Beirut, 28 April 2019 (ESCWA)--By 2017, only 0.37% of world-wide patent applications were made at Arab Intellectual Property (IP) offices, with more applications from men than from women. This was one of the factors that triggered discussions at an expert group meeting on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) held recently by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to explore the status, challenges and prospects of intellectual property systems in the Arab region.
The meeting, held on 17-18 April, brought together 38 experts from the region, most of whom were government officials concerned with IP management in their respective countries, in addition to members from academia, research centres and the private sector. Participants also included representatives from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the League of Arab States (LAS) and Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO) to discuss the intellectual property systems of the Arab region.
Currently, there are only 671 researchers per million inhabitants in the Arab region, significantly lower than the world average of 1163 researchers per million inhabitants.
“IPRs are important for better economic growth and increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as they boost national and international competitiveness”, stated ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Mounir Tabet in his opening remarks.
“They enhance trade and services and positively impact job markets as they provide protection to innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, they could support social development and safeguard cultural heritage,” he added.
While Arab countries’ spending on research and development varies between 0.04 and 0.7% of their GDP, well below the world average of 1.68%, the protection that IPRs afford helps to preserve identity, culture and indigenous knowledge, and build pride in national and regional achievements.
Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab Countries for WIPO Walid Abdelnasser highlighted the efforts made by the Organization to advance IP systems in the Arab region, despite a decrease in patent applications and innovations, naming Latin America as a good example to follow and stressing the need for discussions and interactions between leaders on IP and innovation to advance it in the region.
He assured that openness and exchange of knowledge and expertise should be encouraged among countries and between regions while mentioning the initiative of the United Arab Emirates to initiate dialogue on IP between Arab and Asian countries.
The expert meeting included 7 sessions, each focusing on a specific aspect related to IP. Presenters focused in the first session on the relationship between innovation and intellectual property, while discussions during the second session revolved around a draft report to be issued end of 2019 on the status of IP systems in the Arab region that analyses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with these systems.
Remaining sessions emphasised on the status of IP systems, initiatives and programmes in ESCWA member countries, promotion of entrepreneurship and technology transfer, gender and IPR and regional initiatives on IP.
The opening session also saw the participation of Lebanese Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Information and Technology Parliamentary Committee (ICT) Nadim El Gemayel who stressed the need for law enforcement and regulations from the government to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the face of continuous theft of innovation and creative products in the region. He added that the Articles on taxes in the Lebanese labour law include protection of copyright.
“In Lebanon, the government is currently working on special laws for the creation of start-ups and small enterprises, but the country needs further laws to protect entrepreneurs,” he concluded.
Two-days of informative presentations and thought-provoking discussions concluded with a final open conversation on Arab IP systems, where experts shared their thoughts on the way forward to enhance Arab IP systems and provided suggestions on enhancing the draft ESCWA publication presented during the meeting.
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