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Reconceptualising the Debate on Intellectual Property Rights and Economic Development

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  • Mercurio Bryan

    (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

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    Abstract

    Governments and scholars have for some time grappled with the question of whether there is a connection between intellectual property (IP) and economic development, and if so, how strong is the link. Economic literature is equivocal, with some studies concluding that the connection is strong while others conclude it to be fairly weak (and that there may not even be a connection for LDCs). What is quite clear is that countries have historically shaped and amended their IP regimes to promote domestic needs and objectives. It is also clear that several countries with weak IP policies achieved rapid economic growth and development over the last five decades. For these countries, the strengthening of IP rights (IPRs) occurred after the initial stages of increased growth and development. It is also well known that countries failing to adequately protect IP limit the upside of their economic development.Domestically implementing the obligations set out in the TRIPs Agreement provides stability, assists domestic inventors and sends a positive signal to foreign investors. Of course, implementing TRIPs also has its downside, namely by forcing countries to pay a higher price for technology. Herein lies the dilemma, in which developing countries raise IP standards in order to fulfill international obligations and attract foreign investment but at the same time potentially stifling economic, financial and social development by increasing payments to the developed world for superior (and sometimes essential) technologies.This article argues that IP is critical to full-scale technological and economic development for developing countries. Linking IPRs and economic development is not often a popular perspective, but it is clear that developing countries must now operate from the perspective of TRIPs being the minimum level of protection mandated by the international community – substantially deviating from the TRIPs standard is not a viable option. With IPRs and protection being raised in almost every free trade agreement negotiated by developed countries, as well as through the negotiation of new multilateral treaties, such as the proposed Substantive Patent Law Treaty and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the time is ripe for developing countries to revisit the role of IP and economic development. Countries must seek the answers to a number of questions – have increased IPRs impacted upon poverty reduction strategies? Have IPRs encouraged or led to increased growth? How have IPRs impacted access to information, knowledge, education and research? Is the IP policy coherent with other public policy issues such as investment, public health, trade and competition?

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The Law and Development Review.

    Volume (Year): 3 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 1 (September)
    Pages: 64-106

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    Handle: RePEc:bpj:lawdev:v:3:y:2010:i:1:n:3

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    Web page: http://www.degruyter.com

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