Protecting Biotechnology IPRs in Developing Countries: Simple Analytics of a Levy Solution


  • Ryan Cardwell,

  • William A. Kerr

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      Ryan Cardwell is with the Department of Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics, University of Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada and is the corresponding author. E-mail: William Kerr is with the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Saskatchewan. E-mail:
      Thanks to Peter W. B. Phillips and Rene Van Acker for helpful comments.
      Thanks to two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the quality of this research.


High transaction costs and an absence of institutional infrastructure in developing countries prevent comprehensive enforcement of intellectual property rights and generate obstacles to the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crop technology. Governments of developing countries that are members of the World Trade Organization are faced with two options when licensing GM crop technology: (1) attempt to regulate GM crops to the standards of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) or (2) allow a black market in GM seeds and risk trade retaliation from the GM innovator's host country through a TRIPS trade complaint. This paper develops a conceptual model that frames the adopting country's range of licensing options, including a new levy system, and derives welfare measures for each option. The model illustrates how a levy on GM technology can be a welfare-increasing policy for developing countries, and the operation of a levy is discussed. The conceptual model is applied to Brazil's soybean market and quantitative economic surplus measures are estimated within a calibrated welfare model for a range of licensing scenarios. The model's results suggest that a levy may interfere with the long-term prospects for innovators to collect monopoly rents in adopting countries.