The developed world's increasing obsession with protecting intellectual property rights is crippling development in poor countries, says a report published this week.
The intellectual property rights system raises access costs to technologies and threatens efforts to aid development in areas such as health, agriculture, education and information technologies.
The Commission on Intellectual Property Rights presented development minister Clare Short with its report, Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy , this week.
John Barton, professor of law at Stanford University and chair of the CIPR, said: "Developing countries participate in global intellectual property systems as 'second-comers' in a world that has been shaped by 'first-comers'. They should be allowed to adopt appropriate rights regimes, not necessarily the most protective ones." He said poor countries should be allowed low-cost access to educational and scientific documents.
The report focuses on the effects of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights deal agreed in 1994, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organisation. The WTO set minimum standards of intellectual property protection to be set in law. All 144 member states are expected to comply by 2006.
The CIPR report notes that it is not only developing countries that are worried. A 50 per cent rise in patent applications in the US in the past five years has led to concern about their quality.