Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel


There are well-known differences between the industrialized countries and the developing countries in their attitudes toward intellectual property rights. To the developing countries, such rights give inventors and innovators an undesirable monopoly on advanced technology that can be employed to raise prices and to impose unwarranted restrictions on the use of the technology. To them, the strong enforcement of intellectual property rights would do little to aid their own development; instead, it would tend to hinder their attempts to raise per capita income.

A view commonly expressed in developing countries is that knowledge should be made available at minimal cost to everyone since it is a common property of all, and that because the development of the relatively impoverished countries of the world is a goal that benefits everyone, the technology needed by these countries should be given to them at a low cost. For these and other reasons, many developing countries have relatively weak laws to protect intellectual property and less than diligent enforcement of the laws that exist. Also, they have adopted policies with regard to direct foreign investment and licensing designed to improve the terms on which they can get foreign technology.

The industrialized countries have a substantially different attitude. In their view, intellectual property rights must be respected to provide a fair return to the private investors who take the considerable risks involved in developing and commercializing a new technology. Unless such returns are available, the incentives for inventive and innovative activity will be impaired, to the detriment of all nations, rich or poor. Also, the industrialized countries sometimes assert that the establishment of stronger intellectual property rights would help to promote indigenous technological and innovative activities in the developing countries, although it is generally conceded that this is only one of many relevant factors influencing the indigenous rate of innovation.1


For a discussion of recent pressures on developing countries to strengthen intellectual property rights, see Mody (1990); also, see Bale (1988), Benko (1987), Chin and Grossman (1990), Clemente (1988), Cortes (1988), Evenson and Ranis (1990), Pack (1987), Richards (1988), and other references.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement