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Press Release: India to Host 4th Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest

Posted by Geetha Hariharan at Dec 14, 2015 09:21 AM |
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The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is happy to announce that 4th edition of the Global Congress will be held at the National Law University, New Delhi (NLU-D) on 15-17 December 2015. The Congress is jointly organised by CIS, NLU-D, Open A.I.R., CREATe, Columbia University and American University.

In October this year, the 7-year-long negotiations leading up to the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) came to an end. The pluri-lateral TPP has not received the coverage it deserves; its provisions do more harm to users and developing countries than are easily spotted. For instance, the TPP has an anti-FOSS clause, which may prevent and prohibit governments like India from adopting open access and FOSS mandates in research.

This should cause public outrage. FOSS (Free and open source software), which allows users to freely use, study, adapt and modify the source code, plays a crucial role in access to knowledge and information. Many states, including India, mandate the use of FOSS in research and make open access mandatory. For instance, an IIM study says that India could save Rs. 8254 crores by implementing FOSS in schools and other institutions. But with the TPP, all this could change.

Access to knowledge is not the only sufferer. With our progressive patent regime, India is often called the pharmacy of the world. Indeed, we may go so far as to say that the poor depend on India for generic, affordable drugs. But the global story is far from India’s success. In many states, the pharmaceutical industry’s stronghanded lobbying has had drastic impacts on access to medicines. A disheartening exemplar is Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharma and KaloBio Pharmaceuticals. To public outrage, Mr Shkreli announced an astronomic hike in the price of benznidazole, a drug commonly used in the treatment of Chagas diseas. Mr Shkreli plans to increase prices from US $50-$100 for a typical treatment, to US $60,000-100,000. What is worse: Mr Shkreli is neither the first nor the only man in the price-hike arena.

Intellectual property laws are meant to balance innovation and access, serving the interests of rights-owners and users alike. But today, global intellectual property regimes prioritise the interests of rights-owners, often neglecting the consequences on users and the general public. The result is expensive barriers to access to medicines, scientific and academic scholarship, and technologies for development.

The 4th Global Congress on Intellectual Property and Public Interest, the first gathering in Asia of over 500 public interest-oriented intellectual property practitioners from across the world, seeks to balance users’ rights and interests with those of rights-owners. It brings together research, civil society, industry and regulatory and policy-making communities for active, intense engagement on key public-interest intellectual property issues

The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is happy to announce that 4th edition of the Global Congress will be held at the National Law University, New Delhi (NLU-D) on 15-17 December 2015. The largest ever in Asia, the Congress is jointly organised by CIS, NLU-D, Open A.I.R., CREATe, Columbia University and American University.

The 4th Congress is themed around “Three Decades of Openness; Two Decades of TRIPS” and will be organised in four parallel ‘tracks’ of (1) Openness, (2) Access to Medicines, (3) User Rights, (4) IP and Development. The Congress seeks to produce three outcomes — first, the mobilization of existing scholarly research directly into the hands of civil society advocates, business leaders and policy makers, leading to evidence-based policies and practices; second, the collaborative identification of urgent global and local research priorities towards generating joint research/advocacy agendas; and third, the solidification of an inter-disciplinary, cross-sector and global networked community of experts and practitioners focused on the public interest aspects of Access to Knowledge policy and practice.

Distinguished Speakers and Scholars

We are delighted to host a distinguished group of keynote speakers with a wide range of expertise. The Congress will open with plenary sessions featuring keynote speakers such as Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh, Vice Chancellor of NLU-D, Mr. G.K. Raghavendar, Joint Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Prof. (Dr.) Hong Xue, Director of the Institute for Internet Policy and Law at Beijing Normal University, Dr. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, and Dr. Nagla Rizk, Founding Director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at the School of Business, The American University in Cairo.

Throughout the Congress, participants will break into rooms for theme-specific presentations, workshops and panel discussions. In a decentralised, democratic manner, experts in the field will curate thematic, problem-based discussions in parallel ‘tracks’ to explore content.

In an interview prior to the Congress, several experts shared their views on the burning issues in intellectual property. Sharing his views on access to medicines, Prof. Shamnad Basheer, founder of SpicyIP said, “The gap between generic interests and patient interests are widening. As a result of this, there is increasing pressure on civil society to fight the good fight and continue opposing frivolous pharma patents. Also, we need to look into the specifics and determine whether the innovation brought forth by an entity really furthers personal interests or the interests of the community or society at large. Good faith is a large part of this equation and it can help determine if what one is doing is in larger public interest or private interest.”

On the same issue, Prof. Susan Sell from George Washington University said, “There are big differences between NGOs in the access to medicine movement and pharmaceutical companies. There are many representatives of pharmaceutical firms that really believe in the morality of their position – that you need protection to innovate the next generation of drugs. They sincerely believe that the development of drought-resistant plants is something that is good for the world. So these people also make a moral claim whether or not you agree with it. The point is such claims are not purely cynical or instrumental on the part of such actors.”

Dr. Michael Geist, Law Professor at University of Ottawa commented on the movement advocating open access to scholarly and scientific literature. He raised his concerns on Article Processing Charges (APC), a model currently employed by publishers, saying, “The APC model may price open access out of the hands of many scholars. We need experimentation with different open models, recognizing the economic uncertainty of switching away from high-priced subscriptions. However, APC may entrench much of the current model and is among the least desirable (though increasingly common) publisher approaches to Open Access.”

Concurring with Dr. Geist’s statement, Mr. Zakir Thomas, an expert in the field of intellectual property rights and open source innovation, said, “Creating a national depository of open access journals which are properly cited and indexed, organized subject-wise and searchable online by all our academic institutions should be the next step. Open access is about access to knowledge. It will ensure that the work you do at your lab is now accessible by people at large.”

New at the Global Congress

The 4th Congress comes with marked changes based on feedback from participants from the earlier editions. A Room of Scholars is planned, in which key research outputs such as advanced chapters or white papers may be presented. Another important addition will be structured Cross-Track Meetings, focusing on research cutting across tracks, so that the tracks may share learnings and research outputs, and enter into collaborative dialogue.

A ‘Youth Workshop on Intellectual Property, Public Health and Access to Medicines’ is a novel feature at this Congress. Organised at NLU-D by the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), Peoples Health Movement (PHM) and Prayas, from 14-22 December 2015.

The detailed schedule for the Global Congress can be accessed here.

For more information regarding the Global Congress or participation, please contact our team:

 

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About CIS

The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS, http://cis-india.org) is a non-for-profit organisation that undertakes interdisciplinary research from policy and academic perspectives on digital technologies and the Internet. Our focus areas of research include digital accessibility for persons with diverse abilities, access to knowledge, intellectual property rights, openness (including open data, free and open source software, open standards, open access, open educational resources, and open video), Internet governance, telecommunication reform, digital privacy and cyber-security. CIS’ academic wing seeks to understand the mediation and reconfiguration of social and cultural processes and structures by the Internet and digital media technologies.

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