Table of Contents

Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship and Social Justice

Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship and Social Justice

From Swords to Ploughshares

Elgar Law and Entrepreneurship series

Edited by Lateef Mtima

In the Information Age, historically marginalized groups and developing nations continue to strive for socio-economic empowerment within the global community. Their ultimate success largely depends upon their ability to develop, protect, and exploit their greatest natural resource: intellectual property. Through an exploration of the techniques used in social entrepreneurship, Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship and Social Justice provides a framework by which historically marginalized communities and developing nations can cooperate with the developed world to establish a socially cohesive global intellectual property order. The knowledgeable contributors discuss, in four parts, topics surrounding entrepreneurship and empowerment, education and advocacy, engagement and activism and, finally, commencement.

Chapter 12: From swords to ploughshares: Towards a unified theory of intellectual property social justice

Lateef Mtima

Subjects: business and management, social entrepreneurship, law - academic, intellectual property law, law and society


Intellectual property social justice provides a context through which to consider the role of intellectual property protection in the total political economy. Like all other social ordering mechanisms, intellectual property protection is but one function within a complex and organic social system designed to promote the well-being of the societal body as a whole. As intellectual property has moved to the forefront of daily life, however, scholars, activists, and policy makers have called for a greater harmonization of intellectual property protection with other important social mechanisms and objectives. Toward this end, leading “IP social reformists” have argued that prevailing intellectual property norms can and should be socially rehabilitated by resorting to appropriate extrinsic disciplines, such as human rights jurisprudence and critical legal theory, so as to infuse the intellectual property regime with a progressive social consciousness. Intellectual property social justice occupies a unique space in the IP social reform discourse. Whereas the predominating reformist rhetoric confronts the challenge as one of importing pertinent social values into the IP regime, intellectual property social justice eschews any implicit conceptualization of intellectual property protection as inherently devoid of non-economic/socially benign objectives. Whether as an implement of positive social law or an acknowledgement of natural rights and the “social contract”, the ultimate function of intellectual property protection is to cultivate human development and advancement: the intellectual property regime is structured to encourage, access and apply human creativity and innovation because it is socially useful to do so.

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