Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development
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Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development

The Role of NGOs and Social Movements

Duncan Matthews

This insightful and important new book explores the role played by non-governmental-organizations (NGOs) in articulating concerns at the TRIPS Council, the WIPO, the WHO, the CBD-COP and the FAO that intellectual property rights can have negative consequences for developing countries. Duncan Matthews describes how coalitions of international NGOs have influenced the way that the relationship between intellectual property rights and development is understood, often framing the message as a human rights issue to emphasize these concerns and ensure that access to medicines, food security and the rights of indigenous peoples over their traditional knowledge are protected.
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Chapter 1: The Interface between Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development

Duncan Matthews


INTRODUCTION Only a few years ago, the notion that intellectual property rights promote development remained largely uncontested.1 International policy-making and norm-setting in the field of intellectual property focused almost entirely on ensuring that national intellectual property regimes provided strong protection for rights holders, with the presumption that benefits would then accrue for developing countries. When the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on TradeRelated Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) was being negotiated between 1986 and 1994, it was argued that these benefits would include increased foreign direct investment (FDI), higher levels of technology transfer or licensing leading to the transfer of know-how and expertise that would contribute to local economic growth and higher levels of domestic innovation. However, there was relatively little substantive debate about the potential for adverse effects to result from higher standards of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement in the developing world (Matthews 2002, p. 108). In fact, during the TRIPS negotiations themselves, the paucity of the information about the likely impact of intellectual property rights on developing countries was exacerbated by the fact that many developing countries experienced information deficiencies and lacked the technical expertise to evaluate effectively the costs and benefits of higher standards of intellectual property protection and enforcement for their territories. With only about ten developing countries actually sending intellectual property experts to the TRIPS negotiations, the lack of considered debate on this issue is hardly surprising (Matthews 2002, p. 44). In contrast to developed country delegations that had access...

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