Intellectual property rights, foreign trade and investment

(This policy bulletin is an extract from a Briefing Paper)

Should less-developed countries respect and protect the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of foreign countries and multinationals? They are often tempted not to do so by the prospect of enjoying the benefits of foreign technology, inventions and creativity, without paying for it. Consequently, there is a perennial tension between innovative multinationals and third world governments.

Whether third world governments should enforce foreigners’ IPR raises two main questions:

1.    Is Intellectual Property (IP) a legitimate form of property, or is it an anti-market monopoly created by governments in collaboration with vested interests? If so, should third world governments enforce IPR for moral reasons, on principle, as with other rights, especially other property rights?
2.    If third world governments do not regard Intellectual Property as a legitimate form of property, or if they decide to sacrifice principles or morality in favour of crude expediency, is it in their pragmatic interests to enforce IPR?

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