WIPO - Policy Advisory Commission Meeting

SPEECH by Mr. Ion Iliescu, President of Romania

Geneva, October 11, 2001

Your Highness,
Mister President,
Mr. Director General,
Distinguished participants,

I take particular pleasure in attending, today, the third meeting of the WIPO Policy Advisory Commission, along with distinguished personalities, with a well-known and highly appreciated activity in the field of intellectual property.

We are finding ourselves on the threshold of a genuine revolution regarding property and the way in which we relate to it as people. In the New Economy, based on Internet and information technologies, where processes unfold practically in real time, we have been witnessing a dematerialization of property. Most important nowadays are ideas, under the form of patents, registered trademarks, reproduction rights, manufacturing secrets and relations networks because they define both the new forms of economic power and the ways in which it is exercised. Although for many it may seem a paradox, we have been trying to give shape to the immaterial, which now takes central stage in all human activities.

Since the dawn of the first industrial revolution, it has become obvious that there is an infinite source of richness in knowledge and those who have encouraged and promoted the exchange of ideas and information were in the center of modern economic and social development. Nowadays, economic globalization makes it ever more necessary to ensure the protection of intellectual property worldwide, which has a direct impact on the Research&Development activities. We have been witnessing a new dynamics in the business world, both in terms of technological changes and new models of management. Intellectual property represents the heart of commercial strategies as it is proven by the increasing part of the fixed assets in the value of enterprises.

The intellectual property must not be regarded only as an object worth being protected, but also as an instrument of development. Any country that wishes to achieve economic stability and growth needs a strong system of protecting and promoting the intellectual property, which should induce the trust and confidence of investors and stimulate creation. At the same time, we should not neglect the social, cultural and civilization related aspects of the intellectual property on which depends the fertility of the environment in which it asserts itself.

Globalization also asks for paying a grater importance to the general awareness about the system of intellectual property, which needs to be simplified, in order to be more widely accessible and easy to use. I share the opinion of Dr. Kamil Idris regarding the works of intellectual creation, in terms of sharing the benefits of knowledge and of the cultural scientific progress, in which respect "a globalization without marginalization" is to be desired.

Romania, as a country that finds itself in a wide-ranging reform process and in an effort of overcoming economic difficulties, Is interested in maximizing the benefits generated by creative and innovating activities. The governments that have succeeded to power in Romania after 1989 have applied the necessary institutional reform needed for the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market one, in the area of intellectual property as well. We want to have in place a legal and institutional framework enabling us to turn to account the spiritual and creative richness of the Romanian people, which we quite often allowed to be wasted. Education plays a key role in this process.

The relatively long standing tradition of the general and higher education in the Romanian educational system accounts for the outstanding performances of Romanian students in various international academic contests. The Romanian youths have always found their place among the world elites. Unfortunately, their abilities often mean a net loss for Romania because ever more young specialists are invited and rapidly accepted to work in the more developed countries. Our effort has to be focused on the programs meant to ensure the means by which young people can be materially and morally motivated to place their intelligence in the service of the country that has formed them. Although modest yet, in terms of means, a number of programs launched in this field have started bringing in results. This kind of problems is not necessarily specific only to Romania, as it applies to the entire region. This is one of the reasons why Romania regards the World Intellectual Property Organization as an essential partner for our integration in this area of globalization. If the intellectual property has become one of the important levers of globalization, it is quite natural that WIPO should become a global actor. WIPO can do that by assuming the new responsibilities in the effort of putting into practice the concept of "the knowledge-based economy" to the benefit of the development of all countries of the world.

As a promoter of policies having a global relevance, WIPO has to contribute to reducing the development differences between the center and the outskirts, between the North and the South, as well as to promoting non-conflicting relations between cultures and religions, ideologies and races. This mission entails that the current polarization - materialized in the increasing knowledge divide - has to be replaced with a new pattern of open networking, that all the players will benefit from, and so will the system as the whole. Starting from the premise that the patrimony of mankind's civilization is a joint work and that ideas know no frontiers, WIPO has to facilitate the access of the entire humanity to knowledge and to stimulate human intelligence.

The WIPO strategy and policies can boost even more some stimulating leverages, out of which I consider a few to be worth mentioning:

  1. The positive discrimination: the protection of intellectual property rights has to be carried out in a flexible framework. This would facilitate the access to intellectual property of the countries whose economic and infrastructure potential hinders them to benefit from the advantages of globalization under normal market conditions. It is quite legitimate that the nations generating intellectual and creative potential, which cannot be used in the countries of origin but only by third countries, should benefit from material compensations, associated to the exercise of intellectual property rights;
  2. Encouraging human resources with creative potential to stay in the country of origin: in order to insure that, we should set up intelligence partnerships, mutually beneficial for the countries having advanced technologies and infrastructure, as well as for those generating human creative energy. By keeping the creation potential in the country of origin, we would contribute to the increase of self-confidence, to the enhancement of the qualitative level of the human resources and, in the last resort, to the overall development;
  3. Participative approach: the inventors, the researchers of the entire world could be connected into networks of intelligence, into genuine transnational creation societies. Romania has a long and well known tradition as far as inventions are concerned, that cannot be turned to full account in the absence of the structures needed for transferring them to the real economy.
  4. Responsible approach: greater attention has to be paid to preventing and discouraging the destructive potential of the products of the human mind. Biotechnologies, genetic engineering, cloning, the use of the atom are examples that raise problems of risk, including moral risk. The political power and the civil society have to address these problems starting from the principle of precaution against the consequences of some of the products of creation. We should not leave ourselves be dominated by technologies or the monopoly of some ideas in economy, in politics or in matters of social development. A critical spirit is needed for the development of science and technology, but also for the normal functioning of democracy.
  5. Synchronization: the developments in the area of intellectual property have to anticipate and become synchronized with the future major developments in the field of communication technologies and with the process of transition to the information society. DATAGRID is, from this point of view, a project that can be set as an example.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Historical experience shows that values leveling has never been an engine for progress. Creativity is the outcome of the diversity of talents, of the freedom of thought, of overcoming inertia and of running away from the ordinary places. Protection should not degenerate into excess, capable of disturbing the nations and people's coexistence. Creativity should be stimulated in such a manner so as to also take account of the interests of the weaker and more vulnerable people. It is reasonable that we pursue those policies aspiring to reaching balance in every field of human interaction, the field of knowledge included.

Those are, in Romania's outlook, in my own view as well, a few of the challenges that WIPO must meet as a participant, alongside other players, in the multilateral effort towards normalizing, humanizing and democratizing globalization, so as to make it user friendly to all the countries, to all the peoples of the planet. Apart from the thousands of things making us different, there is a common heritage: human intelligence. We can turn it into a sort of a linkage, an instrument of peace and security for both the states and their citizens, while acting in order to create a comparatively new advantage for those whose tomorrow would rather look like a threat.

I will wind up by expressing my belief in the important role that WIPO should play in stimulating a balanced development of every nation, in creating the proper conditions for a free access to knowledge and to scientific and technological progress. It is the only way that peace and stability can be given their chance in a world where poverty and ignorance are growing into the most fearful foes of humankind.

Thank you for your attention.

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