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Indicators of the relative importance of IPRs in developing countries

This paper has been prepared for the UNCTAD/ICTSD Capacity Building Project on Intellectual Property Rights and Sustainable Development by Sanjaya Lall from Oxford University. The paper discusses the impact of the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) — interpreted by the author as the tightening of intellectual property rights — on industrial and technological development, including technology transfers via foreign direct investment, capital goods imports and reverse engineering in developing countries.

The paper concludes that the jury is still out on the benefits of TRIPS for technological development in developing countries as a whole. It notes that there are significant variations both between rich and poor countries and among developing countries themselves in the factors — such as domestic technological effort, imports of foreign technology and industrial performance — that may affect the impact of TRIPS on technological development. Therefore, the application of TRIPS should take a differentiated approach according to the economic and technological differences among countries.