Intellectual Property and Human Rights
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Intellectual Property and Human Rights

A Paradox

Edited by Willem Grosheide

In the modern era where the rise of the knowledge economy is accompanied, if not facilitated, by an ever-expanding use of intellectual property rights, this timely book provides a much needed explanation to the relationship between intellectual property law and human rights law.
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Chapter 8: On patents and human rights

Jan Brinkhof


Jan Brinkhof* 1. INTRODUCTION Duncan Matthews’ clear and balanced contribution on ‘Intellectual Property Rights, Human Rights and the Right to Health’ has inspired me to make a few observations. I will limit myself to patent law and human rights law. There are two reasons warranting such a restricted reply. First, it may not be helpful to talk about Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in general terms as this might give rise to the impression that they are more or less homogenous rights, and that would be a misunderstanding of IP law. That is to say, considerable differences exist between the rights protected in IP law, the aims pursued by the law, the ways in which rights are gained or granted, and the extent to which and the length of time during which the economic freedoms of third parties are restricted. To make matters more complex still, the various types of IP rights also differ in their relationships with the various categories of human rights.1 Given this diversity, tarring IP rights with the same brush carries with it the risk of arriving at incorrect comments and policy prescriptions. A second reason to restrict the scope of my reply is that I have a better understanding of patent law than the other IP rights – and I hasten to add, I am not a specialist in human rights. * Jan Brinkhof is Professor of Patent Law at the Centre for Intellectual Property Law (CIER), Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, Utrecht University and attorney at law...

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