PATENT INFORMATION FOR DEVELOPMENT: IMPROVED DISCLOSURE AND ACCESS TO PROMOTE INCREMENTAL INNOVATION
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This work has been inspired by my professional experience at the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the capacity of senior public services counsellor. While the Tunisian government is allocating more than 1% of its gross domestic product to fund R&D programmes, patent indicators show that 80 million patent documents are available worldwide; approximately 70 million of which, are in the public domain. Technologies within these documents can be freely accessed and legally utilised without the authorisation of the patentee. This work aims to explore, in theory and in law, various means of exploiting technologies in the public domain for cumulative research and incremental innovation. Its central hypothesis is that while article 29 of the TRIPS Agreement obliges the patentee to make a clear and complete disclosure, in practice, developing countries lack the capacity to access, retrieve and exploit such information for economic development. Because the disclosure requirement might not be necessarily adequate to ensure disclosure of quality patent information, exploitation of such information is less than optimal in developing countries. Therefore, the author further argues that a right of access to patent information should be made explicit in law rather than implicit. Furthermore, it is argued that improving the quality of patent information, in itself, might not suffice to enhance its exploitation. Because the availability of patent information does not always mean that it is accessible and easily retrievable, the work analyses impediments to patent information accessibility, and scrutinises methods of transferring technologies by means of adaptation and imitation. Ultimately, based on the WIPO development agenda, the work shows that various challenges have to be met by developing countries to enhance their capacity building to utilise patent information for development.
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