Intellectual Property and Human Rights

Course summary

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) affect various aspects of our lives including health, education, agriculture, politics, communications, privacy, and the environment. The globalization of IPRs (especially after its linkage with international trade) in recent decades has equally led to inevitable tensions and conflicts between IPRs and human rights in both developed and developing countries. Historically, the fields of IP and Human Rights evolved independently, but there is now an increasing recognition of the relationship between both fields and this has equally led to debates concerning the proper conceptualization of the relationship between IP and Human Rights.

This course will examine the nature and significance of the relationship between IP and Human Rights. There will be an exploration of the various tensions resulting from the interaction between IP and Human Rights and an examination of how these tensions are being addressed at national, regional, and global levels. In this regard, the module will examine how traditional IPRs (such as patents, copyright and trademarks) interact and impact civil and political rights (such as freedom of expression and privacy) and economic and social rights (such as the rights to health, education, and food). Other forms of IPRs, such as Image Rights and Plant Variety Protection, and how they impact human rights will also be studied. In addition, there will be an analysis of the issues pertaining to indigenous peoples and the protection of their traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions from a human rights perspective.

The course will cover the following topics:

  • The relationship between IPRs and Human Rights;
  • Actors and Norms in the field of IPRs and Human Rights;
  • Biotechnology, Patents, and Human Dignity;
  • Patent Rights, Public Health, and the Right to Health;
  • Patents, Plant Variety Protection, and the Right to Food;
  • Copyright and the Right to Education;
  • Trademarks, Image Rights, and Human Rights;
  • IPRs, Freedom of Expression, and Access to Information;
  • IPRs and Privacy;
  • Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Knowledge, and Human Rights.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Identify key actors and norms in the fields of intellectual property (IP) and human rights, and appreciate the nature and significance of the relationship between intellectual property (IP) and human rights;
  • Identify and understand the tensions arising between IP and human rights and how those tensions are being addressed at domestic, regional and international levels;
  • Critically assess how IP rights may interact with and impact on civil, political, economic and social rights and further issues pertaining to indigenous peoples and the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions from a human rights perspective;
  • Be aware of current developments in the field and be able to contribute in an informed manner to ongoing debate.

Assessment

One essay of up to 4,000 words (80%); and one short essay of up to 1,000 words (20%).

 

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