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The Value of Voluntary Technology Transfer on Mutually Agreed Terms for Innovation

In the capital of multilateralism, Geneva, a debate is raging about how countries can leverage technology transfer to meet innovation and industrial development goals. Technology transfer enables collaboration among key stakeholders, including industry, universities and public sector researchers, in the development of new innovations. However, when it is forced or coerced, it is ineffective and impractical. In order to ensure effective technology transfer, and that incentives for innovation are not compromised, technology transfer arrangements must be both “voluntary” and “mutually agreed” upon.


“Voluntary” technology transfer ensures that engagement in the transfer isn’t coerced by the government. Coupling voluntary with “on mutually agreed terms” ensures that once a voluntary decision to transfer technology is made, the arrangement’s details are agreed by both parties. The World Intellectual Property Organization underscores the importance of both in its training manual on negotiating technology licensing agreements.


The need for voluntary and mutually agreed upon arrangements is well established across multilateral and bilateral agreements, including in:


However logical a concept, the inclusion of this language in agreements cannot be assumed. And, technology transfer’s impact on progress cannot be understated. It’s important that global leaders include strong, pro-innovation provisions that facilitate collaboration, discoveries and inventions that solve critical challenges. Doing so upholds the intent of intellectual property rights and best supports innovators in their efforts to propel the world forward.

It’s important that leaders include strong, pro-innovation provisions to facilitate collaboration, discoveries and inventions that solve critical challenges.

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