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Tuesday 13 December 2022

Patricia Covarrubia

[GUEST POST] The Wiki Law Project: The use of open-source technologies in the dissemination of Intellectual Property and their benefits for teaching

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The IPTango is pleased to host the following post by Hernán Núñez Rocha, lecturer at the University of Alcalá and a qualified lawyer in Spain and Ecuador.

Hernan writes:

The use of open-source technologies in the dissemination of Intellectual Property and their benefits for teaching

by Hernán Núñez Rocha

The Wiki Law Project took place from 2013 to 2019 in Ecuador, where several governmental actors were discussing about the necessity to move from an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources to a model based on knowledge CITA.  The involved parts concluded that it was necessary to promulgate new regulations on Higher Education, Science, Technology, Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Traditional Knowledge.  Considering the instrumental use of Intellectual Property, the IPRs were defined as one of the main tools needed for the transition to the knowledge economy. But there was a problem, most citizens were not familiar with IPR.  In fact, even most stakeholders neither understood the importance of IPRs, nor the use of new works and technologies.  Also, there was an additional problem, stakeholders, who were aware of the importance of IPRs, were divided into two groups that had opposed views. One group saw the IPRs as a profitable tool for their creations, and the other group, saw it as an obstacle for innovation.

Consequently, the idea of the Wiki Law Project about IP came up.  The site was developed jointly by the staff of the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (IAEN), NGOs, professional associations, chambers, and public institutions.  Moreover, the Ecuadorian Patent and Trademark Office (now SENADI) and the Ministry of Higher Education (SENESCYT) got involved and support the project.

The wiki was hosted in the domain of the Ministry of Higher Education, as http://coesc.educacionsuperior.gob.ec/. The site explained didactically all the IPRs and its main features, its daily uses, and its economic, scientific, and legal significance.  Also, the project included a juridical analysis of the IP Law in forced at that time, as well as a proposal of a draft Law.  The wiki had a basic design, based on the Wikipedia interface, and allowed to create an account, review the contents, edit certain texts and create discussion forums.

The wiki was online from 2013 to 2020. However, the period of greatest activity was from its launch in March of 2013 to October of 2016, when the new IP regime was approved within the Organic Code for the Social Knowledge and Innovation Economy, known as the “CÓDIGO INGENIOS”.  According to the wiki managers, there were more than 1.8 million visits and more than 38 thousand editions, in that period.  Additionally, the wiki generated a domino effect, and suddenly the IPR were in the public opinion.  A survey conducted by the IP Office reflected a growth in the news about intellectual property of more than 600% in the period of June 2014 to June 2016.

After the approval of the CÓDIGO INGENIOS, the wiki continued online, but the users’ interactions were gradually decreasing until 2020 when the wiki was finally switched off.  Despite this, the impact generated by the wiki in their first years was gradually moved to other places in the remaining years. The Academia was one of the main receivers of the benefits of this project.  If we analyse the statistics since the wiki was launched, it is possible to identify a significant and constant growth in the following aspects:

          There was an increase in the number of Technology and Innovation Support Centres located at the universities. Before the project, there was not any Centre according to the WIPO criteria. Today there are 11 universities that have their own Technology Transfer Office.

          Regarding the use of the IPR into the Universities, there is a growth in the average that goes from 1.3 patent applications until 2012 to 27.5 in the period 2012-2019.

          Regarding IP teaching, IP Master's programs increased from 1 to 5 nationwide.

          The number of IP courses in the curriculum of the universities also increased. Before the Wiki Law Project, only 7 universities offered the course of intellectual property as an elective subject, now there are 25 that have the course as a compulsory subject.  Before, it was only taught in the Law School, now there are IP courses in 8 different careers.

          Regarding final degree projects, a study conducted in 5 Ecuadorian universities shows an increase of more than 300% since 2013.

As we can see, the Wiki Law Project was not only a success by itself, but also generated several positive externalities. Nowadays, the information technologies allow us to do great things without a big budget. In the case of the Wiki Law Project, a generic website template with basic functions was enough.  It was not even necessary to get a hosting since the page was hosted in the domain of the Ministry of Higher Education.

The Wiki Law project is an example of the interaction between academia and society, which also generated an academic demand focused on issues related to intellectual property. It was a project without “owners”.  After the idea was launched, many institutions got involved and once the wiki was online, a huge collaborative work was generated.  There are also several papers that describe the Wiki Law as a platform that allows to recuperate the public and common sense of knowledge, throughout collaborative work.

However, the Wiki Law Project is just one example of the use of open-source technologies in the dissemination of intellectual property. What is important here, is not the instrument but the process. This process results in the use of information technologies to spread the general aspects of the IPRs and its daily uses. With this, is possible to create a communication channel in two directions. On one hand, universities can provide information to society; and on the other hand, universities could collect data about social and commercial needs.  Therefore, with the understanding of these facts, universities could adapt their activities and curriculum in line with the expectations of the society.

PS This blog post is based on the presentation made by the author at the 13th Anniversary EIPTN Conference 2021.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia