Professor Kamil Idris Comments on Intellectual Property Laws

Globalization and its Effect on Intellectual Property

Globalization has produced a society that is more cosmopolitan and interconnected than ever before.  Those in developing countries can benefit from globalization by obtaining cheaper goods from abroad, which leaves them with more money in their pocket.  Developed countries such as the United States can benefit by globalization by earning greater money through selling exported goods.

As Dr. Kamil Idris, former Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, notes, intellectual property can be important for developing countries, especially in the context of an economy.  Knowledge, information, and ideas are the drivers of economic growth.

Globalization is a driver of export markets and can lead to greater collaboration between countries, and has boosted the number of patent applications submitted globally.

credit: MetalMiner
credit: MetalMiner

However, although it confers significant benefits to developing countries, globalization presents new challenges for countries seeking to operate in the new international economy.  The transfer of intellectual property between countries can pose many problems.

The problems with intellectual property in a globalized world include legal pitfalls and lead to the theft of patents and other trade secrets in the tech world, as countries with unequal technical expertise seek to work collaboratively in the tech sphere.

China versus the U.S.: Examples of Intellectual Property Theft

An unfortunate example of the effect of globalization is the intellectual rift between China and the United States. The two companies have been embroiled in some bitter disputes regarding intellectual property in recent years.

Most recently, China has been accused by the Trump Administration of stealing patents and other information from American tech firms.  President Trump recently blocked China from the purchase of the telecommunications company Qualcomm, as this acquisition by the Chinese government would make American tech secrets available to the Chinese.

Intellectual property theft costs America up to $600 billion each year, with Chinese intellectual property theft accounting for the largest portion of that loss, according to the New York Times.

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The intellectual property theft between countries in the new globalized w=orld is not always overt.  Chinese government entities seeking to collaborate with American companies often require that the U.S. companies surrender significant portions of their technical secrets in order to operate in China.

Currently, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter must work with the Chinese government in order to be able to develop a product that is approved by the Chinese government so they can market it to the people who use the product in China.

For example, Facebook recently worked with the Chinese government to develop a photo-sharing app called “Colorful Balloons.”  While Colorful Balloons did not become popular with the Chinese, it required Mark Zuckerberg’s company to surrender information on how the Facebook app works in order for Chinese developers to create Colorful Balloons.  Chinese agents have attempted, in past years, to steal information related to the Space Shuttle, Patriot Missiles, and various military aircrafts.

Kamil Idris Urges Protecting against Intellectual Property Theft

Professor Kamil Idris notes that intellectual property is important for development, and the transfer of information and knowledge between countries is essential for economic growth.  Particularly in our increasingly technological economy, intellectual property has gained unparalleled importance in recent years.

credit: Prabook Kamil Idris

Idris identifies piracy and counterfeiting, as well as increased backlogs in the processing of patent applications, as negative consequences of globalization on intellectual property.

Because of these consequences, he explains, countries must focus greater resources on developing intellectual property resources, and develop a number of skilled IP professionals and a policy environment that promotes innovation and creativity.

Kamil Idris suggests that the most important aspect to consider in combating the threat of intellectual property theft is to first, consider the importance of an IP infrastructure.  Countries must hire and develop IP specialists and build an infrastructure of intellectual property professionals who are equipped to deal with these 21st century challenges.

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In particular, developing countries and economies require such infrastructure and resources in order to be able to compete in today’s economy.  Only with knowledge and recognition of the importance of intellectual property will developing countries be able to advance in today’s increasingly globalized and high-tech world.  Threats to intellectual property will only increase with the passage of time, Idris suggests, due to increased globalization.

A challenge for developing countries, in particular, is the ability for richer countries to control patent purchasing, which will leave more poor countries behind.  He believes that reform on international agreements on trade and intellectual property is a significant first step in ensuring that all countries have access to free markets and liberalization of information.

Countries must educate themselves on intellectual property topics in order to stay competitive in the current economy and market climate.  This need for greater education on IP-related topics is, of course, much greater in the developing world.

About Kamil Idris

Kamil Idris is the President of the International Court of Arbitration and Mediation (ICAM) and the Former Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Idris specializes in globalization and intellectual property (IP) issues, including IP laws and economic development.



As a Sudanese national and former diplomat, and international civil servant, Dr. Idris also possesses significant experience in East African politics.  Idris graduated with a Bachelors of Law (LLB) with honors from Khartoum University in Sudan and holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economic Theories from Cairo University in Egypt.

Kamil Idris has honorary doctorates from 19 universities internationally and has authored many books on issues of intellectual property, international law and development. Idris is the author of the autobiography My Nile Odyssey, which details his life experiences working in labor factories in Egypt, traveling through Europe in his teens, and being threatened by fishermen on the Nile River who thought he was an evil spirit.

My Nile Odyssey fulfills a promise Idris made to the great South African leader Nelson Mandela to write his memoir and is available on Amazon.  In addition to his autobiography, Kamil Idris has authored many books on the topics of intellectual property, international law, and development.

Follow Kamil Idris on Linkedin and Facebook.

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