U.S. Statistics on International Technology Transfer:

Need for Additional Measures

ID-78-24: Published: Mar 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1978.

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The United States measures technology transfers through annual statistics on payments and receipts from royalty and licensing fees. Because payments arising from a single licensing agreement typically continue for a number of years, the payments and receipts in any one year reflect not only agreements initiated in that year but compensation paid on technology transferred in earlier years. Payments currently received are based on early years in which the United States had a large technology lead, and their magnitude may obscure current trends.

Statistics of technology transfer on a year-of-origin basis are an essential tool for policy analysis of such factors as employment consequences and international competitive position. Statistics by year of origin would also help in undertanding to what extent U.S. firms are taking advantage of technology developed by others. The Department of Commerce objected to previous GAO proposals that it collect data on licensing and royalty fees in a manner which identifies yearly transfers, stating that it involved too much paperwork. The additional paperwork appears to be minor and should be weighed against benefits. Even if year-of-origin data were attained, knowledge of technology transfer would be limited because of the inadequacy of money payments as a measure. Japan not only represents technology payments in cumulative and year-of-origin forms but has published quarterly and annual listings of all transfer agreements. The U.S. treatment of such agreements as "business confidential" information may be open to question.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should compile statistics of international transfer of technology on a year-of-origin basis in addition to the current cumulative form.

    Agency Affected:


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