Scheme to protect Soviet scientists' copyright

June 16, 1995

Scientists from former Soviet Republics can now stop their ideas being plundered by Western companies by turning to a new programme set up by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The project will help scientists market their work internationally. UNCTAD said the situation has become so bad that many former republics are at risk of losing their scientific and technological resources.

The Soviet regime invested billions of dollars as well as roubles in science. UNCTAD says the resource value of these research laboratories is so great that, tapped properly, they could generate a successful future for the new republics. But UNCTAD says these nascent market economies do not possess the marketing skills to make the best use of this investment.

After the collapse of Communism, the flow of research funding dried up virtually overnight. Laboratories now find themselves dependent on diminished support in the infant republics. Many of the labs were "All-Union" depending on a central government that has abandoned them or been forced to give them up by new republic governments.

Cutbacks, bad pay and low morale are driving many scientist abroad and into jobs which are more lucrative compared to present domestic jobs.

But in fact they may often be selling themselves and their ideas for a dollar pittance, especially compared to the Western colleagues they start to work alongside.

The UNCTAD programme, cleared by an UNCTAD committee in Geneva has not yet been fully costed out. It is aimed at halting the decline and will offer a structure to market such scientific resources internationally.

One of the main difficulties, according to Geneva-based UNCTAD spokesman Maurice Odile, was that many scientists are unaware of the value of their intellectual property and do not know how to protect it.

They also lack the skills to market it. Scientists previously operated in the security of the Soviet system which provided intellectual property protection by issuing "Author's Certificates".

Research and development managers will get help to master international business skills and intellectual property protection.

There will be technical aid governments to establish policies and laws conducive to scientific development and international expertise on issues such as legislation, identification of potential foreign partners and negotiation skills.

Countries eligible will be those such as Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, which UNCTAD starting assisting in 1992 to help them make strategic alliances and business deals with transnational corporations.

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