Concepts, Actors and Practices from the Past to the Present
Queen Mary Studies in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Stathis Arapostathis and Graham Dutfield
Chapter 14: Business TRIPS: American corporations and patents head to the global South, 1950–2010
The preceding quotations from George W. Bush and Vandana Shiva are indicative of the widely divergent views that exist concerning the role of intellectual property (IP) in the global economy and in North-South relations. To gain historical perspective on this dissonance, the present chapter surveys conditions that fuelled a new relationship between American corporations, patents, and the global South. It analyses long-term trends underlying the World Trade Organization’s 1994 Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (henceforward: ‘TRIPS’), which profoundly altered IP relations between the North and the South. TRIPS was strongly promoted by American corporations and the U.S. government. Negotiated during international trade talks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the inception of TRIPS is examined here against the backdrop of the corporatization and internationalization of the American patent system. Changes ensuing from TRIPS are then analyzed to show how this agreement has brought the North and South closer together in ways not foreseen or desired by corporate America. My approach builds upon an emerging research agenda that links the field of science and technology studies (STS) more closely with globalization and development studies. Such a linking benefits both sides. Applying constructivist theories and methodologies, STS has shown that science and technology are not transcendent forms of rationality that stand above political, economic, or professional interests.
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