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School of Law

Intellectual property rights and development

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines the intellectual property rights regime in its broader environment, with particular emphasis on the situation of developing countries. It endeavours to analyse intellectual property issues in the context of environmental, economic and social development.

The first part of the course introduces the basic concepts underlying the development of intellectual property rights in national and international law. This includes an introduction to the conceptual foundations for intellectual property protection and the basic relevant treaties in the field.

Following this general part, the course analyses intellectual property within the broader social, environmental and economic framework in which it falls. In this context, it focuses on a number of issues of particular importance to developing countries. These include:

  • Environment, including the link between environmental treaties and patents, as well as benefit-sharing regimes;
  • Biotechnology, in particular agro-biotechnology and life patenting;
  • Agriculture, including the consideration of farmers’ rights and plant breeders rights;
  • Traditional knowledge, including sui generis protection and the relevance of existing intellectual property rights for the protection of traditional knowledge;
  • Medical patents, including in particular issues of access to medicines, the impacts on health and pharmaceutical policies in developing countries and the human right to health;

Case studies in the above-mentioned areas or other areas are also considered. These include in particular the consideration of individual developing countries’ implementation of their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement in specific fields and current developments at the national, regional and international levels to develop alternative forms of intellectual property rights, for instance with regard to traditional knowledge and plant varieties.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course seeks to equip students with a broad understanding of the international intellectual property rights system, the main forms of intellectual property rights and the relevant international institutional framework. Its specificity is to provide students with a broad understanding of intellectual property in the context of sustainable development, emphasizing all three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. Overall, it seeks to equip students with the necessary analytical tools to understand intellectual property in its broader environment, with particular emphasis on the situation of developing countries.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 50% unseen examination, 50% coursework (one essay of 5,000 words)

All coursework may be resubmitted.