Global IP Policy

How does global patent policy impact the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, and why is that relevant to the real threat of other worldwide pandemics? What is the link between intellectual property law, environmental biodiversity and climate change? Is copyright constraining access to learning materials and education, and if so, who is affected, where, how and why? Are Western-style copyrights, patents and trade-marks appropriate to protect the traditional knowledge and cultures of indigenous peoples throughout the world? How is international intellectual property policy affecting the use of the internet and mobile communication networks as mediums for cultural transformation and more participatory system of democracy? Does the increasing concentration of patents over plants’ genetic resources threaten the livelihoods of subsistence farmers, or even global food security more generally? This course on Global Intellectual Property Policy tackles all of those questions, and more, through the lens of social justice: “access to knowledge,” or A2K as some say.

Global IP Policy


Logistics: Classes, Readings, Assignments, etc.

Details, details, details. Here’s what you need to know. Global IP Policy & Social Justice is a seminar offered at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. As you can see, the course is broken down into thematic modules, with an introduction to global governance at the beginning. Then we launch into six lessons: copyright, culture & expression; education and the enforcement agenda; patents & population health; ag-biotech & food security; IP & the environment; and protecting traditional knowledge.

Global Governance Structures

Before we can understand how intellectual property policies impact people’s lives worldwide, we need to appreciate the global governance structures through which these laws and policies are formulated. Read more.

Copyright, Culture & Expression

Cultural participation is an internationally recognized human right. But there is ambiguity in its meaning and scope. One of the most challenging dilemmas is to reconcile the rights to cultural participation and copyright protection. Read more.

Education & the “Enforcement” Agenda

Achieve universal primary education. That’s one of the Millennium Development Goals we’ve got to reach by 2015. Universal education requires, of course, universal access to learning materials. Read more.

Patents & Population Health

Probably the most publicly-discussed example of how IP may have adverse social impacts is the possibility of patents to restrict access to pharmaceuticals, especially medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS. Read more.

Agbiotech & Food Security

Agricultural biotechnologies have the potential to make people’s lives better. Crops can be genetically modified to enhance yield or drought-resistance or even nutritional value. Read more.

IP & the Environment

A healthy, sustainable environment is a prerequisite to any kind of human flourishing, though we don’t always behave like that’s the case. In this lesson, we’ll look at how environmental issues are influenced by global IP policies. Read more.

Protecting Traditional Knowledge

Not all knowledge worth protecting is “new.” Many of the world’s indigenous peoples have passed on traditional practices, folklore and other forms of knowledge from generation to generation. Read more.