Do as I Say (Not as I Did): Putative Intellectual Property Lessons for Emerging Economies from the Not so Long Past of the Developed Nations

29 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2010

See all articles by Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons

Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons

University of Toledo - College of Law; Fellow, Intellectual Property Rights Center

Date Written: October 2, 2010


Uncompensated intellectual property technology transfers, piracy, or just plain old fashioned free-riding, by most developing countries, especially the Least Developed Countries, is the paradigmatic example of “he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening m[ine].” It often benefits the developing country without undue or any costs on the rights holders in developed countries. It may ameliorate suffering, promote development, and facilitate the ultimate creation of new markets where eventually the rights holders may exploit their intellectual property for a fair(er) price. One of the intended consequences of the WTO and the TRIPS Agreement was to close this route to development. Yet, the WTO and TRIPS Agreement’s promises of promoting technology transfer did not provide an effective alternative route to development. The new purported road to development developed countries granting incentives to promote technology transfer has been large is so far leading nowhere. Consequently, developing nations must once again look to the historic role-models of countries that have successfully developed and follow these well worn paths. Unless developed nations are prepared to make a significant financial commitment to economic development. This article presupposed a utilitarian justification for intellectual property protection, and concludes that properly managed piracy in the developing world does not affect the practical incentives provided by intellectual property rights in the developed world and its markets. If the developing country's domestic-use market can be properly differentiated or segmented from the export, gray market, or parallel import markets in developed countries then developing countries may follow the rich example of the developed world and enjoy a sustained period of an intellectual property rights subsidy without affecting intellectual property's utilitarian incentive structure. A period of intellectual property piracy seems to be a natural developmental stage on the road to becoming a developed nation, and once those goals have been met, the former outlaw pirate nation then becomes a zealous advocate for strong intellectual property protection internationally and domestically thus making strict adherence the norm. In the sum, this article merely encourages developed countries and rights holders in developed countries to be tolerant of a limited scope of intellectual property piracy in developing countries for just a little while longer.

Keywords: Economic Development, Piracy, Intellectual Property, Foreign Aid, Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, TRIPS, WTO, WIPO, Bilateral Trade Agreements

JEL Classification: A12, F10,F13, D63, F00, F02, F42, O10, O14, O30, O34, 038

Suggested Citation

Gibbons, Llewellyn Joseph, Do as I Say (Not as I Did): Putative Intellectual Property Lessons for Emerging Economies from the Not so Long Past of the Developed Nations (October 2, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons (Contact Author)

University of Toledo - College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
419-530-4175 (Phone)
419-530-7878 (Fax)

Fellow, Intellectual Property Rights Center ( email )

No.143, Wuluo Road
Wuhan, Hubei 430073

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