Last October, the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) decided to consider what a development-oriented intellectual property regime might look like. The move was little noticed, but, in some ways, it was as important as the World Trade Organization’s decision that the current round of trade negotiations be devoted to development. Both decisions acknowledge that the current rules of the international economic game reflect the interests of the advanced industrial countries – especially of their big corporations – more than the interests of the developing world.
Without intellectual property protection, incentives to engage in certain types of creative endeavors would be weakened. But there are high costs associated with intellectual property. Ideas are the most important input into research, and if intellectual property slows down the ability to use others’ ideas, then scientific and technological progress will suffer.