Competition Law in Technology Transfer under the TRIPS Agreement - Implications for Developing Countries
Abstract: The TRIPS Agreement allows WTO Members to enact and apply appropriate domestic competition law to address IPR-related anti-competitive practices. However, these flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement do not provide any specific guidance for WTO Members. The application of domestic competition law to IPR abuses in technology transfer varies a great deal between developed and developing countries, and even among the developed countries themselves. The application requires the establishment of a sophisticated legal infrastructure. This is not a simple matter for developing countries. Intellectual property law allows for the creation of a market which welcomes innovation, the commercialization of such innovation, and technology transfer. Competition law then regulates this market. A strong intellectual property regime needs to be accompanied by strong competition rules. Developing countries generally under-enforce their competition legislation in this area, even though they are net importers of technology. They have to comply with high standards of intellectual property protection under the TRIPS Agreement, or even the TRIPS-plus standards. But they appear not to make use of the competition flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement to promote access to technology and control anti-competitive conduct in inward technology transfer. Analyses of technology transfer-related competition law in developing countries in general, and Vietnam in particular, together with the experience of the US and the EU, provide useful insights. In principle, domestic competition law should be used to promote access to technology. Developing countries can reasonably apply and adapt relevant decisions and judgments from developed country jurisdictions to their own circumstances. While IPRs are globalized, technology transfer-related competition law should be glocalized suitably for the needs of local contexts. In this respect, developing countries should evaluate the obstacles, both internal and external, in order to select appropriate strategies. It must, however, be remembered that competition law is antitrust. It is neither anti-IPR nor anti-trade. Developing countries with limited competition law resources should set realistic priorities for the control of technology transfer-related anti-competitive practices. The focus should be on the areas of refusal to license, excessive pricing of technology-embodied products, tying, and use restrictions. At the international level, issues relating to technology transfer-related competition law, and competition law in general, should be on the agenda of a post-Doha negotiation round in the WTO.
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