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IP and Development: A Road Map for Developing Countries in the Twenty-First Century

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Many developing countries have adopted strong IP laws hoping that it would assist in their social and economic development. For these laws to be effective, they need to be translated into implementing strategies. This chapter gives a brief introduction to the theory of IP and development that is gaining more interest by IP scholars and commentators. It discusses the theory of IP and development and provides policy and practical recommendations that developing countries can adopt to serve their social and economic objectives.


  • Intellectual Property
  • Free Trade Agreement
  • Gross National Income
  • Intellectual Property Protection
  • World Intellectual Property Organisation

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  1. 1.

    Professor Madhvai Sunder note that:


    Intellectual property is essential to development, not just in the narrow sense of efficiency, but in this broader view of expanding capability for central freedoms. Surely, copyright and patents determine our access to basic needs, from educational material to lifesaving medicines. What is less obvious is that failure to be recognised as an author or inventor may impede one’s access to these essential life goods by diminishing one’s material wealth and the capability for living a full life. Stated differently, the implications in intellectual property rights go well beyond incentives for innovation: these rights are related to questions of cultural relations, social development, and GDP growth.

    Sunder (2009), pp. 453 and 470.

    Professor James Boyle note that:


    Intellectual property laws are the legal sinews of the information age; they affect everything from the availability and price of AIDS drugs, to the patterns of international development, to the communications architecture of the Internet.

    See James Boyle, A manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property,

  2. 2.

    These include: the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development of 1986, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of 2001, the São Paulo Consensus of 2004, the Plan of Implementation agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the Declaration of Principles of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Doha Declaration of 2005, the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001–2010, the Monterey Consensus, and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development.

  3. 3.

    The World Bank classified countries in 2015, according to their gross national income (GNI) per capita, into the following categories of countries:

    • low income ($1,045 or less);

    • lower middle income ($1,045–$4,125);

    • upper middle ($4,125–$12,746); and

    • high income ($12,746 or more)

    World Bank, How We Classify Countries,

  4. 4.

    See Horn and Mavroidis (1999) Remedies in the WTO dispute settlement system and developing countries interests.

  5. 5.

    The UN uses the following three criteria for the identification of LDCs:

    1. 1.

      a low-income estimate of the gross national income (GNI) per capita;

    2. 2.

      a weak human assets as measured through a composite of Human Assets Index; and

    3. 3.

      a high degree of economic vulnerability as measured through a composite Economic Vulnerability Index.

    See UN-OHRLLS,

  6. 6.

    “Emerging economies” can be defined as ‘countries that are restructuring their economies along market-oriented lines and [that] offer a wealth of opportunities in trade, technology transfers, and foreign direct investment’. These countries can also be called Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs). According to the World Bank, the five biggest emerging markets are China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia.

    One World Nations Online, Countries of the Third World,

  7. 7.

    See UN-OHRLLS, LDCs,

  8. 8.

    Basheer and Primi (2009), pp. 100 and 102.

  9. 9.

    See Gana (Okediji) (1996), pp. 315 and 331.

  10. 10.

    See Gana (Okediji) (2003), pp. 315 and 324–325; Yu Peter (2009), pp. 466 and 470.

  11. 11.

    Yu (2007b), pp. 1 and 4; Peter Drahos, An Alternative for the Global Regulation of Intellectual Property Rights, 9; Carolyn Deere, Developing Countries Perspectives on Intellectual Property in the WTO: Setting the Pre- TRIPS Context, 1–26 (1),

  12. 12.

    Gana (Okediji) (1995), p. 109; Chon (2006), pp. 2813 and 2877; Keith E. Maskus, Intellectual Property and Economic Development See also Odagiri et al. (2010), pp. 420 and 427.

  13. 13.

    See Maskus (2008), p. 504; Maskus and Reichman (2005), p. 6; Yu (Yu 2007a), p. 214; Lee (2006), p. 160.; See Gana (1996), pp. 315, 335 and 341; Schiappacasse (2003–2004), p. 166; Beattie (2007), p. 28. Sherwood (1990); Primo Burga (1989), p. 259.

  14. 14.

    Olwan (2013), p. 352.

  15. 15.

    The WIPO Development Agenda proposal noted:


    [T]he need to integrate the “development dimension” into the policy-making on intellectual property protection and called for, among other things, the establishment of a new subsidiary body within WIPO to examine technology transfer; a new treaty to promote access to the results of publicly-funded research in developing countries; fair enforcement of IP rights; and more development-oriented technical cooperation and assistance. The proposal concludes by saying that “a vision that promotes the absolute benefits of intellectual property protection without acknowledging public policy concerns undermines the very credibility of the IP system. Integrating the development dimension into the IP system and WIPO’s activities, on the other hand, will strengthen the credibility of the IP system and encourage its wider acceptance as an important tool for the promotion of innovation, creativity and development”.

    WIPO, The Proposal by Argentina and Brazil for the Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO,

  16. 16.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has also launched its own development agenda with the intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and IP (IGWG), which is tasked with preparing a ‘global strategy and plan of action’, aimed at ‘[s]ecuring an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries’. Lerner (2008), p. 296.

  17. 17.

    See the WIPO Development Agenda,

  18. 18.

    Maskus (2008); De Beer (2009); Netanel (2009); Wong and Dutfield (2011); Melendez-Ortiz and Roffe (2010); Odagiri et al. (2010); Rizk and Shaver (2010); Shaver (2010); Chon (2006), p. 2821,; Chon and Borges (2008), p. 71; Margaret Chon, Intellectual Property from Below: Copyright and Capability for Education, 818,; Sunder (2006)

  19. 19.

    Professor Margaret Chon calls for the adoption of an “IP from below” approach for IP and development, See Chon (2006), pp. 2813, 2821 and 2877,

  20. 20.

    The following is a primary reading list:

  21. 21.

    See Sunder (2009), pp. 453 and 470.

  22. 22.

    Mary S Wong, The Next Years in Copyright Law: An Asian Perspective,

  23. 23.

    Ahmed Abdel Latif, ‘A Perspective on Reform in Arab Countries’ in Melendez-Ortiz and Roffe (2010), p. 53.

  24. 24.

    UNCTAD, Towards Development–Oriented Intellectual Property Policy: Advancing the Reform Agenda

  25. 25.

    For example in the field of copyright, It is also important to permit proper limitations and exceptions for students officially enrolled in a course, regardless of their physical location, and to clarify the library limitations and exceptions to cover any possible electronic use of a work in order to permit effective research, gathering and organizing information. Adequate limitations and exceptions for libraries, archives and museums (including provisions for accessing and providing information; digitization; preservation and digital creation (including migration to new technologies as they change)) must be included in the copyright laws of developing countries.

    See Azmi (2009), pp. 273–274.

  26. 26.

    Shaver (2010), p. 68.

    The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property was concerned that “the limitations in developing countries are too narrow and this may result in stunning new creators from generating and producing new works”. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property (November 2006)

    Professor Margret Chon argued also that:


    There is a lot of “room for manoeuvre” both for intellectual property protection in the form of copyright, on the one hand, and for limitations and exceptions to copyright in order to access knowledge goods for essential education, on the other.

    Chon (2006), p. 2813,

  27. 27.

    A study conducted by the organization, Consumers International, has found that a number of developing countries and emerging economies including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, and the Philippines have not benefited from the flexibilities available under international copyright conventions.

    See Consumers International (CI), The CI Study on Copyright and Access to Knowledge (2006)

  28. 28.


  29. 29.

    As Professor Steven Weber has noted that:


    Of course information technology and open source in particular is not a silver bullet for longstanding development issues; nothing is. But the transformative potential of computing does create new opportunities to make progress on development problems that have been intransigent.

    The advantages of adopting FOSS in developing countries are not only economic. As Professor Steven Weber has noted:


    The potential leverage on development comes not from software itself, but from the broad organizational changes that the open source process, as a way of making software, will drive. FOSS should not be used to make up for lack of sufficient legal and economic infrastructure, or replace institutions by installing internet connections. But there are interesting possibilities for building systems of distributed innovation within emerging developing countries and emerging economies that lead to autonomous innovation. This could have a significant impact on development prospects

    Weber (2004), p. 254.

  30. 30.

    On 26 April 2010, CC submitted the following statement to WIPO Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP 5) in Geneva:


    We also strongly believe that Creative Commons offers developing countries opportunities to legitimately access scientific and educational materials released under a Creative Commons licence by researchers and public institutions in the developed world, something that is already taking place. We are aware that this does not solve digital divide access issues, but we believe that making the works available under permissive licences is a step in the right direction.

    Tecnoliama, CC Statement at WIPO CDIP,

  31. 31.

    Consumers International,

  32. 32.

    Knowledge Ecology International,

  33. 33.


  34. 34.

    South Centre,

  35. 35.


  36. 36.

    Olwan (2013), pp. 351–357.

  37. 37.


  38. 38.




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Olwan, R., Fitzgerald, B. (2015). IP and Development: A Road Map for Developing Countries in the Twenty-First Century. In: Fitzgerald, B., Gilchrist, J. (eds) Copyright Perspectives. Springer, Cham.

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