27 December 2010

Today’s Global Patent System Can‘t Manage the Worldwide Challenges of Our Future, Says Professor Drahos

Peter Drahos - Professor in Law and Director of the Centre for the Governance of Knowledge and Development at the Australian National University, Chair at the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institurte, Lawyer, Political Scientist, and Philosopher - recently gave an interview to the EPO Staff Union (SUEPO), in which he took a critical view at the functioning of the global patent system.

Based on a detailed study of the patent systems of 45 rich and poor countries, he argued in his latest book ("The Global Governance of Knowledge") that patent offices have become part of a globally integrated private governance network serving the interests of multinational companies, while the Trilateral Offices (EPO, USPTO, JPO) make developing country patent offices part of that network. Contrary to this development, Drahos recommends that patent offices should better recapture the spirit of an "original patent social contract", which Drahos identifies in the medieval idea of a fair exchange in which both parties receive something of value.

In the interview, Professor Drahos more concretely took the position that today a principal task of international governance is (or should be) establishing a global risk management to better manage  risks, such as climate change, food security, loss of biodiversity, or pandemics, which will require much more sharing and diffusion of knowledge and technology.

Against this backdrop, Drahos thinks that today’s global patent system is inappropriate to tackle the future challenges of mankind and postulates that patent offices should batter take a leadership role in networks made up of civil society, health departments, competition authorities and, by this, should become champions of a people’s social contract. Otherwise, he predicts, patent offices will spend their time handing out customer satisfaction surveys to their multinational clients.

The visionary interview, which appears to be structured along the lines of his latest book, covers the following issues:
  • the "colonial" influence of the trilateral offices on the rest of the patent world;
  • the lack of political influence of the patent offices;
  • the patent system makes a poor job regarding transparancy of knowledge; and
  • ways back to the "social contract" of patents.