Journal Articles

Human Rights and Intellectual Property Protection in the TRIPS Era

Philippe Cullet

Human Rights Quarterly

May 1, 2007

Human rights and intellectual property protection are two distinct fields that have largely evolved separately. Their relationship needs to be re-examined for a number of reasons. First, the impacts of intellectual property rights on the realization of human rights such as the right to health have become much more visible following the adoption of the TRIPS Agreement. Second, the increasing importance of intellectual property rights has led to the need for clarifying the scope of human rights provisions protecting individual contributions to knowledge. Third, a number of new challenges need to be addressed concerning contributions to knowledge, which cannot effectively be protected under existing intellectual property rights regimes. This article examines the different aspects of the relationship between intellectual property rights, human rights, and science and technology related provisions in human rights treaties. It analyzes existing knowledge protection-related provisions in human rights treaties. It also examines some of the impacts of existing intellectual property rights regimes on the realization of human rights. Further, it analyzes the recently adopted General Comment 17 on Article 15(1)c of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and proposes an alternative broader reading of this provision focusing on traditional knowledge.

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