Edited by Robert Bird and Subhash C. Jain
Chapter 14: A Skeptic’s View of Intellectual Property Rights
Donald G. Richards* INTRODUCTION Over the past nearly decade and a half the question of intellectual property rights (IPRs) has risen to the forefront of academic and international economic policy debates. The issue was intimately connected to the negotiation in the early 1990s of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariﬀs and Trade (GATT) that led to the establishment of this institution’s successor organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO). IPRs were an acute bone of contention between the developed countries, led by the United States, and the less developed countries (LDCs) who were accused by the former of IP piracy. The LDCs themselves see cheap, or free, access to technology as a necessary means of catch-up with the industrialized, developed countries, and legal restraints on such appropriation as an obstacle to their economic growth and development aspirations. The result of the bargaining process leading to the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of GATT/WTO negotiations was the inclusion in the accord of an ancillary agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The TRIPS agreement represents a signiﬁcant victory for the holders of patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs who mostly reside in the developed countries. It represents an equally serious setback for the producers and consumers of protected goods, services, and production processes, many of whom, of course, reside in poor countries that lack the technical and human capital capacity to develop suitable substitutes. Naturally one can ask why the LDCs agreed to the inclusion of the TRIPS...
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