Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 1: Mapping the interface between human rights and intellectual property
There are now a broad range of political, economic, social, practical and philosophical issues that straddle the intersection of human rights and intellectual property. These fascinating and challenging issues are attracting increasing attention from judges, government officials, attorneys and scholars, whose activities are mapping the contours of a rapidly changing legal landscape. A personal anecdote illustrates how far the relationship between the two fields has evolved. When I started my academic career in the late 1990s and began to write about the two fields, a senior colleague took me aside and said: ‘These areas of law and policy have almost nothing in common, and the relationship between them isn’t very interesting. Focus your scholarship on only one of these legal regimes. You shouldn’t attempt to make contributions to both.’ I had two responses to this well-meaning advice. First, I acknowledged the historical isolation of two fields. But I pointed out that the foundational document of international human rights law, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provides that everyone has the right ‘to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he [or she] is the author,’ as well as the right ‘to enjoy benefits of scientific progress and its applications.