William Lesser
Cornell University.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) have been critically reassessed in recent years. This paper evaluates several of those analyses in detail. With regard to patent quality in the United States, analysis indicates that rising numbers of patent grants are a consequence of demand for patents rather than changes in patent examination standards. Internationally, protection options for living organisms (seeds, plants, and animals) are more limited than for other products, suggesting a relative underinvestment in the sector. In particular, the recent “initial/ essentially derived” system, intended to provide incentives for background plant breeding, is judged to be inoperative. Finally, with regard to IPRs and foreign direct investment (FDI), the “strength” of national IPR systems was found to be strongly associated with levels of FDI for 44 developing countries in the post-TRIPs world. The limited US research exemption for patents was identified as a major potential restrictor of public-sector access to germplasm for future breeding.

Key words: FDI, foreign direct investment, intellectual property rights, IPR, patent quality, plant variety protection.