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Case study briefing “Examining Intellectual Property Rights, innovation and technology within CSME".

By Dr. Abiola Inniss Ph.D. LLM

In September 2017, I completed a qualitative case study titled “Examining Intellectual Property Rights Innovation and Technology within the Caricom Single Market and Economy”. The study was conducted between the years 2013-2017. This qualitative case study was designed to examine the effects of laws and government policies pertaining to intellectual property rights, innovation, and technology on firms in select CSME countries. I used the sample of the four largest economies in the CSME grouping, namely Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Among the key issues examined, were that Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) firms operate under various laws and policies on intellectual property rights (IPRs), innovation and technology, and that international analyses and rankings rate the CSME countries’ performance as poor in comparison with others at the same level of economic development resulting in negative impacts on the economic and social welfare of their communities. The study was validated by a team of peer reviewers.

The study was designed to address the paucity of data which existed concerning the effects of policies on decisions by local firms to engage in innovation and technology activities and to address questions of how IPRs policies affect the choices of innovation activities by firms, as well as what differences in IPRs policies in Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, influence the decisions by firms to invest in innovation and technologies. The applicable laws and international conventions were also examined. I framed the study using Landes and Posner’s utilitarian exposition that IPRs should be based on the maximization of social welfare. Hundreds of policy papers, firm studies, study reports, and legislation from government and international agencies were analyzed.

The results were fascinating if not altogether surprising. Findings included a lack of clear IPRs policies in almost all of the sample countries, though Trinidad and Tobago did have more directed policies in the areas of culture and entertainment but not on innovation. There were high levels of innovation where policies were weakest, this was found in Guyana where there are no identifiable policies on intellectual property, innovation or technology, but which recorded the highest levels of innovation in firms in the sample countries. This phenomenon requires further study in order to make any conclusions about the reasons for its occurrence in Guyana. There was no evidence to support theoretical assumptions. The study revealed a general reluctance by firms in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica to invest in innovation and technology, particularly where the economy was heavily engaged in industries such as tourism and the creative industries.

The results also revealed that while three of the four sample countries implemented laws and created institutions, and some policies dedicated to the promotion of intellectual property and innovation, their levels of innovation across sectors were low, while the sample country that had no dedicated institutions, updated laws or visible policies for IPRs, recorded the highest levels of innovations in the group across sectors.

This is an interesting and startling discovery which is in contradistinction to the literature on the subject of IPRs as a catalyst for innovation and economic growth as demonstrated in other developing country blocs. This indicates that studies that are purely statistical, are inadequate in uncovering the underlying issues of low levels of innovation in Caricom countries and in particular, within the Single Market and Economy. The idea that more stringent policy and enforcement of laws will contribute to greater innovation in this region is by itself counterproductive where the way the society works is not taken into consideration. Using an approach which balances the social and cultural factors with the use of intellectual property as part of the development of innovation, science and technology, may result in the maximization of welfare within the context of the CSME.

This study creates the basis for further investigation into intellectual property rights, innovation and technology within the Caricom Single Market and Economy and should set the tone for scholarly discussions of the role of intellectual property rights in developing the CSME.

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