Edited by David Castle
Chapter 17: Intellectual Property, Information and Divergences in Economic Development – Institutional Patterns and Outcomes circa 1421–2000
Ian Inkster INTRODUCTION: MAIN THEMES AND CLAIMS Allowing for small faults with estimation, there are probably about four million patents in the world. Of these, about 1 per cent are owned in the third world, a proportion reached first around 1913 and maintained ever since. In contrast, the third world today produces around 20 per cent of world income and 25 per cent of world trade.1 So, as illustrated by patent ownership, intellectual property represents a greater bias against late development than other standard measures, and this bias – as this chapter shows – is of long standing. The patent system, yet at the heart of an intellectual property regime that embraces trademarks, utility models, copyright, inventors’ certificates and the like, was introduced to colonies and subject peoples by a very small group of industrial nations during the late 19th century. Whilst such dominion undoubtedly insured something of this long-term bias, we argue here that the prime elements at work have been variability combined with complexity. An original variability amongst national systems allowed the successful late entry of such nations as Germany or Japan. The resulting institutional and cognitive complexity inhibited industrialization via technology transfers thereafter. Thus the short 20th century (1918–1971) was a disaster for poor nations. Subsequent changes in technique towards areas such as biotechnology and microelectronics opened new windows of opportunity for very late developers, for new industries did not require the tremendous fixed assets of the earlier metal- and chemical-based machinofactures. The rising pressure for patent reform...
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