The Globalization of Private Knowledge Goods and the Privatization of Global Public Goods

Jerome H. Reichman, Duke Law School
Keith E. Maskus

Document Type Article

Available in the Faculty Scholarship Repository


Global trade and investment have become increasingly liberalized in recent decades. This liberalization has lately been accompanied by substantive new requirements for strong minimum standards of intellectual property (IP) protection, which moves the world economy toward harmonized private rights in knowledge goods. While this trend may have beneficial impacts in terms of innovation and technology diffusion, such impacts would not be evenly distributed across countries. Deep questions also arise about whether such globalization of rights to information will raise roadblocks to the national and international provision of such public goods as environmental protection, public health, education, and scientific advance. This article argues that the globalized IP regime will strongly affect prospects for technology transfer and competition in developing countries. In turn, these nations must determine how to implement such standards in a pro-competitive manner and foster innovation and competition in their own markets. Developing countries may need to take the lead in policy experimentation and IP innovation in order to offset overly protectionist tendencies in the rich countries and to maintain the supply of global public goods in an emerging transnational system of innovation.