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Unfortunately, not all economies throughout the world are equal. The disparity in economies typically has a direct relation to the disparity in technological capabilities among nations of the world as well. In short, the world's strongest and most affluent nations generally produce the most cutting-edge and beneficial technology. In an effort to make technologies that could save lives or greatly improve economies in poorer nations, and as a way to coordinate the sharing of technology between industrialized countries, many nations have agreed to treaties or have made informal arrangements to make a technology transfer to other nations that may benefit.
A technology transfer usually benefits another nation in one of two ways. In the case of industrialized nations, a technology transfer is a way to coordinate research and development to expedite the creation of new technology. The other way a technology transfer can help is when an industrialized nation agrees to share its technology with less-developed nations in an effort to help them with basic technologies, such as food production or infrastructure development.
International law plays a big part in technology transfer, as the vast majority of the technology created is protected by intellectual property law. Intellectual property law protects creations of the mind, such as technology, from unlawful use. Copyrights and patents are the most common form of intellectual property law protection. When a new technology is protected by a copyright or patent, no one may use the technology for his or her benefit without permission from the copyright or patent holder. As a result, new technology cannot be used without a technology transfer agreement.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is a specialized section of the United Nations, is a world leader in the facilitation of technology transfer. WIPO helps nations come together to work out agreements whereby technology can be transferred and shared to benefit those who need the technology without infringing on the intellectual property rights of the owners of the technology. WIPO's charter calls for the organization to not only protect intellectual property, but to also help in the transfer of intellectual property when needed.
One common way that a technology transfer works is to allow the copyright or patent holder to profit from the invention for a period of time, after which the technology will be available to other governments or nations to use. There is always a balancing act that requires protection for the creators of the technology while still attempting to create a mechanism for sharing the technology. Without the ability to profit from the technology, most individuals or companies would stop creating it; however, humanitarian concerns dictate that sharing of technology should also be a goal.