World Intellectual Property Organization

Licensing and Technology Transfer


The dissemination and transfer of technology is a major pillar that supports the raison d’être of the patent system. Based on the exclusive rights conferred by a patent, licensing is a permission granted by the patent owner to another to use the patented invention on agreed terms and conditions, while the patent owner continues to retain ownership of the patent. Licensing not only creates an income source for the patentee, but also establishes the legal framework for the transfer of the technology to a wider group of researchers and engineers, who may, in turn, further contribute to the development of the technology concerned. The extent to which the technology is transferred of course also depends on other factors, such as the size of the market.

Since technology licenses play an important role as a catalyst for the further development of technology, providing a legal and policy framework for intellectual property licenses is becoming more and more important. Today, as demonstrated by the developments in bioinformatics and nanotechnology, continuing progress in science and technology has removed the traditional boundaries between technological fields, fusing the technologies to ever more complex new areas of technology, which requires a comprehensive research work and enhanced collaboration. Although the business sector plays a major role for research and development on activities with a commercial objective, many of the fundamental technologies having great implications for everyday life came from publicly funded research that was not intended for immediate commercial use. The importance of ensuring a greater collaboration between the private sector and the public research sector has been recognized in the recent past, and the need for universities and public research institutions to develop intellectual property policies has been emphasized in many countries in order to properly manage the intellectual property rights relating to their research results.

In a globalized economy, technology licensing and transfer of technology are important factors in strategic alliances and international joint ventures in order to maintain a competitive edge in a market economy. Thus, policy tools to facilitate licensing and technology transfer at the international level have often been considered in the context of creating an appropriate climate for investment and economic development.

Although the enforcement of patent rights per se does not raise the question of anti-competitive behavior, any licensing agreements which lead to an abuse of a market position, for example, for achieving and maintaining a monopolistic position, may be considered as an anti-competitive practice under competition law. For example, in the area of information and communication technologies where a number of patents owned by different patentees are involved in one product, a patent pool agreement may be sought by the patentees, which in turn may raise issues as to its effect on competition.

Since every patented technology is unique, every license agreement reflects the particular needs and expectations of the licensor and licensee. However, certain issues are fundamental to the success of a licensing agreement. For example, in order to conclude a license, the value of the patented technology has to be determined. Unlike tangible property, this is not an easy task, but several methods have been developed to facilitate the evaluation of technology.


Studies and Articles

Links on these pages, including those to studies commissioned for WIPO, do not imply the agreement of WIPO, its Member States or the International Bureau with the views expressed.

Date Source Title
March 2009 OECD Who Licenses out Patents and Why? Lessons from a Business Survey, Pluvia Zuiga, Dominique Guellec [PDF]
December 2008 ICTSD Policy Brief: Does TRIPS Art.66.2 Encourage Technology Transfer to LDCs? Suerie Moon
July 2008 Stockholm Network Climate Change Technologies:  the New IP Battleground, Helen Davison [PDF]
April 2008 OECD Technology Transfer and the Economic Implications of the Strengthening of Intellectual Property Rights in Developing Countries
April 2008 European Commission Commission Recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and Code o f Practice for universities and other public research organizations [PDF]
2008 CIEL IP Quarterly Update: The Technology Transfer Debate in the UNFCCC: Politics, Patents and Confusion [PDF]
November 2007 Stockholm Network Promoting Technology Transfer in Developing Countries: Lessons from Public-Private Partnerships in the Field of Pharmaceuticals, Rachel Diamant et al. [PDF]
April 2007 US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission Antitrust Enforcement and Intellectual Property Rights:  Promoting Innovation and Competition (2007)
April 2007 European Commission Improving knowledge transfer between research institutions and industry across Europe:  embracing open innovation, Implementing the Lisbon agenda [COM(2007) 182 final] [PDF]
April 2007 European Commission Voluntary guidelines for universities and other research institutions to improve their links with industry across Europe (accompanying document to the above) [SEC(2007) 449] [PDF]
February 2007 ICTSD New Trends in Technology Transfer. Implications for National and International Policy, John H. Barton [PDF]
January 2007 AAAS Effects of Intellectual Property Protections on the Conduct of Scientific Research:  Results of a Survey of US AAAS Members
2007 MIHR-PIPRA IP Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices
November 2006 IPRsonline Exploring the Flexibilities of TRIPS to Promote Biotechnology Capacity  Building and Appropriate Technology Transfer , Graham Dutfield et al. [PDF]
September 2006 European Commission Draft Report on the outcomes of the "Public consultation on transnational research cooperation and knowledge transfer between public research organisations and industry " [PDF]
June 2006 OECD Valuation and exploitation of intellectual property (STI Working Paper 2006/5), Shigeki Kamiyama, Jerry Sheehan, Catalina Martinez
June 2006 UNIDO The role of intellectual property rights in technology transfer and economic growth: Theory and evidence

2006 to 2009


Better World Reports

August 2005


Achieving the Successful Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technologies: Trade-Related Aspects  [PDF]

April 2005 NIH Best Practices for the Licensing of Genomic Inventions, Final Notice

January 2005


Intellectual Property Rights [DAF/COMP(2004)24] [PDF]

June 2004

World Bank

Transfer of technology to developing countries : unilateral and multilateral policy options

May 2004

World Bank

Do stronger intellectual property rights increase international technology transfer? Empirical evidence from U.S. firm-level panel data

May 2004 UNCTAD-ICTSD Nutrition and Technology Transfer Policies, John H.Barton [PDF]
April 2004 US DoJ US and EU Approaches to the Antitrust Analysis of Intellectual Property Licensing: Observations from the Enforcement Perspective (presentation made by USDoJ)

March 2004


Discussion Document: Technology Transfer and National Innovation, Bruce Lehman and Eric Garduño [PDF]



Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Rights: the Korean Experience [PDF]



Intellectual Property Rights: Implications for Development, Policy Discussion Paper

May 2003


Turning Science into Business: Patent and Licensing at Public Private Organization

April 2003

European Commission

Report on Multiparty Licensing, Robert C. Lind, Anya V. Kleymenova, Marie Miauton and Paul Muysert [PDF]

February 2003

World Bank

Intellectual property rights, licensing, and innovation [PDF]

September 2002

Commission on IPRs

Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy [PDF]

April 2002

European Commission

Working Paper: Expert Group Report on Role and Strategic Use of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in International Research Collaborations [PDF]

April 2002 FTC Greater Predictability May Result in Patent Pools, Lawrence M. Sung [PDF]
April 2002 FTC Antitrust, Patent Pools, and the Management of Uncertainty, Joshua A. Newberg [PDF]



Genetic Inventions, Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Practices: Evidence and Policies

December 2001


Application of Intellectual Property Rights in Developing Countries: Implications for Public Policy and Agricultural Research Institutes, Mywish K. Maredia [PDF]

December 2000 USPTO Patent Pools: A Solution to the Problem of Access in Biotechnology Patents? [PDF]
January 1997 OECD Technology Incubators: Nurturing Small Firms [PDF]
- WIPO Role of IPR in Biotechnology Transfer - Corporate Views, W. Lesser [PDF]
- WIPO Guidelines on Developing IP Policy for Universities and R&D Organizations


Related Sites

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