Notes on Patents, Distortions, and Development

35 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

Date Written: January 31, 1990


The idea behind patent policies is to increase the output of commercially useful innovations by creating a transitory propertyy right that allows the inventor to appropriate part of the returns from his invention. In developing countries, two types of considerations need to be addressed. First, there are issues of designing an appropriate patent system. This includes considerations of administrative efficiency, the impact on government expenditures, and the legal administration of intellectual property rights. Second, and more fundamentally, the investments that patent incentives trigger in research and development are one of many uses for scarce savings. Returns to investments protected by patents depend on the productivity of the inventive process and the industrial applicability of innovations. In situations where the innovative processes might be low, care should be taken that scarce investment resources are not wasted in unproductive research and development endeavors. The paper also argues that in unstable and protected economies, the social returns of patented innovations might be low. The analysis suggests a sequencing of policies where patent protecion should be strengthened once developing countries have achieved a level of savings compatible with investments in risky research and development projects, relative economic stability and competition through open market policies.

Keywords: Real & Intellectual Property Law, General Technology, Environmental Economics & Policies, Education for the Knowledge Economy, Economic Theory & Research

Suggested Citation

Wodon, Quentin T., Notes on Patents, Distortions, and Development (January 31, 1990). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 315, Available at SSRN:

Quentin T. Wodon (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

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