Tales of Intellectual Property in the South Pacific

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Abstract

    Intellectual property laws have existed for many decades in a number of Pacific island countries (see Farran 2009). Yet, until recently, they have remained rather remote from the realities of both commercial and cultural life in the region. This is illustrated by the limited number of cases that have ever invoked those laws: only 16 copyright cases, no patent or design cases, and 14 trademark cases. 1 However, there has been a growing interest in such laws in the region recently. This has been spurred in part by the requirement for all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to ensure a minimum standard of intellectual property protection; bilateral and multilateral Free Trade Agreements, which often impose intellectual property requirements ; and repeated awareness raising symposia by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Largely as a result of these stimuli, many Pacific island countries are expending or poised to expend considerable resources in the next few years to establish or update their intellectual property regimes. For example, Fiji is currently establishing the Fiji Intellectual Property Office, Samoa is undergoing revision of its intellectual property laws and developing a national Intellectual Property strategy, Vanuatu has just set up a new Intellectual Property Office, and Tonga is updating its intellectual property regime in line with its WTO commitments. Justifications for intellectual property laws and associated institutions revolve around the creation of incentives for innovation and creativity, investment in quality, the protection of the natural or moral rights of authors and inventors and the prevention of free-riding (Forsyth 2003:198-99; Ricketson 2004:8-20). Intellectual property regimes are also claimed by some economists to be a 'power tool for economic development and wealth creation' (Idris 2003) as they are seen to encourage technology transfer, stimulate innovation and bring collateral benefits by strengthening the investment climate and attracting more foreign direct investment (UNCTAD 2007:93). Arguments such as these have been used in policy debates regionally and nationally in Pacific island countries to promote the introduction and strengthening of intellectual property rights. For example, in introducing the Vanuatu Patents (Amendment) Bill 2011 in Parliament, the prime minister stated 'Vanuatu is developing ... it is important and simple — if an indigenous ni-Vanuatu invents or produces something no one has ever done it has to be protected' (Joshua 2011). Further, at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in 2000, the ministers 'agreed that an effective system of intellectual property rights is one.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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