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How does intellectual property impact environmentally sustainable development? That's the central question we examine in this course.

The class begins by framing intellectual property issues within the global governance framework. It then explores a series of thematic subtopics:

Does IP facilitate the transfer of clean technologies from developed to developing countries?

What is the role of IP in conserving or sharing the benefits of biodiversity?

How does IP restrict or enable access to plants' genetic resources for food and agriculture?

Which laws govern IP rights and potential liabilities regarding technological innovations?

Students in the course engage in interactive classroom discussion and actively participate in a simulation of international negotiations. Grades are based on this take-home examination, due before 23:59 EST on Thursday, 27 July 2014, which requires to students to choose and answer one of several alternate questions.


Introducing The Issues

Before we can understand how intellectual property policies impact sustainable development, we need to define what those terms mean, and then appreciate the global governance structures through which relevant laws and policies are formulated.


Farming for Food/Fuel

Agricultural biotechnologies have the potential to make people's lives better. Crops can be genetically modified to enhance yield, resist drought, boost nutrients or increase efficiency. But there's enormous controversy over the economic, environmental, ethical, legal and social issues triggered by these technologies.


Benefits of Biodiversity

In this lesson, we evaluate strategies to equitably allocate the benefits of the world's biodiversity (i.e. "life on earth"), most of which is concentrated in developing countries.