Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property

Edited by Christophe Geiger

Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property is a comprehensive reference work on the intersection of human rights and intellectual property law. Resulting from a field-specific expertise of over 40 scholars and professionals of world renown, the book explores the practical and doctrinal implications of human rights on intellectual property law and jurisprudence. In particular, the chapters scrutinize issues related to interactions among and between norms of different legal families, the role of human rights in development of the balanced intellectual property legal framework, standing case-law of national and regional courts and intellectual property offices reconciling overlapping rights and obligations, and identify the practical significance of different human rights for the exercise of intellectual property rights.
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Chapter 10: Human rights and intellectual property law at the bilateral and multilateral levels: Substantive and operational aspects

Xavier Seuba


The relationship between multilateral human rights treaties and bilateral compromises on intellectual property has come to the forefront in the last decade. The mushrooming of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) – an important number of them bilateral free trade agreements – containing highly detailed and increasingly demanding intellectual property articles has caused concern in numerous human rights forums. This preoccupation arises because of the potential impact of new bilateral intellectual property compromises on access to public goods and on the protection of a range of fundamental guarantees related to civil freedoms. The World Trade Organization (WTO) counts 116 PTAs containing relevant intellectual property provisions. A thorough review of the WTO regional trade agreements databaseshows that the number of treaties that could be counted is indeed higher, even if a number of specific treaties counted by the WTO should not be included in the list. According to our own estimates, the total number of agreements notified to the WTO containing relevant intellectual property provisions is 141. While the actual number of treaties is relevant in itself because it informs the potential tensions with human rights treaties, it becomes even more important when considering the fact that more than 75 per cent of the PTAs containing intellectual property provisions entered into force in the last 12 years. In addition to the novelty of the phenomenon, the strengthening of the substantive content of the treaties also merits attention.

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