Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Strong IPR regimes counterproductive for technology transfers

Technology transfers to developing countries for climate control related technologies are not possible due to their weak IPR regimes. This oft-expressed notion has been called into serious question by a 64-page Discussion Paper titled Emerging Asia contribution on issues of technology for Copenhagen jointly authored by representatives of 5 countries' Research Institutes. They evaluated the domestic status and transfer of 3 key mitigation technologies, viz. clean coal, solar power and biofuels, to China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

They point out that Malaysia and Indonesia have strong IPR regimes, but yet have not benefitted from technology transfers of these clean technologies.

They argue that strong IPR regimes may even hinder developing countries' access to technology. Where patents are honoured, as most patents are held by foreign companies, it stifles local research and prevents adaptation of technology to local needs. 

These are strong arguments indeeed, and their eventual recommendation is even more startling: TRIPS allows individual countries to override patents in a national emergency, so it could be worthwhile to declare climate change a national emergency and climate change mitigation as a public good.

This report should set the cat among the pigeons if any of the developing countries were to follow their recommendation, and their cogent arguments backed by data will surely be the topic of heavy discussion at Copenhagen later this year.


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