The 1st panel of the conference was entitled “How have IPR affected the process of technological and economic catch up? ”
This is my summary of a presentation by Professor Hiroyuki Odagiri examined what historical experiences tell us about the effect of “strength” of patent regimes on technological catch up, drawing on lessons from Japan and the USA as early developing countries. Japan in late 1880’s tended to copy the USA on patent law, for example it had a first to invent rule for patents until 1921.
Pharmaceutical products were regarded as not patentable in Japan. Japan copied German utility model example in 1905, there were a very much larger number of utility models. More utility model applications were filed, and a greater number of filings represented Japans comparative advantage industries. A greater number of utility model filings were by smaller firms and individual. This suggests says Odagiri suggests utility models more useful for developing countries than patent system.
Japan’s post war catch up process used active technology imports and rapid increase of research and development spending. Technology transfer was much a function of Foreign Direct Investment policy and trade policy as IPR. There were diverse channels for technology transfer: cross border movement of people, exhibitions and trade shows, open information such as journals and patents, reverse engineering and imitations, and imported machines. The role of government in technology catch up was to provide education, government research institutes, and industrial policies such as subsidies, low interest loans, and demand support.
The effects of IPR on technology transfer and catchup are mixed and complicated, and therefore vary widely. Reverse engineering and imitations are important to enable technology transfer. In Japan there were historically few cases of patent holders taking legal action in early development stage even when reverse engineering constituted an infringement, because the national market was still very small? There were more cases later on, especially on semiconductors, later on there were more cases on on trademarks and copyright.
IPR regime must be considered alongside that of other policies; trade and capital policy are closely related toIPR.
“Weak” IPR is beneficial in the early phase of catch up but Japanese experience suggests “strong” IPR is useful later on.
But the effect of IPR are questionable, there is a danger of anti-commons effects.
Developing countries post TRIPS have fewer policy options and TRIPS part of the WTO agreements which simultaneously constrains trade and capital policy.