By Abiola Inniss:
year 2015 has dawned with the usual fanfare of greater things to come.
Caribbean projects are in the pipeline, along with activities to enhance
competitiveness and many gallant efforts by well-meaning
non-governmental and international organisations. The research has
shown, however, that without the impetus of effort that originates from
among the local innovators, there is no real change and no great
The efforts of some regional establishments, such as
Compete Caribbean, in instituting projects that should help in promoting
and developing trade and investments,as well as in providing some solid
knowledge-based platforms from which policy initiatives can be
launched, are laudable, but what next?
There is still little
response from CARICOM on intellectual property laws and policy that will
allow for the development of innovation and trade, both intraregionally
and internationally, and one wonders whether this is the result of lack
of informed policymakers or simply a collective phobia of international
intellectual property law and policy. Either way, there must be an
applicable cure and fast.
The history of international
intellectual property regimen in developing countries reveals that they
have faced a barrage of international pressures concerning their
implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights agreement (TRIPS), which is an integral part of World Trade
Organization (WTO) trade accords made by them.
Among the stresses
exerted on the countries have been WTO accession agreements, trade
sanctions and threats of sanctions, withdrawal of aid, diplomatic
intimidation, economic threats from large industrial groupings, and
bilateral trade negotiations.
Developing countries have had mixed
responses to these threats. In some instances, they have tried to resist
many of these pressures, and this has resulted in low levels of
implementation of TRIPS. In others, there has been hasty implementation
of laws as a peace offering to the developed-country bloc, which has not
balanced the interests of local economic and social policy needs,
resulting in chaos. Kenya's IP system is an example of this.
top-down system of intellectual property regimen cannot work within
developing countries without serious reworking and consideration, and
although there is considerable argument for the so-called TRIPS
flexibilities, which are intended to give developing countries some
leeway in the implementation of the laws relating to TRIPS, the point is
that implemented they must be. Commentators who argue strenuously for
TRIPS flexibilities seem to miss the point that it is the rules that are
themselves problematic, not how or when they are implemented.
what of CARICOM? The aspirations to a single market and economy carry
with them the recognition that there must be adequate responses to the
requirements of the world economic order and conditions, whatever those
It is a fact of our current existence that the world
economy is now heavily based on cybertechnologies, which eliminate
older, slower processes, shift transnational transactions to the
Internet, and create new and ever-evolving industries that are
propelling developing countries into technological and economic
Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Brazil and some
others are a competitive presence on the world stage to the point where
they can no longer be ignored. To this end, the United States has been
actively working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with 11
other countries, namely Peru, Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Japan,
Canada, Australia, Brunei Darussalem, and Vietnam.
aim of this agreement is to provide market access for goods made in
America, implement new rules for state-owned enterprises, have strong
environmental commitments and labour standards, and, most notably, to
have a strong intellectual property rights framework. This indicates,
above all else, that there is great urgency in the need to regulate the
international intellectual property rights space in a way that has not
been possible through TRIPS, and also opens the space for CARICOM to
evolve its own framework that will take advantage of this new era.
cannot but take notice that the United States has completely ignored
CARICOM in these discussions, indicating that the region is not to be
taken seriously in these kinds of international arrangements, with the
result that CARICOM and its single market and economy will be on the
receiving end of whatever trade deals and intellectual property rights
agreements result from this new arrangement with no way out.
it is the intention of the CARICOM policymakers that the region become
the sun, sand and sea playground of the rest of the world, but even here
it is doomed to failure because there are substantial resources in this
regard in many other parts of the world.
CARICOM needs to rework
its policies and get to work on becoming a respected voice in the
international sphere. It is time to get busy in the world of
international intellectual property.
Abiola Inniss, LLM, ACIArb,
is a PhD researcher at Walden University, USA, in law and public policy
and a graduate of DeMontfort University School of Law, UK. She is a
leading analyst and author on Caribbean intellectual property and the
founder of the Caribbean Law Digest Online. Email feedback to
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
January 18, 2015