Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 3/05

IPR innovation and the evolution of biotechnology in developing countries

David Zilberman and Gregory Graff
University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA


The emergence of agricultural biotechnology has altered the way new seed varieties are being produced. Some basic innovations are products of the educational industrial complex, where public sectors introduce basic concepts; however, the final developed technologies are appropriated by the private sector. The private sector underinvests in biotechnologies that serve the needs of the poor in the developing world, and in small specialty crops in the developed world. In these cases, public resources must be allocated to investments in the development of biotechnologies. While developers of technology in the private sector are provided “freedom to operate” in the IPR thicket, biotechnology in the public sector may be hampered by constrained access to IPRs. We introduce the principles of design for institutions referred to as a clearinghouse, which will aim to address the IPR constraints of developers of technology for the poor by reducing transaction costs by increasing the transparency of ownership of IPRs and providing mechanisms to accelerate access. The clearinghouse may establish a set of accessible technologies that will be available to researchers and may be used for negotiation to obtain access for proprietary technology. There are several organizations that serve as clearinghouses, and their activities are described.

Keywords: intellectual property rights (IPR), clearinghouse, innovations, developing countries

JEL: Q 190

Vol. 44 (2005), No. 3: 247-266