Experts Champion the Public Interest in International Intellectual Property Law at Inaugural Global Congress

Final Declaration Calls for Advocacy and Innovative Solutions

Experts and advocates working on international intellectual property (IP) issues, including the EU's consideration of ACTA and U.S. involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, came together at American University Washington College of Law Aug. 25-27, 2011 for the inaugural Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest.

With nearly 200 academics, practitioners, and government and private sector participants from 35 countries, the Global Congress served as a site for sharing research, ideas, and policy proposals for how international IP law can better protect global public interest concerns. The Global Congress took recent research and advocacy interventions, such as the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies report, as a starting point for discussion.

"We were incredibly pleased to host the inaugural Global Congress," said Dean Claudio Grossman. "It is our hope that the 2011 Congress will build a positive agenda for IP policy in the next decade. We're working toward proposals that maximize both technological and cultural innovation and the broader, global public interest."

The final proposals from the collective Global Congress were released in the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest on Monday, Sept. 5, 2011. The declaration calls for advocacy to promote creativity and innovation through measures such as open information policies, limitations and exceptions to IP rights, reforms to the patent system, promotion of a free Internet, and policies that encourage the development of innovative models for rewarding creativity. It also pushes for the needs of developing countries to be properly addressed by the international IP system. Finally, the declaration encourages public policy to be made openly while weighing the costs and benefits of the presence and absence of IP rights.

"The priority of the declaration is to advocate for policies that correct current imbalances in intellectual property law," explained Michael Carroll, director of the law school's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP). "We want to change how those laws are enforced by broadening the public's access and use rights to a wide range of information."

The rest of the Congress was devoted to a series of meetings and panels designed to build a positive IP agenda. The opening plenary session featured the release of a draft report on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the public interest commissioned by the EU Parliament Green Party. The report specifically addressed the threats to public access to medicines posed by ACTA. Sean Flynn, associate director of PIJIP, authored the draft which outlined two central arguments against the proposed agreement.

"First, the secretive nature of the ACTA negotiation process undermined the ability for stakeholders—consumers, patients, and average citizens—to participate in the drafting of this agreement," said Flynn. "Further, ACTA's provisions require or encourage member countries to raise IP enforcement standards on medicines. This includes developing countries. So, parts of this agreement only keep a small group of commercial interests in mind, yet could negatively impact public health worldwide."

The Global Congress was co-hosted by the law school's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Fundação Getulio Vargas's Center for Technology and Society (Brazil), the American Assembly at Columbia University, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (Geneva), and the Institute for Global and International Studies at George Washington University.

Speakers & panelists for the event included:

  • Leon Sanchez Ambia, professor, Creative Commons Mexico
  • Jonathan Band, owner, Policybandwidth
  • John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney, Public Knowledge
  • Flavio Bettarello, head of intellectual property, Embassy of Brazil
  • Michael Carroll, professor of law, director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law
  • Carlos Correa, professor, University of Buenos Aires
  • Sean Flynn, associate director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, professorial lecturer in residence, Washington College of Law
  • Christophe Geiger, director general, CEIPI -University of Strasbourg
  • Andres Guadamuz, associate director, SCRIPT Centre
  • Peter Hugenholtz, professor, Institute for Information Law
  • Peter Jaszi, professor of law, faculty director of the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic, Washington College of Law
  • Erik Josefsson, adviser on internet policies, Greens/EFA Group
  • Margot Kaminski, executive director, Yale ISP
  • Amy Kapczynski, assistant professor, Berkeley Law
  • Joe Karaganis, program director, The American Assembly
  • Matt Kavanagh, director of US Advocacy, Health GAP
  • Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, United Nations
  • Ahmed Abdel Latif, senior programme manager, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
  • James Love, director, Knowledge Ecology International
  • Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines program director, Public Citizen
  • Matthew Porterfield, senior fellow and adjunct professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Alberto Cerda Silva, professor of Cyber Law, University of Chile Law School
  • Rashmi Rangnath, director, Global Knowledge Initiative, Public Knowledge
  • Judit Rius, manager of Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Doctors without Borders
  • Pamela Samuelson, professor, Berkeley Law School
  • Matthew Schruers, vice president, Law & Policy Computer & Communications Industry Association
  • Sangeeta Shashikant, Third World Network
  • Kimberlee Weatherall, senior lecturer in law, The University of Queensland
  • Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder, spokesperson, La Quadrature du Net