Yesterday I attended a most interesting meeting of the Licensing Executives Society Arab Countries Chapter held in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Higher Colleges of Technology. The meeting was held at one of Abu Dhabi's leading science centers, the CERT Technology Park.
My attention, as well as that of all participants and the robust media in attendance, was focused on the remarks of His Excellency Shaikh Nehayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. I found the comments to be extraordinarily informed and insightful. I share some of what was said:
1. Abu Dhabi recognizes that individuals with new inventive ideas are a force for both economic AND social good. (This ties directly to the twin programs LESI is planning for Geneva in January -- the LESI Global Technology Impact Forum and Invent for Humanity.)
2. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has long advocated the movement towards a knowledge based society interconnected with investment supporting innovation.
3. Attention is paid to national policy for using and sharing the benefits of knowledge and global partnerships focused on intellectual property (IP). Countries that promote and protect creative intellectual activity eventually become leaders in developing those technologies themselves.
4. H.E. Shaikh Nehayan Mabarak Al Nahayan explained that an effective national system for intellectual development requires cooperation across all segments of society and promotes public awareness of rights and responsibilities. He noted a positive correlation between strengthening of the intellectual property system and subsequent economic growth.
5. Concern was expressed that the recent world economic crisis has generally caused governments, universities and companies to reduce their support of innovation and to become over protective of revenue producing ideas.
6. There was an honest self-assessment that currently the Arab region significantly lags the knowledge-based societies and economies in all key intellectual property-related indicators. Patents, an admitted important index of innovative performance, show Saudi Arabia with only 72 patents, Egypt with 93 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 25. This is compared to countries with similar populations -- Canada with 8,188 patents, Germany with 53,752 and Singapore with 1,369 patents.
7. A call was made for greater university and local company funding of research and development, amendment of local intellectual property law to conform to World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties, and reductions to the legal and administrative cost of filing patents. As a responsive example, the Abu Dhabi National Research Foundation is sponsoring a review of UAE IP laws. They will also hold a patent filing competition for university researchers with grants for winning proposals chosen by independent experts.
Having attended a number of government and non-governmental organization (NGO) sessions on intellectual property policy, including many in the U.S., I found the comments from the LES Arab Countries forum today inspiring, an example for others and a sign of the important role this region seeks to play in the emerging global intellectual property marketplace.