Intellectual Property and Development at WHO and WIPO


Recent activity at major intergovernmental organizations reflects a renewed emphasis on making the international intellectual property system work to foster global health in developing countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization1 recently approved a historic "Development Agenda" - a wide-ranging set of reforms that reorients WIPO towards development and reconfigures how the organization makes policy, provides technical assistance, and is administered. The World Health Organization has launched its own development agenda of sorts - an Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property that is tasked with preparing "a global strategy and plan of action" aimed at "securing an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, proposing clear objectives and priorities for research and development, and estimating funding needs in this area."

This Article describes these initiatives with particular emphasis on the proposals that have been approved or (in the case of the WHO working group) upon which Member states have reached consensus. The Article compares the initiatives and examines how they might be expected to facilitate collaboration between the two IGOs. Finally, the Article poses some questions prompted by the diversity and ambition of the proposals that make up the initiatives.

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