This is a follow-up responding to a comment on my previous post:
We certainly should think about how the concept of sustainable development might mesh with our notions of Progress and how dynamic intellectual processes (creative, inventive, innovative, etc.) actually work in the real world. (Julie Cohen has a nice paper discussing the importance of cultural practices here. UPDATE: so does Mike!!! here and here) We cannot avoid recycling older concepts, ideas, themes, etc. because of the cumulative nature of intellectual systems. Recognizing this is only the beginning of course; thinking carefully about how IP rights might lead to sustainable intellectual development raises a series of difficult questions, which I do not have time to get into right now but may pick up later (especially if folks are interested!).
Another critical role that the concept should play in IP policy concerns international IP and its relationship to economic (+ cultural and social) development. Sustainable development means different things for different countries, and correspondingly the role of IP in the economic (+ cultural/social) policy frameworks of different countries will also vary (considerably). (Larry Lessig points to an interesting article by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, in which he makes this point.) WIPO’s adoption of a Development Agenda suggests that the concept has gained some traction.
Also, check out this important report, which describes approaches for effectively applying science, technology, and innovation to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.