International Technology Transfer is not something we hear about regularly. The chances are that a layperson would not even know what it means, the implications or benefits related to it, and mostly how it even works. But first, we need to understand the term ‘Technology Transfer’ to understand the meaning of its international counterpart. And to understand technology transfer, we will need a glimmer of introduction to Intellectual Property.
Let us suppose you have an idea for writing a book, so you pen down a rough draft and try to get it published. The publisher, who wants to save the money they would need to pay you, takes your idea and makes another book on the same lines and publishes it as their product. Now, the question arises, since you didn’t have any tangible belonging stolen from you and only the idea of your book got stolen, how do you get remunerations for the damages done to you?
The answer to this question lies in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). IPR are a set of regulated rules and laws that intend to protect the intangible products of human ingenuity like distinct sounds, words, phrases, designs, inventions, etc. The outcome of the ‘mental labour’ of individuals finds protection under IP laws. Thus, due to the protection granted by IP laws, there comes a boost in development and research because the creators know that they get exclusive rights to production and the profits stemming from its sales.
Technology Transfer refers to a smooth flow of ideas, inventions, and discoveries to different entities who could further use them to make something new. The creators, protected under Intellectual Property Rights, grant both private and public users access to their IP for further development and research, which leads to new products and ideas.
Example: You manage to make a drug that cures Haemophilia (disorder stopping proper blood clotting). Now, technology transfer works in the way that you give access to the said drug to another researcher working on hemorrhages (blood loss) to ensure that their research gets a boost due to your cure. So, Technology Transfer creates a web of collaboration where one finds assistance from different individuals and entities in a similar field, and the primary goal becomes speedy research and development.
Benefits & Pitfalls of Technology Transfer
Technology Transfer has the following benefits:
- It helps in developing a platform to share ideas.
- Assists in the protection of Intellectual Property Rights.
- Helps in promoting technology through the commercialization of innovative ideas and inventions.
- Accomplishes goals that neither party could achieve on their own through sharing and combining resources.
More often than not, Research and Development is a cyclic process wherein the profits booked from the sale and commercialization of the previous research provide for the funding of its successor. Usually, universities and other entities invest in the research and development of numerous ideas, which enables major multinational companies to purchase these developments and save costs on internal Research and Development and roll the ball further by developing their unique technologies. The revenue gathered from such sales helps in funding the research and development and perfecting the older ones. Thus, Technology Transfer does facilitate the production of an ecosystem of its own.
Cost Efficiency is another advantage of Technology Transfer that we usually find overlooked. To understand this idea, let us look at an example. Suppose you wish to go from point A to Z, but since the distance is too great, you would be bound to make some pitstops for resting and gathering your energy. On these pitstops, you would get refreshments and replenish your vehicle’s fuel. Now, let us place this metaphor in the tech world.
One simply doesn’t make penicillin from the raw materials; prior to penicillin, someone had to make the components used in the drug, like a constant source of electricity, sulphuric acid, etc. These numerous components are the pitstops from our metaphor. So, the costs related to the research and development required for the production of sulfuric acid become needless for the research and development of penicillin. Thus, we find that we can skip the numerous pitstops altogether, and the length of the journey goes from A to Z to merely Y to Z since the previous steps were already completed by someone else.
The primary disadvantage of Technology Transfer comes from the human nature of being overly reliant on the product, i.e., since the machine/technology in question comes into existence through the collaborative efforts of numerous individuals and entities, its sustenance and maintenance would also require a collaborative effort. Failing to collaborate in the sustenance and maintenance of the technology, we would find that there would be a total breakdown of the ecosystem since an expert of the technology’s preceding invention wouldn’t know about the new technology and vice-versa.
Technology Transfer, prima facie, comes off as an extremely useful and efficient method of promoting research and development. However, one also ignores the outright problem that it would accompany itself, i.e., unemployment. Let us think from a different perspective: as of now, numerous individuals are working in the production of newer technology, and others working in the mass production of the present technology. So, what would happen if the progression of technological advancements increased exponentially? There are two possibilities that follow closely, namely:
- The first is that the need for the presently available technology production skyrockets due to its need for future technology, and the rate of employment increases.
- The second is that due to mass production, the use of automation in the sector finds a grip leading to loss of employment for the individuals working in that specific industry.
Thus, letting technology and automation progress rapidly without assigning a substitute for the employment prospects of the individuals related to the field would, in all possibilities, lead to mass layoffs and firings.
Phases of Technology Transfer
Technology Transfer cannot get limited to a single step like granting access to one technology to another inventor. It consists of several stages through which one can ensure that efficient technology transfer and the protection of Intellectual Property go hand in hand. The six steps associated with the implementation of efficient technology transfer are:
- Invention disclosure
- Patent application
- Assessment and Marketing
- Patent licensing
Thus, to conclude, the concept of International Technology Transfer enables that the world of division and borders doesn’t end up limiting the pursuit of human developments and advancements and also ensures that the process of development for the underdeveloped areas attains a similar stature as their developed counterparts. The only aspect of International Technology Transfer that one needs to take into consideration is that the technology getting transferred is also suitable and cost-efficient for the receiver. For example, if an invention developed in India, and needs large amounts of human labour, gets transferred to the US, we would find the application of the said technology inapplicable since the labour costs in the US far exceed that of their Indian counterparts. This change in geographic location would make the usage of the tech moot due to the high costs that come with it. And on the other hand, any piece of technology that consumes enormous amounts of market shares and requires little to no manual labour would not be a suitable choice for India since it would further lead to an employment crunch.
Legal Intern, LawDiktat