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When the South African government attempted to amend its laws in 1997 to avail itself of affordable generic medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, the full legal might of the global pharmaceutical industry bore down on the country, delaying implementation and extracting a high human cost. South Africa eventually won its case, but the government learned its lesson: It did not try again to put its citizens' health and well-being into its own hands by challenging the conventional global intellectual property (IP) regime.The government is right, and other developing and emerging economies should follow in its footsteps.Over the last two decades, there has been serious pushback from the developing world against the current IP regime. Over the last 30 years, the prevailing IP regime has erected more barriers to the use of knowledge, often causing the gap between the social returns to innovation and the private returns to widen.The 21st-century global economy will differ from that of the 20th in at least two critical ways.Second, the "weightless economy" – the economy of ideas, knowledge, and information – will account for a growing share of output, in developed and developing economies alike.
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