[A2k] IP-Watch: Are European Think Tanks Corporate Lobbyists By Another Name?
thiru at keionline.org
Mon Feb 7 03:07:32 PST 2011
Are European Think Tanks Corporate Lobbyists By Another Name?
By David Cronin for Intellectual Property Watch on 31 January 2011 @
Think tanks can be a godsend for reporters with a looming deadline.
Almost invariably, they are staffed with articulate policy
specialists, adept at summarising complex issues in a few quotable
sentences. Frequently, too, the think tanks have neutral-sounding
names, so a reader or viewer of news reports can easily believe that
they are independent of vested interests.
Closer inspection reveals that many of these “independent” bodies are
in fact heavily reliant on corporate donations. This is especially the
case for a number of think tanks working on intellectual property.
In late January, the European Centre for International Political
Economy (ECIPE) held a conference dedicated to trade and IP issues in
Brussels. Most speakers at the event endorsed the broad thrust of the
European Union’s external trade policy, which advocates that standards
of IP protection applying within the EU should also be applied
throughout the world.
A paper written for the event  by Frederik Erixon, ECIPE’s
director, argued that enforcing patents in foreign countries should be
a priority. “This is the area where the big policy problems are for
European firms,” he wrote. “They encounter insufficient IP laws and
regulatory frameworks in many countries, especially emerging markets.”
Asked why he had not invited speakers from anti-poverty organisations
concerned about the possible impact of patent enforcement on such
matters as public access to medicines in developing countries, Erixon
said: “We are sceptical of having campaign groups [at our events]. We
are more interested in having people from parts of the world with
different views. For example, we have had people from Kenya and South
Africa in the past.”
Erixon said that the centre had a budget of about €1 million last
year. Its “base-funding” comes from the Free Enterprise Foundation in
Sweden, while a number of companies have made financial contributions
to its work. They include Pfizer, Nokia, Unilever, Siemens, Nestlé,
Nike, Google and BP.
Hugh Pullen, a representative of the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly,
said his firm had given “two one-off grants” to the centre for
projects related to IP issues. “The work they do is their work,” said
Pullen. “We had very little influence on the direction in which it
Dieter Plehwe from the corporate watchdog LobbyControl estimates that
there are 60 think-tanks in Brussels, as well as several others in the
national capitals of EU states that publish material relating to the
Union’s policies. Plehwe noted that corporate-funded think tanks
generally do not have to publish their accounts in the same way as
foundations (such as those linked to political parties) who receive
“Private think-tanks have mushroomed and have now developed a strong
base in Brussels under no such regulations,” he said.
ECIPE is one of several think-tanks that have not signed up to a
register of lobbyists and “interest representatives” run by the
European Commission. “We find the idea that a think tank should
register as an interest [representative] insulting,” Erixon said. “Our
role is to produce analyses and evaluations, not to lobby.”
Whereas it is mandatory for pressure groups trying to influence
lawmakers in Washington to detail their activities on a similar
database, the EU’s register is voluntary.
Michael Mann, a European Commission spokesman, said that a new
category is being established for that register to cover groups who
are reluctant to be considered as lobbyists. “Some think tanks,
religious organisations and law firms do not like being labelled with
the nasty ‘lobbyist’ word,” he added. “The idea of a joint register
is to make it more attractive for people to sign up.”
The revised register will serve both the Commission and the European
Parliament. The two institutions have stated that they wish to have
their common register established by June this year.
In October last year, the International Policy Network in London
published a study  contending that high IP standards can be
beneficial for developing countries. The paper was authored by Douglas
Lippoldt, a staff member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) in Paris.
Lippoldt said there was no conflict of interest between his work for
the OECD, a public body, and the IPN, a corporate-funded think tank,
as the paper made clear he was writing in a personal capacity. “What
is important is to always include the standard disclaimer,” he said.
“I am quite observant about that.”
Julian Morris, the IPN’s director, said that his network is
“downsizing” and no longer works on IP issues. “We are funded by a
broad array of organisations, some of whom do have an interest, none
of whom has any say over what we do,” he added. “That is all I can say
IPN’s London office does not disclose which companies fund its work.
Yet it has run public relations campaigns in defence of the
pharmaceutical industry in the past. In 2004, a group called the
Campaign for Fighting Diseases was formed. Run out of IPN’s office, it
sought to counter arguments from anti-poverty activists that enforcing
patents on drugs in developing countries reduces the availability of
medicines at prices affordable to the poor. “Stronger intellectual
property protection in poor countries may stimulate innovation by
multinationals to serve local needs (e.g. developing drugs to combat
tropical diseases),” an IPN paper published in 2005 stated.
Meanwhile, the Stockholm Network presents itself as an alliance of 120
different “market-oriented” think-tanks across Europe. Among the
network’s publications is a newsletter on intellectual property issues
called Know IP. In 2008, the network ran a campaign against calls by
British members of Parliament for the greater use of generic medicines
in the country’s health service.
Helen Disney, the network’s director, did not respond to a request for
comment from Intellectual Property Watch. In a letter to the British
Medical Journal last year, she wrote: “We are funded by memberships
and research grants from a range of companies, foundations and
individuals. Not only do we not hide this but we list all sponsors on
our website and in our annual reports.”
Her letter was prompted by criticism from SpinWatch, a group
monitoring the public relations industry. SpinWatch stated that while
drug-makers such as Pfizer, GSK and Merck are known to have given
money to think tanks, the Stockholm Network does not say how much it
receives from each company.
Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of the Campaign for Access to
Essential Medicines run by the humanitarian aid group Médecins sans
Frontières (Doctors without Borders), said that pharmaceutical firms
have been financing research by think tanks in order to influence the
debate on the patenting of medicine. Such think tanks should be
required to declare their sources of income, he said, adding: “Part of
the problem is that this issue stays concealed.”
Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog
URL to article: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/01/31/are-european-think-tanks-corporate-lobbying-by-another-name/
URLs in this post:
 paper written for the event: http://www.ecipe.org/value-for-money-getting-europes-trade-and-ipr-policy-right
 published a study: http://www.policynetwork.net/creativity-innovation/publication/do-stronger-iprs-deliver-goods-and-services-developing-countries
 European Officials Eye Pan-European Passport For Collective
Copyright Licencing: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2010/11/08/european-officials-eye-pan-european-passport-for-collective-copyright-licencing/
 European Broadcasters Call For Easier Copyright Clearance For
Online Content: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2010/03/17/european-broadcasters-call-for-easier-copyright-clearance-for-online-content/
 European Parliament Votes To Rein In Anti-Counterfeiting Treaty: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2010/03/10/european-parliament-votes-to-rein-in-anti-counterfeiting-treaty/
 : http://ow.ly/3Nluo
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