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Intellectual property (IP), among other things, governs the intersections among environmental sustainability, technological innovation and knowledge policy. This course begins by framing such 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 operate to restrict or enable access to plants' genetic resources for food and agriculture? Are Western notions of IP compatible with the environmental and social norms governing indigenous peoples throughout the world? 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 Saturday, June 23, 2012, 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.

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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.

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Clean Technology Transfer

In this lesson, we'll talk about how patents could facilitate or restrict the transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries.

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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.

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