Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer: Why We Need a New Agenda

  • Padmashree Gehl SampathEmail author


This chapter is a tribute to Pedro Roffe who has been a central figure throughout the technology transfer negotiations at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and has since then, worked intensely on numerous questions of balance in the global intellectual property rights system. This chapter is as personal as it is scientific to me: it reminds me of fond mutual interactions, professional debates and thought exchanges on technological learning, transfer, development, dissemination and the role of intellectual property rights that I have shared with him. The chapter begins by tracing the technology transfer debate since its inception to analyze its relationship with the protection of intellectual property rights. Tracing the developments from 1948 to the adoption of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in 1995, it identifies two distinct approaches—the developmental approach, as put forward by several developing countries in the 1960s and the welfare approach, which positions IPRs as a reward for inventors for the creation of socially useful information. It argues that the failure of the Code, the inception of the TRIPS Agreement and the subsequent ratcheting up of intellectual property norm setting through free trade agreements (FTAs) that provide TRIPS-plus provisions, are all symptoms of a wider malaise: the persistent (and worsening) lack of balance in the global intellectual property system. An analysis of this wider phenomenon, which the chapter terms the “welfare bias” in the current intellectual property rights system, shows that it is spreading beyond the traditional North-South divide to skew the dividends of innovative activities worldwide. The chapter provides empirical evidence to show how patent reforms may cement returns from innovative activity disproportionately in some contexts to argue that there is a need to re-conceptualize and revitalize the technology transfer debate in the context of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division on Globalization and Development StrategiesUnited Nations Conference on Trade and Development‎GenevaSwitzerland

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