Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Intellectual Property - Territory for a New Empire?

In yesterday's Financial Times newspaper, a letter to the editor made some striking statements about the conflict between intellectual property rights and open access to knowledge in the context of growth in both developing and developed countries. The writer, Alfred B Engleberg (an intellectual property lawyer from Florida, USA), likens the globalisation of intellectual property rights (through increasing harmonisation of standards in line with the characteristics of industry in largely developed countries) to a new form of colonialism. Of interest to Patenting Lives were his comments regarding the need to access not only the benefits of research but also the tools for that research, access that may indeed be impeded through the application of patents. In other words, access not only to the benefit as the end-point of that research, but also to the incremental stages of innovation along the way. In light of the anticipated General Statement of the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (see early post), Engleberg's concerns regarding the prominence of industry in the negotiation of international trade and intellectual property developments are particularly relevant. And certainly, in view of the potential imbalances in the international system with respect to cultural, social, and economic priorities, the "cultural diversity" in the "creative economy" may never be "commercially viable."

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