Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 5: Intellectual property rights under the UNFCCC: without response to developing countries’ concerns
The negotiation of new international commitments to deal with climate change in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has generated an intense debate on the role of intellectual property and technology transfer needed for the adaptation to or mitigation of climate change. Not surprisingly, these discussions revealed the classical polarization between developed and developing countries on these issues, as manifested in other international fora, namely the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). While developed countries viewed intellectual property rights (IPR) as an essential instrument to promote innovation relevant to climate change adaptation and mitigation and to foster its transfer, developing countries considered that IPR may constitute an obstacle to the access to technologies needed to face climate change challenges and to comply with any international commitments they might assume to cut down contaminating emissions. Developing countries attempted, without success, to introduce provisions regarding IPR in the texts considered by the UNFCCC Conference that took place in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. Developed countries strenuously resisted such attempts. The United States, in particular, made it clear that they would not accept any reference to IPR. Some developing countries, notably Bolivia, submitted proposals that, as discussed below, were quite radical. Developing countries’ concerns on this subject are not new.
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