Jeremy de Beer

Shaping ideas about innovation, intellectual property, global trade and development.

I am a tenured Full Professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Law, Technology and Society, where I create and shape ideas—about technology innovation, intellectual property, and global trade and development. As a practicing lawyer and expert consultant I’ve argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, advised businesses and law firms both large and small, and consulted for agencies from national governments and the United Nations. My current work helps solve practical challenges related to innovation in the digital economy, life science industries, clean technology sector.

More details about me are here in my biography and here in my full CV.

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Technology Innovation

Massive social and economic changes happen when new technologies disrupt old ideas. How do innovative businesses bring about and react to revolutionary or even incremental technological progress? What legal and policy implications flow from emerging management strategies, especially in open and collaborative innovation systems? My work at the intersection of technology, law, and business addresses these fundamental challenges.

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Innovation Appropriation: A Role for IP in the Informal Sector?

Is there a role for intellectual property rights to play in the informal economy? What formal and informal strategies do informal sector actors use to appropriate benefits from their innovation? I’ve been exploring these questions through my co-leadership of the Open AIR project, and as an expert consultant on a path-breaking project implementing the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Development Agenda. I was in Geneva recently to participate in a special session about innovation, IP, and the informal economy, held alongside meetings of WIPO’s Committee on Development and Intellectual Property. My remarks tied together the interdisciplinary conceptual framework developed by me, Kun Fu, and Sacha Wunsh-Vincent and recent empirical evidence from a series of real-world case studies. Here’s video of the full session at WIPO...

Informal Sector Innovation and Intellectual Property: Concepts, Metrics, and Policy Considerations

How does innovation happen in the informal sector? What appropriation strategies are used to control or distribute social, economic, or technological benefits? To help answer such questions, our analysis connects concepts, definitions and data regarding the informal economy, innovation, and intellectual property in order to establish a framework for further qualitative and quantitative research and the improvement of public policies in respect of these issues. This interdisciplinary framework is the first of its kind, interconnecting previously separated areas of study. With this work my co-authors, Sacha Wunch-Vincent and Kun Fu, and I start to bridge the disciplines of law, economics, management, engineering, sociology, and other fields relevant to the appropriation of informal sector innovation. We first review the literature defining the informal economy, and present an original synthesis of statistical data regarding the informal economy’s social and economic significance. Second, we apply established and emerging concepts of innovation to the context of informal systems. Third, we discuss a spectrum of appropriation mechanisms, ranging from formal intellectual property rights to informal mechanisms of knowledge protection, sharing and exchange. Fourth and finally, we review existing policy approaches toward innovation in the formal economy, and establish a framework to consider future scenarios for the application of intellectual property concepts in this context. You can download “The Informal Economy, Innovation and Intellectual Property – Concepts, Metrics and Policy Considerations” from WIPO’s website, where it was published as Economic Research Working Paper No. 10 in the Economics and Statistics Series. It is also available on SSRN. Our research on this topic was also presented at a special seminar in Geneva, together with reports from case study authors. Online video of the...
Technology Innovation
Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

Control over, and access to, knowledge determines how the benefits of scientific, technological, and other advancements are realized and distributed throughout our information society. How exactly does protection of intellectual property rights shape the global knowledge economy? Better understanding and then influencing the law of patents, copyrights, trademarks, secrets, and many related legal rules are among my top research priorities.

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Canada’s Copyright Tariff-Setting Process

How are copyright royalties established in Canada? What is the tariff-setting process? How long does it take? What has been written about it? These are just some of the questions answered in my new empirical review of copyright tariff setting. The process of setting copyright tariffs in Canada is extremely important. The economic value of royalties set through this process is estimated at over $400 million per year. Some of the most recent and important Supreme Court decisions on copyright law originated from copyright tariff-setting proceedings. The Copyright Board of Canada, the tribunal charged with administering the process, is on the front lines of copyright policy. Copyright tariff-setting greatly impacts business issues around online music streaming, internet service provider liability, levies on iPods and other devices, peer-to-peer file sharing, radio and television broadcasting, access to educational materials, and much more. Copyright tariff setting is a key part of Canada’s cultural policy framework, as well as industrial and technology policy too. So it may be surprising that, until now, there has never been rigorous empirical analysis of Canada’s copyright tariff-setting process. My study for the first time synthesizes the existing work on this topic, schematically maps how tariff-setting happens; develops a methodology for empirical analysis; and collects and analyses data to begin measuring the time this process takes. My empirical research findings deliver unique understanding of Canada’s tariff-setting procedures, enabling more informed debate about copyright issues, and helping policymakers as well as the Board to better respond to the needs and concerns of copyright stakeholders. According to my data, 852 different tariffs were certified by the Copyright Board in respect of the 15-year period between and including 1999-2013. There are 209 pending tariffs that were proposed for that period...

Best Practices for Intellectual Property in International Trade Deals

Intellectual property provisions in international agreements should not be negotiated secretly, but transparently. They should not serve special interests, but the public interest. And they should not be one-sided, but fair and balanced. This can be done by adhering to the Max Planck Principles for Intellectual Property Provisions in Bilateral and Regional Agreements. My research identifies recent, fundamental changes and overarching patterns in the evolution in the procedures, institutions, and substantive outcomes of international intellectual property lawmaking. Specific analysis is provided of the Principles’ potential application to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO), and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (VIP Treaty). I conclude that the Principles and other best practice guidelines for international intellectual property lawmaking can be usefully applied beyond orthodox bilateral and regional trade agreements. By adhering to these best practice principles, international lawmakers can help make the global knowledge governance system more transparent, participatory, legitimate, and effective. As IP issues become ever more intertwined with international trade, environmental sustainability, human rights, and many other issues, the fundamental nature of international IP legal instruments and the way they are negotiated is evolving. Recent procedural and substantive changes in international IP lawmaking have triggered a variety of criticisms from both academics and non-governmental organizations whose work generally aligns with the “access to knowledge” movement. To address these systemic problems, the Max Planck Principles on Intellectual Property Provisions in Bilateral and Regional Agreements (the Principles) are a statement of principles...

Trade & Development

Innovation systems and legal frameworks operate on an international scale. I am an expert on the effects of global trade governance on intellectual property laws, policies, and real-world practices. Particularly passionate about Africa, I am working to ensure that international institutions and agendas are designed to promote economic growth as well as human development for more just and inclusive societies.

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Knowledge and Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future

Knowledge and Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future grapples with the complex and dynamic forces that will shape innovation systems over the next two decades. The report distills three different but equally plausible future scenarios: one a world of “wireless engagement,” another where “informal is the new normal,” and a third that is “sincerely Africa.” Shirin Elahi and Jeremy de Beer, with Dick Kawooya, Chidi Oguamanam, Nagla Rizk and the Open A.I.R. Network ISBN: 978-1-55250-577-9 Published by Open A.I.R., 2013 Each scenario raises different issues for control of, and access to, knowledge in Africa. The key insight for policymakers, business leaders, scholars and civil society is that the question is not whether intellectual property rights will be relevant in the future, but rather which rights will be most important in different scenarios. These publications are the work of dozens of members of the Open A.I.R. research network, which I co-lead, from a range of disciplines and working in 14 African countries, who conducted empirical fieldwork across some of Africa’s most important domains of innovation. Based on qualitative and quantitative data collected through surveys, interviews, focus groups, workshops and other participatory techniques, the research uncovered the ways in which intellectual property rights can impact openness and collaboration – now and in the future. Visit the Open AIR project’s website to download the PDF version of the book, or contact us to obtain a hard...

Intellectual Property and Innovation: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa

Innovation and Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa is a book of real-world case studies that show how intellectual property can play a positive role in collaborative innovation systems if policymakers prioritise the public interest. Editors: Jeremy de Beer, Chris Armstrong, Chidi Oguamanam & Tobias Schonwetter ISBN: 978-1-919895-99-4 Published by UCT Press, 2013 The book contains chapters examining innovators in nine countries – Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa. These case studies explore many sites of innovation and creativity including music, leather goods, textiles, cocoa, coffee, auto parts, traditional medicine, book publishing, biofuels and university research. Copyrights, patents, trademarks, geographical indications and trade secrets, as well as traditional and informal mechanisms of knowledge governance are all explored in detail. These publications are the work of dozens of members of the Open A.I.R. research network, which I co-lead, from a range of disciplines and working in 14 African countries, who conducted empirical fieldwork across some of Africa’s most important domains of innovation. Based on qualitative and quantitative data collected through surveys, interviews, focus groups, workshops and other participatory techniques, the research uncovered the ways in which intellectual property rights can impact openness and collaboration – now and in the future. Visit the Open AIR project’s website to download the PDF or ePUB versions of the book, or purchase it through online retailers like and...
Trade & Development

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