New Delhi: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is holding its second International Conference on Global Digital Content Market starting Wednesday in New Delhi in partnership with the commerce and industry ministry.

WIPO director general Francis Gurry, who is in town, speaks about the need for a balance between innovation and affordability among other issues in an interview. Edited excerpts:

Why does India rank low in innovation?

In India, the innovation ecosystem, which has a large number of components in it, is very complex. A large and diversified economy like India tends to do less well than a homogeneous country like Switzerland or Sweden or Denmark because an index is dealing with an average. With a huge, diverse country like India, you have differential performance. That said, we do see improvement in India’s innovation performance and capacity and I think we will continue to see improvement.

There have been discussions for a long time on protecting traditional knowledge. Why has progress not been made so far?

We are now at a stage where there is a draft in respect of genetic resources and intellectual property, which a large majority of members are prepared to adopt as the basic negotiating text. There are several countries like the US, which are not prepared to do that.

So can it become law without some countries?

That will be for our members to decide in September next year during our annual meeting.

India has expressed concern about attempts by big pharma companies to evergreen their IP through incremental innovation. What is WIPO’s view on that?

Our ministers have not expressed a clear view on it. But it is an extreme form of tension that arises in respect of the different balances that are needed in IP systems. On one hand, we do need investments in new medical technologies and, therefore, we need to create incentive for that. On the other hand, it’s not much good having innovation that cannot deliver social benefits. You need a proper balance. So there isn’t a black and white answer to this.

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