Analysis of the economic impact of granting protection to intellectual property rights is highly complex and contentious. International protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) can be expected to increase the global level of R and D, and lead to increased investment and trade. It is also likely to result in higher prices and more restricted access to new technology and products. Producers of technology will gain from a strengthening of IPRs. Consumers will probably have an economic loss in the short-run which may be offset, in part, in the longer-run, by higher rates of economic growth, output, and employment. The economic impacts will also be unevenly experienced by different country groups, and between countries within the groups. Developed countries are likely to gain economically in the short and long-term. The social and environmental impacts are likely to be concentrated in the developing countries, and may be adverse, at least in the short to medium-term through higher prices and reduced access to protected goods and technology. In the longer-term, they may be advanced by the increased flow of investment and technology transfer.
Proprietary rights are a key element in the commercial development of technology. Under certain conditions, their application hinders the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and may increase inequities. In the case of new varieties of seed, for example, proprietary rights act as a major barrier to the acquisition of new technologies by developing countries. In 1980, the 65% of the patents granted were held in industrialized countries, 29% were held in the socialist countries, and only 6% were held in developing countries (mostly by non-residents). Nationals of the developing country hold a bare 1% of the total of patent grants and only one-seventh in their own countries, although over 90% of the foreign-owned patents are never used in production processes in developing countries.