Development Studies

Intellectual property and brain drain

The international mobility of skilled workers and the associated international knowledge diffusion, domestic innovation and brain drain/brain gain phenomena are important development challenges. Their relationships with intellectual property (IP) policies and IP protection are, however, poorly understood.

As mandated by WIPO Development Agenda Recommendation 39, this project sought to better understand the relationship between international mobility of skilled workers and IP policies by undertaking two main activities. The first activity consisted of mapping the migration of skilled labor by using available patent information. The second convened an international workshop on the issue of IP and brain drain. Experts discussed the possible relationships between skilled labor migration and the associated brain drain, on the one hand, and IP protection, international diffusion of knowledge, innovation and development, on the other.

This project was completed and presented to members for consideration at the twelfth session of the Commitee on Develoment and Intellectual Property (CDIP) held in Geneva from November 18 to 21, 2013.

CDIP project – background information



Intellectual Property and Brain Drain - A Mapping Exercise  – CDIP document | working paper PDF, Measuring the international mobility of inventors: A new database | Inventor migration files ZIP, Measuring the International Mobility of Inventors, Inventor migration files

Other papers

  • Diaspora networks, knowledge flows and brain drain PDF, Diaspora Networks, Knowledge Flows and Brain Drain
  • U.S. high-skilled immigration, innovation and entrepreneurship: empirical approaches and evidence PDF, U.S. High-Skilled Immigration, Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Empirical Approaches and Evidence
  • Inventor data for research on migration and innovation: a survey and a pilot PDF, Inventor Data for Research on Migration and Innovation: A Survey and a Pilot

IP and the informal economy

The informal economy (IE) represents a significant share of output and employment in many developing countries. Evidence suggests that innovation is taking place in the small enterprises which constitute the IE. Yet little is known about how these innovations are generated, and what the role of IP is in this context.

This project, which implemented WIPO Development Agenda Recommendation 34, attempted to overcome these knowledge deficits by understanding how innovation takes place in the informal economy.  Firstly, an international workshop was convened with field experts to help guide the development of the studies produced under this project.  Secondly, the project investigated the case of three specific sectors in three African countries to provide country-level empirical evidence, namely herbal medicines in Ghana, metal manufacturing in Kenya, and the chemical sector in South Africa.

This project was completed and presented to members for consideration at the thirteenth session of the CDIP held in Geneva from May 19 to 23, 2014. The study results will be in a publication entitled "The Informal Economy in Developing Nations".

CDIP project – background information



IP and socio-economic development

There is great interest in better understanding the effects of IP protection in developing countries, both on specific measures of economic performance and on the economic development process more broadly.

Many economists have argued against a “one-size-fits-all” approach in the design and implementation of an IP regime. At the same time, national policymakers in developing countries often lack credible empirical guidance in tailoring their IP systems to national capacities and needs. This is in considerable contrast to developed countries, where national IP offices, other branches of government, and academic economists have produced insightful evidence on the economic implications of different dimensions of IP protection.

WIPO Development Agenda Recommendations 35 and 37 mandate a series of economic studies to narrow the knowledge gap facing policymakers in developing economies. These country studies seek to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of IP protection on social and economic performance. Each country study is intended to address topics related to three broad themes: domestic innovation, the international and national diffusion of knowledge, and institutional features of the IP system and their economic implications.

The first phase of this project was completed and presented to members at the fourteenth session of the CDIP held in Geneva from November 10 to 15, 2014.

CDIP project – background information

Reports by country



  • Role of IP in the information technology sector - CDIP document | working paper PDF, The Egyptian Information Technology Sector and the Role of Intellectual Property: Economic Assessment and Recommendations