The Trust and Distrust of Intellectual Property Rights
Revue quebecoise de droit international, Vol. 18, pp. 107-140, 2005
35 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2004 Last revised: 8 May 2023
In the past, intellectual property issues were considered arcane, obscure, complex and highly technical; they were only of interest and concern to specialized attorneys, legal scholars, technology developers and intellectual property rights holders. Thanks to the Internet and new communications technologies, intellectual property has now begun to play a more significant role in society.
In December 2003, the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in Geneva. While the summit affirmed the importance of intellectual property rights and free access to information and knowledge, the resulting Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action fail to address issues concerning the recent expansion of intellectual property rights. The documents are vague and abstract, and do not provide concrete actions the international community can take to improve the international intellectual property regime.
This article examines the international intellectual property regime as it relates to the development of an inclusive global information society. It begins by providing an overview of intellectual property rights and the justifications for protecting those rights. It further explores the increased distrust of the intellectual property system, especially among less developed countries, human rights advocates, development specialists and those on the unfortunate side of the digital divide. The article then delineates five prerequisites for the development of a fair, balanced and robust international intellectual property regime: (1) thorough understanding, (2) balanced debate, (3) equal dialogue, (4) a fair regime, and (5) global solidarity. This article concludes by critically examining those portions of the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action that are related to intellectual property and traditional knowledge.
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