India slams U.S. on University partnerships with industry

India speaking at the WTO TRIPS Council, 25 Feb 2014

A great outline of the whole public-interest/UAEM/India’s argument on this issue.

“The proponent of this agenda item would like us to believe that IP would not only lead to innovation but by following the US model in their Universities, we could convert our national Universities into centres of growth and technology transfer. While the [Bayh-Dole] model has been severely criticised even in the US, the proponents would like the governments to forget about the resources that they have invested in the Universities, provided these institutions demonstrate their output in the form of the number of patents that they have registered or the number of licensing agreements with the commercial entities. The over-emphasis on IP may thus deviate the focus of the Universities from basic research and teaching to that of meeting the commercial needs of the industry. We therefore fail to understand the model where the government spends money but does not have any role in deciding the priorities for the Universities. Thus, in an IP centric model, even if the government would have a priority for research in neglected diseases like Malaria or Typhoid to meet the needs of its large population, the Universities may prefer to work on the diseases that could provide them better returns.

Chair, the model proposed by the US assumes that IP can facilitate innovation and transfer of technology. It may be relevant to a very few countries that have abundant resources and IP to protect. But the model cannot be extrapolated to other countries having very limited resources. In the developing countries, where the governments have limited funds even to attract the best brains to their Universities or to develop their basic infrastructure, by defining the output of a university through a narrow focus on the number of registered patents, we suspect that the Universities could become commercial enterprises by deviating from their objective of teaching and basic research. They would thus end up spending their limited resources on patent litigations and looking for opportunities to collaborate with industry.

Finally, we must not ignore the fact that most of the economic contribution of public sector research institutions has historically occurred without patents—through dissemination of knowledge, publications, presentations at conferences, and training of students. Throughout the 20th century, the universities were the most powerful vehicles for the diffusion of basic and applied research by ensuring that their research remained in the public domain and the industry and other public sector researchers could use it . By creating exclusive rights over the output of research we suspect that it would result in over commercialisation of universities and may lead to issues of corruption, conflicts of interest etc.”


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