professor, IPR University Center

In the past few years, the debate concerning the role of intellectual property (IP) in the present and future society has been intense. We have seen several reports and interventions on the issue lately – and the debate continues.

One of the interesting and consistent reports in the flood of documents addressing the issue is the “Gold-report”, named after Richard Gold, McGill University in Canada.

Gold headed a large expert group consisting mainly of representatives for Canadian university and bore the main responsibility for the report. The group also had contacts with many advisors and experts during the work.

The report is slightly ambigious: it focuses first and foremost on IP within biotechnology, but many of its findings and conclusions are presented in a general form. The group presents 17 highly interesting recommendations.

The report makes an important distinction between old and new IP. It argues that we are embarking on a novel, more cooperative era of IP. In this era, it is necessary to focus on sharing, cooperation, and building of trust in order to achieve working business models.

Era of new IP: cooperation and sharing
The old IP model focusing on exclusivity, blocking of others and a straightforward path from patent to commercial product does not work any more in the new environment.

In the new era, it must be recognized that knowledge leads best to new products and services if shared. The report argues that universities, corporations and governments need to focus on the way they use knowledge protected by IP instead of primarily on the rules governing.

Trust is essential to meeting the challenge of New IP. Innovation is furthered in the long run by sharing knowledge, not by hoarding it. Increasing attention to private-public partnerships (PPPs) – in which government, private foundations, industry and research institutions work collaboratively to develop new products and services – can only function if there is trust between the partners.

From confrontation to negotiation – but how?
The Gold report is highly valuable because it presents a consistent new perspective on IP. It has, however, less to say on how we can on a more concrete level achieve its goals to build trust and cooperation.

The report tends to see rules in this respect as an obstacle. In my opinion, however, this kind of cooperation platforms cannot be built without some rules concerning how the cooperation and decision making on claiming IP takes place.

The debate continues, but the Gold report can hardly be neglected by any one who wants to be serious in the developments of intellectual property.

Toward a New Era of Intellectual Property: From Confrontation to Negotiation. A Report by the International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property. Montreal, Canada, September 2008.