Intellectual property rights protection and the international transfer of low-carbon technologies


Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) affect the transfer of technologies between countries in the form of foreign direct investment and trade in equipment goods.

The impact of IPRs is a contentious issue for climate change mitigation. Opponents to IPRs claim that they are a barrier for technology transfer. Others argue that they are crucial for owners of technologies to be willing to transfer their intellectual assets. This study provides empirical evidence of the impact of IPRs on low-carbon technology transfer.

The research finds that, in OECD countries, strengthening IPRs increases the transfer of some low-carbon technologies (e.g. by boosting imports of solar PV equipment) and also increasing foreign direct investments (e.g. in solar PV, solar thermal, heating, and cleaner vehicles).

However, for non-OECD countries, stronger IPRs have positive and negative effects. Strengthened IPRs do not reduce foreign investment in technologies, and they can boost the import of goods for hydropower and cleaner vehicles. However, they are found to reduce imports of equipment in solar PV and solar thermal technologies.

The research concludes that adjustment of IPRs for climate change mitigation technologies should be made on a case-by-case basis as the impacts vary across countries and technologies.

Key points for decision-makers

  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) can impact on the transfer of climate change mitigation technologies between countries.
  • This study finds empirical evidence of the impact of stricter IPRs on the transfer of climate change mitigation technologies.
  • Overall, strengthening IPRs does not have a negative effect. However, the impact is found to vary between OECD and non-OECD countries.
  • OECD countries that introduce stricter IPRs do not find that they are a barrier to the transfer of climate change mitigation technologies.
  • In non-OECD countries stronger IPRs can have positive and negative effects on the import of some low-carbon equipment.
  • This research concludes that adjustment of IP rules for low-carbon technologies should be made on a case-by-case basis as the impacts vary across countries and technologies.