Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
In this chapter we will explore the intersection between human rights and intellectual property (IP) from the perspective of multilateral IP law. We see the IP system as a tool of public policy: generally, it is intended to promote economic, social, and cultural progress by stimulating creative work and technological innovation. It can be used to give effect to and promote values deemed essential from the human rights perspective. The grant of intellectual property rights (IPRs), which are private rights, and which typically operate within a market-based system that allows right holders to license and extract value from their rights, is obviously only one of the means used in the pursuit of these values. Through the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), multilateral IP law has been included as part of the global trading system and international economic governance under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We will explore practical ways in which the human rights framework has been or can be used to guide international IP policy. Our discussion of multilateral IP law will focus on the TRIPS Agreement. Like other multilateral IP treaties, it commits its parties to provide non-discriminatory treatment and a certain minimum level of protection, coupled with flexibilities, to right holders from other parties to the agreement. This question of the pursuit of human rights values in the framing of IP law is not new to the international debate.
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