What is the purpose of intellectual property (IP) and who do the laws serve? This question underpinned this year’s International Association for the Advancement of Teaching and Research in Intellectual Property (ATRIP) Congress held from 24 to 27 October 2017 at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The answers to this question appear to be quite dynamic. Concepts such as creativity and innovation, which are at the core of IP, constantly change, while the underlying justifications for IP protection continually need to be scrutinised, re-assessed and re-evaluated. Many other factors, such as policy considerations and complexities in the interaction between IP and new technologies further influence the answers to this question.
Over three days, several panels consisting of established and emerging scholars addressed the object and purpose of intellectual property from a variety of perspectives. On day one, discussions addressed issues in the field of evolving international and regional rules, copyright and trade marks. During the panel session “The Expanding Nature of Trade Marks and Geographical Indications”, Bram Van Wiele, a UCT doctoral candidate and researcher at the IP Unit, presented his paper titled “How 3D Printing Challenges the Consumer Protection Rationale of Trade Marks”. His presentation spoke directly to the conference’s theme. He discussed how consumers’ perceptions of trade marks might influence the functioning of trade marks and, indirectly, enforcement. More specifically, he discussed how the different models of design dissemination change the functioning of trade marks at point of sale, and how these dissemination models could create an ambiguous post-sale environment. While his presentation primarily relates to his doctoral research on the IP implications of additive manufacturing in the light of consumer 3D printing, it also intersects with research he is conducting as part of the Open African Innovation (Open AIR) project.
On day two panels discussed, among other things, the reconsideration of incentives in the age of social and cultural change, patent purposes, and development and the interpretation of rules. Professor Jeremy de Beer (uOttowa), a senior research fellow at the IP Unit, and Alyssa Gaffen (uOttowa) presented on IP in the Canadian recreational cannabis market. In particular, they analysed how the legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes could lead to either a craft-based industry with emphasis on trade mark production to provide quality assurance, or a commodity-based industry that would rely heavily on patents and plant breeder’ rights.
In once again providing IP teachers, researchers, practitioners and policymakers from around the world an opportunity to connect and engage with global issues and worldwide perspectives on IP, ATRIP 2017 proved to be a highly successful event. The 2018 ATRIP Congress will be taking place in Helsinki, Finland, from 5 to 8 August 2018.