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A critical thread running through this issue of the Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property is access. Access has perhaps become an overused word and, in the process, has lost some of its power and hidden some of its actions. In the UK, there is much debate regarding the future of academic research and publishing and, most critically, the future of the diversity and freedom of that research in the face of the Willetts' open access reforms. This seems an extraordinary and contrary risk, given that academic enquiry is arguably a public good, but the infrastructure safeguarding access to diverse knowledge and enquiry is seen by many to be under threat. It is therefore invaluable that this issue of QMJIP examines closely the relationship between access and education, research, creativity and knowledge development.

Susan Isiko Štrba examines the crucial topic of access to education in developing countries. She notes the rationale and foundations for copyright and its relationship to access to education. The author considers in detail the role of limitations and exceptions within the institution of copyright itself as integral to safeguarding education resources, not only in terms of access to resources already available but also, arguably, in the context of creating and disseminating new knowledge. Indeed, the editors note that normative reordering, as the author describes it, does much to safeguard the institution of copyright as a tool for access and dissemination, one that continues to be relevant and effective also as a tool for development.

Timo Minssen and Robert M Schwartz also consider the question of access, but from the perspective of access to research in patent industries, specifically addressing the patentability of isolated DNA and genetic diagnostics. The authors note the criticism of broad upstream patent claims and relate the US situation to developments and debates in Europe. In this, Part IV of the detailed consideration published in earlier issues, the authors address a broader innovation policy perspective arising from access to research in concert with incentives for emerging technologies, and call for greater flexibility and adaptability in the system to account for technological change and transformative developments in scientific enquiry.

This issue's analysis pieces continue the examination of access. Marina P. Markellou explores the creative use of pre-existing images and considers the importance and relevance of access to copyright material in legitimate artistic practice. She notes both the industry and social acceptability of appropriation and the frustration for creatives attempting to reconcile this practice with conventional intellectual property concepts of appropriate use. Federica Grillo explores a perhaps more commercial area of creative, artistic practice, namely fashion, and the Louboutin red-lacquered sole as a trade mark. Access to colour is arguably crucial to the industry, but whither distinctiveness?


February 2013