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Human rights and intellectual property

For many years, intellectual property has been widely seen as undermining the realization of human rights. From this perspective, human rights serve to mitigate the adverse effects of intellectual property. The potential for intellectual property to act as a tool for the protection of human rights has rarely been posited. The limited recognition of human rights in international instruments such as the TRIPS Agreement has, in the view of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, treated human rights as exceptions to the rule rather than as guiding principles. This project will reject this narrow approach to human rights and its application to intellectual property. The project is based on the idea, which is gaining momentum, that conceptually intellectual property has the ability to help secure human rights goals of 'enhancing welfare and benefit for society'. Following the words of the UN High Commissioner, the project team will adopt a 'human rights approach' which 'places the promotion and protection of human rights ... at the heart of the objectives of intellectual property protection, rather than only as permitted exceptions that are subordinated to the other provisions'.

protest placard
Protest placard, Los Caobas, Caracas, Distrito Federal, Venezuela. Image credit: ervega (Rodrigo Suarez).