Bangladesh delivered the following intervention at the February 2014 WTO TRIPS Council on agenda item 12 (IP and Innovation: University Technology Partnerships). The United States of America tabled this standalone agenda item on University Technology Partnerships in the context of IP and Innovation.
IP and Innovation: University Technology Partnership
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
We appreciate the initiative of the United States for introducing this issue and welcome the debate and exchange of ideas in the Council. This issue of University Technology Partnership is important for both the developed and the developing countries, but may be for different reasons. We agree that University Technology Partnership could be an important driver of economic growth. But there are two types of universities, government and private. We have nothing to say about the role and function of private universities as they usually operate as private companies. That’s why private universities are free to indulge into any kind of commercially beneficial research and resort to patent protection. But public universities funded by the government in the developing countries like Bangladesh are different cases. Because government is accountable to the people for the money they spend in all the sectors which include education, research and universities. So while we describe the role of University Technology Partnership regarding IP and innovation it is obvious that it will not play the same role in all the countries with the same effect.
The present global IP regime does not provide a level playing field and does not necessarily promote innovation and development equally in all the countries. In most of the developing countries and in all the LDCs, the private sector does not have the capacity to invest heavily in research and development. It is the government and public sector which fill the gap created by the absence of the private sector in research. Big educational institutions like universities and government research organizations do the bulk of research for the benefit of the common people. Government sponsored universities and research organizations in the field of higher education in Bangladesh had developed high yielding tea, paddy and jute in the field of agriculture and all the peoples of Bangladesh are benefitting from these inventions. Domestically prepared oral rehydration salt for the treatment of diarrhea was invented in Bangladesh by a government sponsored disease research centre which is now saving the lives of millions all over the world. However, for the interest of the people, these inventions were not protected. So we agree with US that Universities can be an important source of IP and innovation but due to lack of any identifiable transfer of technology and due to the spirit of universal benefit, public universities in the developing countries should always cater to the needs of the people based on the priorities for the social development and protecting and patenting their achievements for the commercial interest could be counter-productive to the idea of development.