Intellectual Property and the Development Divide

92 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2006 Last revised: 18 Nov 2009

See all articles by Margaret Chon

Margaret Chon

Seattle University School of Law


This Article attempts to map the challenges raised by recent encounters between intellectual property and development. It proposes a normative principle of global intellectual property - one that is responsive to development paradigms that have moved far beyond simple utilitarian measures of social welfare. Recent insights from the field of development economics suggest strongly that intellectual property should include a substantive equality principle, measuring its welfare-generating outcomes not only by economic growth but also by distributional effects. A new principle of substantive equality is a necessary corollary to the formal equality principles of national treatment and minimum standards that are now imposed on virtually all countries regardless of their level of development. Indeed this principle is arguably the very core of a human development-driven concept of development, a term that is highly indeterminate but lately used by many developing countries to express an equality concern within various global intellectual property regimes such as the WTO and WIPO. This proposed principle of substantive intellectual property equality would be analogous to strict scrutiny review in the judicial context of U.S. constitutional law. It would be foundational to any form of intellectual property decision making. Simply put, a decision maker would accord much less deference and exercise much more skepticism towards the proposed government action (in this case, the regulatory intervention by the state in the form of the grant of intellectual property protection, or the withholding of an exception or limitation to an intellectual property grant) when a knowledge good that affects basic human development capabilities, such as basic education or health care, is implicated. Certain foundational capacities, whether viewed as the sum of individual capabilities in knowledge or as national capacities in production of knowledge goods, should guide application and creation of intellectual property norms. This proposed substantive equality principle would match intellectual property's innovation mandate to the actual local conditions and concerns of developing countries seeking to join the global knowledge economy. It has taken on new urgency and significance given the recent agreement by WIPO member states to forward recommendations of The New WIPO Development Agenda to the General Assembly in the fall 2007.

Keywords: Development, Development Agenda, Globalization, Intellectual Property

JEL Classification: A1, K00, K19, K29, K39

Suggested Citation

Chon, Margaret, Intellectual Property and the Development Divide. Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 27, pp. 2821-2912, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Chon (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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