Theoretical studies indicate that the welfare of the developing countries might either be improved or damaged by the strengthening of their own intellectual property rights. Net gains through their agricultural sectors will be positive if the payoff from new innovations is sufficiently different as compared to the technology-exporting countries. Scattered evidence supports the hypotheses that agricultural R&D is responsive to IPRs in developing countries, but there is also evidence that developed-country technology is sufficiently appropriate for developing countries as to offer substantial free-rider gains. However, without IPRs it seems unlikely that the agricultural productivity rates in developing countries can begin to catch up with those in developed country agriculture. ©1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.