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Working Paper Series

The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Treaties


  • Suzanne Scotchmer, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (June 2004)


Intellectual property treaties create two types of obligations: for national treatment of foreign inventors and for certain harmonized protections. I investigate both the incentive to join such treaties and the incentive to harmonize. As compared to an equilibrium in which the countries' policy makers make independent choices, harmonization will generally strengthen protections. this analysis recognizes that public sponsorship is sometimes an efficient alternative to intellectual property. However, there are noinstitutions to haronize public spending, and there are no international machanisms to repatriate the spillovers it generates. As a consequence, there may be too little public sponsorship and too much intellectual property. A country's inclination to strengthen harmonized protections will depend both on its innovativeness (positively) and on the size of its domestic market (negatively).

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