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'Tis the Season - EPIP recap

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'Tis the Season - EPIP recap

Oh come, all ye faithful, for the late summer conference season is in full swing.  This Kat has two conferences down, and one to go, for a total of nine conference days in two weeks. To start is the annual European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) conference; this year held at Oxford. In the conference's early years, there was a clear focus on patents, recent years have widened its scope to all IPR. I'll pick up here on a few talks of interest.

Professor Rochelle Dreyfuss
Image via NYU
The plenary session kicked off with Professor Rochelle Dreyfuss highlighting the expansion of trade secrets protection globally, and the worrying potential unintended consequences. There are increasing concerns that trade secrets and economic espionage law in the US is being used to racially profile researchers. (Interesting coverage on the targeting of Chinese-American researchers here.) Dreyfuss discussed the potential negative impact of non-compete clauses on innovation, employees and economic growth. She argued that criminalisation related to trade secrets generates an especially strong chilling effect as high-tech workers are unwilling to risk incarceration. Dreyfuss also observed that TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) does not create a minimum trade secrets standard, and is trying to express a new norm that information shouldn't be free.

Shira Perlmutter
Image via USPTO
Shira Perlmutter, USPTO, presented a US view on copyright. She noted the link between copyright and UGC (something this Kat expects we will see more interest in), and the general challenge of policy being slower than technology. On the US copyright agenda this year are new legislation regarding music licensing, orphan works, small claims court and the copyright office's modernisation.

Professor Kimberlee Weatherall presented the Australian debate in copyright.  Australia is an outlier in the English-speaking world's approach to copyright, and, in this Kat's opinion, taking a much more balanced view (see Australian Productivity Commission's infographic linked below). She called for all copyright policies to be tested against five principles:
  1. Copyright should be designed in the public interest (collective interest)
  2. Copyright should do a better job of recognising the interests of human creators
  3. We need to build more differentiated protection into copyright. Not all creativity requires the same protection. [Merpel is sceptical of the one-size-fits-all approach, but a useful provocation.]
  4. The rules need to allow from innovation from the outside
  5. "Copyright protection is
    cast too widely."
  6. Copyright is not a system where the benefits are for owners and burdens for everyone else
Weather concluded with a call that we should ask more of copyright owner in return for the additional protections discussed in policy debates.

A closing panel session on innovation, by three economists, reflected the fact that most IP economists start as innovation economists. Professor Dietmar Harhoff kicked off with a discussion on policy making and economics, and the risk of abuse of economic evidence. Professor Manuel Trajtenberg expressed concern that GDP spoils of innovation are going to the top one tenth of the top one percent, and that we need to think more about people and income equality.  He call for innovation policy to support "human-enhancement," rather than "human replacement." Professor Adam Jaffe looked at empirical challenges of innovation policy evaluation (some of his previous work on the topic here and here.) It was a nice conclusion to the conference, reminding the academic and policy audience of the challenges, responsibilities and ethics of policy and research - innovation should benefit social as a whole, and research and policy in innovation needs to be robust.

Two Kats were also on the scene, with Eleonora on online trade mark infringment jurisdictions, and me on business models.  On a final note, having recently done a US-UK trip herself, the Katonomist would like to complement the many US and Australian-based conference participants who managed to stay coherent in the face of significant jet lag.  There was no cat-napping.

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