This paper examines the dilemmas faced by developing countries (DCs) in determining their response to the global harmonisation of intellectual property (IP) protection. It focuses on two key questions: will a weak IP regime in DCs deter inward investment/technology transfer and hamper technology development?; and can DCs build up their technology capabilities and thereby overcome the projected negative impacts of global IP harmonisation by a strategy of delaying compliance with the international IP regime? This paper reviews these debates and dilemmas, applying an analytical framework based on technology studies. It uses a case study of the software industry in China to advance the argument that the effects of an IP regime are extremely complex, depending on particular industrial, technological and social factors. The key question is not whether to enforce the global IP regime; rather, policymaking needs to be informed by a more detailed approach. Imposition of the global IP regime may not be effective and may not per se promote innovation.