Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gender & IP, Panel 2

AU’s IP & Gender conference, Panel 2 (informally: international issues and capacity-building)

Helen Lom, Director, WIPO Awards & Gender Issues, WIPO, Empowering Women Through Awareness Raising and Capacity Building About Strategic Uses of Intellectual Property Tools to Gain Economic Advantage: Why? How? WIPO’s Practical Experience: The UN has system-wide commitments to gender equality, both internally (staffing) and externally. The UN sees this from a human rights perspective (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW) and an economic development perspective. Closing the gender gap is a key poverty reduction and sustainable development strategy.

Two principal approaches: (1) Gender mainstreaming (making women and men equally integral in every program), which would be ideal in a perfect world, but has to be extremely comprehensive and is resource-intensive. (2) Women-focused activities. Both are strategic approaches and both can be appropriate depending on institutional (how sensitive is senior management to gender issues?) and other issues.

WIPO’s experience as a small, technical organization: WIPO has to address whether IP is gender neutral – many people WIPO deals with think it is -- and whether IP-related differences are causes or symptoms of existing inequalities. Thus, women-focused activities within the framework of WIPO’s technical assistance programs for developing countries may be the most effective approach. So, the plan is to help women use IP tools more effectively, which is both right and smart in terms of poverty reduction and economic development goals.

WIPO’s activities target primarily women inventors and entrepreneurs – who already have some power/education – to help them compete in the marketplace. WIPO cooperates with women’s NGOs, which are already relatively well organized, though IP awareness is still generally low. Gender-specific statistics about IP use and ownership are spotty and limited, but the available evidence suggests that women still underutilize IP and represent a minority of IP owners. Some sort of “affirmative action” is appropriate.

Another possibility: IP awareness raising among women who make traditional crafts. WIPO has a project with indigenous women in Panama, which has a sui generis law for protecting traditional knowledge. Panama sees the project as a way to publicize this new law, with money from the Interamerican Bank. Objectives: both poverty reduction/community development and social recognition of the crucial role women play in creating and preserving traditional art and handicrafts. A separate objective is the preservation of traditional arts and handicrafts.

Challenges: answer the “why only women?” question – why not invite everyone? Because mostly men will show up. Indigenous women suffer from discrimination by indigenous men, who won’t necessarily tell women about the seminars or share what they learn, so women have to be invited specifically. Indigenous boards, running in parallel with the government, control the labeling of indigenous goods, but they’re run by men and women need permission to use the labels. Men need to be coopted as well.

It is important to use examples and objects to raise awareness and build capacity about this highly technical subject – Lom shows them an object that’s labeled with its geographic origin, a trademark, and a story about the producers, and explains that tourists will pay more when a product has such labels. IP isn’t just for the rich and powerful; Lom focuses on accessible IP, like TM rights, and asks “why sell cheap when you can sell expensive?” There are success stories, such as the Inuit/Canadian Igloo certification mark and the Maori/New Zealand Toi Iho certification mark.

Amita Dhanda, NALSAR University, Hyderabad, India, Creative Recipes: Gendering the IPR Teaching Program at NALSAR University: Ghettoizing the gender/woman question is a problem. When we talk about mainstreaming gender, though, we want to avoid malestreaming. Sometimes we find that principles of mainstreaming never translate into practice.

We need to zero in on specific utilities of engendering the curriculum so that we as teachers can answer pedagogical questions: what learning objectives are we trying to fulfill? Symbolically: add women and stir, ask what this field of law has done to women? Many of us are skeptical about this, but it can start interrogating the system. But it can also prevent a more radical approach – we are addressing gender, what more do you want? Better: structural integration of gender analysis into curriculum.

So, what does this have to do with IP as the second enclosure movement? If you are concerned with marginalization and exclusion, then feminist jurisprudence is the way to go. How do the norms and practices of IP law contribute to oppression and exclusion? How can they be changed?

The existing course structure: Familiarizes students with key concepts of IP statutes and their judicial interpretation, equips students with skills to navigate the field, and gives critical scrutiny to different interpretations of key concepts (what is enough to constitute authorship?), but the foundational premises of the field are accepted without question.

Engendering strategies: do a conceptual model inspired by the history of ideas, discussing, e.g., the construction of individual authorship. Employ controversy for pedagogy: drug pricing and patents; anonymous and silenced authors; GIs and collaborative creation. Each issue forces students to grapple with multiple perspectives and interests.

Pedagogically, readings should be selected for inclusion if they’re informative, explanatory, challenging, problematizing, analytical; excluded if they’re evangelical, polarized, or ostensibly balanced. Advocacy writing is good, but not in the classroom.

Teaching methodology: decenter expertise, give primacy to experience. This can challenge the hierarchical perception of intellectual activity in IP law with a feminist belief in the knowledge-creating capacities of all people, including students. Collaborative class exercises, at the end of which you ask the students how much their fellow students’ contributions mattered and who should be deemed an author. Don’t just have faculty members write articles, but have students participate.

Student contributions: Students can conduct research on unmonetized creativity, such as recipes, embroidery designs, rangoli, etc. that subsist in family settings. How does creative activity contribute to family well-being? This makes students aware of creativity that we don’t even notice, let alone reward with IP rights. Does this mean that creation is its own reward? Or does this justify expanding IP law to cover property within the family?

Many people in the academy accept the necessity of gender analysis, but do not actively seek to perform it or do not have the tools to do so. Thus we must continually explain to our colleagues how gender can enrich our understanding of justice, and create tools to help teachers use gender in their classes.

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