[CEBU, PHILIPPINES] The Philippines has introduced new intellectual property rights legislation in an attempt to get the fruits of government-funded research out of laboratories.
The Philippine Technology Transfer Act of 2009, which took effect this month (May), makes research and development (R&D) institutions the default owner of intellectual property rights (IPR) arising from the results of government-funded research.
This means scientists will now be allowed to create, manage or serve as consultants to companies that can commercially exploit technology arising from their government-funded research.
Ownership of IPR in the Philippines has been subject to debate among scientists, their institutions and funding agencies.
The new legislation is intended to clear up this ambiguity over the ownership of IPR to publicly-funded research. The issue has hampered commercialisation, said Albert P. Aquino, head of the Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) Technical Working Committee on Technology Transfer, which drafted the law.
It provides a financially rewarding environment for both the research institution and scientists, he added.
The content of the act was largely inspired by the 1980 US Bayh-Dole Act, said Aquino. The act allowed universities and other institutions, rather than the government, to patent publicly funded research. Its supporters say it spurred innovation and led to the licensing of countless technologies that would otherwise have been ignored.
But critics have warned that the wholesale adoption of such legislation may not be appropriate for developing countries. One concern is that it might not be possible for innovations to be made accessible to the poor if exclusive marketing rights for a product are granted to a single firm (see Concerns raised over Indian patent bill).
Anthony So, professor of the practice of public policy at Duke University, United States, co-authored a paper analysing the implications of the US experience with Bayh-Dole for developing countries. He told SciDev.Net that safeguards should be included in similar legislation in developing countries to ensure that it works in the public interest.
Aquino assured SciDev.Net that safeguard mechanisms are present in the Philippine Act.
"The law specifically provides for government funding agencies, or for that matter the government, to take control of the technologies or intellectual property rights if national interest is at stake," he said.
The DOST, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, government funding agencies, R&D institutions and other stakeholders will draft the implementation rules and regulations over the next three months.
One issue they will address is how much money institutions must contribute to the administration costs of higher rates of technology transfer caused by such legislation — an issue which has caused concern in India.