Twenty-five years on: Is New Zealand now a place where talent wants to live?
A complimentary article from the New Zealand Intellectual Property Journal
It has now been 25 years since the first issue of this journal hit the streets — or at least the law libraries. John Katz and Doug Calhoun have been on the editorial board since the outset, joined by Bram van Belle in 1999 and Paul Sumpter in 2009.  For the first 10 years the publisher was Butterworths and since then the publisher has been LexisNexis®. The first 20 years were celebrated in the special issue of September 2015.

One of the articles in that issue traced IP history in New Zealand over the 20 years in the context of the contemporaneous development of technology. The article concluded with some predictions of what might happen in the next 20 years, based on the premise that while governments of all hues would give IP a low priority, some squeaky wheels would get some grease. 

First of all, any predictions made before 2020 have been overwhelmed by COVID-19.  And an important IP issue is whether the patent system would assist or hinder the development of a treatment and a vaccine. Patent laws, at least in New Zealand and Australia, and many other Commonwealth countries, provide for Crown use of patented inventions in times of emergency. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement allows compulsory licensing of patented inventions during emergencies. While there may be a race to line up exclusive purchasing of a vaccine by some countries, there has been unprecedented cooperation in vaccine development indicating that, so far, these tools have not been needed. 

With predictions that the World Trade Organization itself may be losing support, any suspension of the TRIPS agreement could be meaningless. But it is predictable that once vaccines become available and the sense of crisis has diminished, vaccine manufacturers will be aggressively asserting their patent rights. And if, as seems likely, immunity to COVID-19 may only be short term, vaccines and treatments will have a recurring demand — a recipe for great little earners. That will be when the real test in the contest between nationalism and internationalism intensifies and it could be fought on an IP battlefield.

So how did those IP predictions made five years ago pan out?

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