World Intellectual Property Organization

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.

This project seeks to better understand these relationships by undertaking two main activities. The first activity consists of mapping the migration of skilled labor by using available patent information. The second convenes an international workshop on the issue of IP and brain drain. Experts will discuss 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.

The workshop would ultimately aim to develop a research agenda on IP, brain drain, and knowledge worker migration for consideration by WIPO member states.

Background information

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.

The objective of this project implementing the WIPO Development Agenda Recommendation 34 “Intellectual Property and the Informal Economy” is to overcome these knowledge deficits. Amongst other elements, the project will yield three country case studies of the IE on the African continent, namely herbal medicines in Ghana, metal manufacturing in Kenya, and the chemical sector in South Africa.

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 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.

This project consists of a series of economic studies that will contribute to narrowing the knowledge gap facing policymakers in developing economies. These country studies will 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.

Explore WIPO