Intellectual Property Protection and Development: The Case of Sustainable Sea Transport in Pacific Island Countries

24 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2016

See all articles by Miranda Forsyth

Miranda Forsyth

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 15, 2016


Intellectual property regulation, taken at its broadest level, is concerned with the production, access to, use of and control over knowledge and a wide range of other intangible resources. These include, but are not limited to, inventions, ideas, songs, designs, aspects of cultural heritage, and genetic resources. All such intangible resources are vital to the operation and development of any society. They are crucial to issues as diverse as the development and dissemination of new technology, the creation of artistic productions and the observance of ritual practices.

This paper is concerned with the impact of intellectual property laws on development in countries in the global South, particularly focusing on the small island states in the Pacific islands region. It is based on the observation that much of the literature and policy on intellectual property and development proceeds on the basis that there is only one model of each, namely the global model of intellectual property underpinned by the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and a neoliberal development framework which is informed by a belief in free trade, open markets, privatization, deregulation and support for the private sector. I argue, conversely, that there are multiple models of both. These other models, however, tend to be obscured by the dominant narratives around development and intellectual property that lead to the universalisation of the models and approaches from the global North. Exposing the plurality of models should enable a far more creative and multidimensional approach to intellectual property policy in developing countries, particularly those whose levels of technological development and social structures are very different to those where the global intellectual models and frameworks have been, and continue to be, created. This argument is interrogated by focusing on a particular developmental problem facing many small island developing states, namely sea transport.

Part one of the paper briefly explores the problem of sea transport, the way in which it has been addressed to date within the dominant development paradigm, and the intellectual property issues this gives rise to.

Part two of the paper then turns to investigate an emerging new developmental approach to sea transport and identifies the very different range of intellectual property issues that arise through considering the issue though this lens.

Through this discussion I illustrate the ways in which new approaches to intellectual property are being forged at local as well as national and international levels, and also challenge the distinctions being drawn between the regulation of so-called “traditional” knowledge and modern knowledge.

Keywords: intellectual property regulation, TRIPs, traditional knowledge, sea transport

JEL Classification: O30, O39

Suggested Citation

Forsyth, Miranda, Intellectual Property Protection and Development: The Case of Sustainable Sea Transport in Pacific Island Countries (November 15, 2016). RegNet Research Paper No. 2016/121. Available at SSRN: or

Miranda Forsyth (Contact Author)

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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