Harnessing Intellectual Property Rights for Development Objectives

Poor management of intellectual property rights and the system of intellectual property rights itself hinder equal research partnerships between the South and the North, and often result in an over-cautious or one-sided Northern investment policy and unnecessary delays in the realization of some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Central to this report is the double role of intellectual property rights – also referred to in terms like ‘protecting legitimate economic interests’ versus (or alongside) ‘the need to contribute to worldwide development from the perspective of sharing global public goods’, including knowledge.

This report is the result of a research project, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, on the role of intellectual property rights in realizing some of the MDGs. The emphasis is on issues in the field of access to food and to medicines and on the larger discussions on the present global and regional systems of intellectual property rights.

Part II of the report focuses on the lack of access to appropriate agricultural technologies in many developing countries. The central research question holds: What is the role of IPRs in the management and sharing of knowledge for development? This part of the report examines the relationship between IPRs, agriculture, and MDG 1c – the target to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. For that purpose, we will analyse the roles that different IP policies and practices play in agricultural research and development trajectories in both a developed and a developing context. Ultimately, the aim is 1) to map the main obstacles and opportunities that IPRs create for the development and transfer of knowledge and technologies for the benefit of resource-poor farmers in developing countries, and 2) to contribute to the realization of IP strategies and recommendations that improve the development and accessibility of agricultural inputs that are relevant for resource-poor farmers and that increase food security in developing countries.

Main outputs


Policy briefs

  1. Intellectual Property Rights and the Dutch Government
  2. Intellectual Property Rights and Dutch research institutes and funding agencies  
  3. Intellectual Property Rights and the agricultural research sector
  4. Issues and approaches for sub-Saharan African policy makers
  5. IPRs and Public-Private Partnerships: Realising development objectives

Media coverage

  • Patenten dwarsbomen ontwikkelingsprojecten. Trouw, 8 December 2011.

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