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Discussion

Discussion of the foregoing topics at the conference focused on what conclusions, if any, can be drawn about the desirability of a worldwide, uniform system of intellectual property right (IPR) protection, versus a system of national IPR regimes that are differentiated according to the country's stage of economic and technological development. No clear consensus arose from the discussion on the superiority of one system over the other. In fact, one of the most prominent themes that was repeated again and again was the lack of an adequate evidentiary base for determining the optimal global IPR system or for making policy prescriptions.

The question was raised of whether stronger IPRs are in the interests of developing countries, or under what conditions they might be in their interest. This question is central to the debate, because if IPRs are not in the interests of developing countries, those countries may naturally resist strengthening their IPR regimes. Moreover, if IPRs are not in the interests of developing countries and if the United States is successful in imposing a uniform, strong IPR system worldwide, the system may result in harm to the economies of those nations. On the other hand, if stronger IPRs can be shown to be in the interests of developing countries, it would simplify the movement toward a uniform worldwide IPR system and would result in benefits to the developing countries and to the world.

As shown in the chapters in this section, many factors must be considered in weighing the benefits and costs of stronger IPRs to any particular country or group of countries. It has even been suggested that under certain



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Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology Discussion Discussion of the foregoing topics at the conference focused on what conclusions, if any, can be drawn about the desirability of a worldwide, uniform system of intellectual property right (IPR) protection, versus a system of national IPR regimes that are differentiated according to the country's stage of economic and technological development. No clear consensus arose from the discussion on the superiority of one system over the other. In fact, one of the most prominent themes that was repeated again and again was the lack of an adequate evidentiary base for determining the optimal global IPR system or for making policy prescriptions. The question was raised of whether stronger IPRs are in the interests of developing countries, or under what conditions they might be in their interest. This question is central to the debate, because if IPRs are not in the interests of developing countries, those countries may naturally resist strengthening their IPR regimes. Moreover, if IPRs are not in the interests of developing countries and if the United States is successful in imposing a uniform, strong IPR system worldwide, the system may result in harm to the economies of those nations. On the other hand, if stronger IPRs can be shown to be in the interests of developing countries, it would simplify the movement toward a uniform worldwide IPR system and would result in benefits to the developing countries and to the world. As shown in the chapters in this section, many factors must be considered in weighing the benefits and costs of stronger IPRs to any particular country or group of countries. It has even been suggested that under certain

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Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology conditions (e.g., if a developing country has a strong demand for a product not produced elsewhere), it may be in the interest of a developing country to provide stronger protection for inventions in that product technology than is provided in industrialized countries. However, although conference participants recognized as critical the question of benefits to developing countries, researchers pointed out that there are practically no data to supply an answer. Some preliminary data useful in the analysis of the costs and benefits of strong IPRs are supplied by Mansfield's research on the effect of weak IPR systems on foreign direct investment (FDI) by U.S.-based companies. If it could be shown that the size and composition of FDI in developing countries are negatively affected by weak IPR regimes, those countries might be influenced to strengthen intellectual property rights. During the discussion, however, the question was raised of whether the same factors motivate FDI by firms based in Japan, Europe, and the newly industrialized countries that motivate U.S. firms. As firms from other countries become more significant players in FDI, developing countries may become less concerned about foreign direct investment by the United States. Moreover, if firms from other countries do not have the same incentives and concerns with respect to FDI and IPRs as U.S.-based firms, the United States can expect less cooperation from their governments in international IPR negotiations. Again, there are no data from research studies to address these questions, although anecdotes based on personal experiences suggest that Japanese companies, for example, view FDI very differently than U.S. firms do. Another question raised during the discussion was one that is seldom raised in IPR debates—that is, are stronger IPRs in the interest of industrialized countries? It is often taken for granted that this is true. However, the current debate in the United States about patenting of software and genes has raised the possibility that intellectual property protection can be too strong and can squelch vital incremental-improvement inventions, perhaps strengthening the position of firms that have made basic inventions. This issue is related to one discussed by Paul David in Chapter 2—that enforcement of patent rights under some conditions can inhibit technological progress. An alternative to the current (differentiated) international IPR regime, namely, a uniform, worldwide system of strong IPR protection, was explored in this section. The simple proposition that uniformity is a good thing needs to be examined carefully, however. The point was made during the conference that although uniformity in itself has certain theoretical benefits, the details of the uniform system are important. As in the case of technological standards, there may be broad agreement on the need for standards but intense disagreement on what the standards should be, based on the differing interests of the negotiating parties. Even if all countries could be persuaded to accept the same IPR laws,

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Global Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights in Science and Technology those laws could lead to very different effects in different cultures. One discussant argued, for example, that although the Japanese and U.S. patenting institutions are quite similar (see Chapter 6), they have led to quite different effects. In the United States, the IPR system has reinforced the tendency toward the not-invented-here syndrome, whereas in Japan it is said to support a more cooperative approach to technology. Similarly, the same IPR laws may have quite different effects in nations that are at different stages of economic and technological development or productive capability. The absence of good data and other information on the benefits and costs of strong IPRs to developing countries will likely affect the outcome of the current General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. Discussants questioned how far the United States can expect to push the developing countries to strengthen their IPR systems when it cannot be shown that the current level of protection is too low or that stronger protection would be in their interest. If the developing countries cannot be convinced of the benefits to them of strong IPRs, it may be necessary for the United States to make concessions in other areas of the talks to achieve the international IPR regime it desires. How willing is the United States to make the necessary trade-offs? Judging from U.S. intransigence on such issues as agriculture in the GATT talks, one discussant surmised that the United States is unlikely to make such a trade-off for stronger IPRs and that a uniform, worldwide system of strong IPRs is therefore unlikely to emerge from the current round of talks.