Innovation and creativity are vital to the world economy but the global intellectual property (IP) rules that govern trade in knowledge-related goods and services are a source of bitter dispute.
Creative industries – from entertainment and publishing to textiles and design – occupy an increasingly important place in many national economic strategies. Information technology companies are now among the world's most profitable. And the race to find better, cheaper cures for old and new diseases, develop greener energy sources and support more efficient production processes, has made policies that protect R&D investments and profits a top concern for business strategies. With one recent estimate valuing global IP assets at some US$300 billion, rules on intellectual property have grown rapidly in importance for many businesses over the past decade as they seek to gain legal security over the ownership of such rights and their enforcement.
But the global debate over IP rules, and especially over access to affordable medicines, has shown that IP laws can no longer be the domain of a small, specialized community of business lobbyists, IP officials, lawyers and international civil servants. Indeed, tensions over the appropriate rules for managing the creation, use and sharing of knowledge-intensive goods and services now engage a range of stakeholders in a vast and expanding array of global public policy debates, spanning issues as diverse as the environment and climate change, innovation, access to knowledge, education, public health, agriculture, the Internet, creative industries, biodiversity and food security, traditional knowledge, and genetic resources, as well as competition, industrial development, and science and technology.