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Hanne Geldhof

Did you know that IP rights are recognized as human rights?

IP rights as human rights

Article 27.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following: “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

The protection of intellectual property is essential to furthering innovation on a global scale. Without protection of ideas, inventions, products and services (and the ability to enforce those rights), individuals as well as businesses would most likely focus less on research and development.

Naturally, this would be harmful to the wellbeing of all, especially in a time of rising human needs. While we fully support innovation and naturally endeavor to optimally protect our client’s intellectual property rights, a balance should be found between economization of intellectual property rights and the actual impact and need thereof by society.

The categorization of intellectual property rights as human rights remains under scrutiny because, at times, the right to the protection of “moral and material interests” comes into conflict with other fundamental human rights, such as the right to culture, food, health and education. Patents, for instance, result in a (temporary) monopolization of certain inventions, thus not always allowing third parties to further enhance those or to make those available to the general public at a lower cost. Especially in times of a pandemic (the seemingly ever ongoing covid 19 pandemic), climate change and war, the need for exclusions, exceptions and flexibilities on the exclusive character has been loudly voiced, especially to the benefit of the general public.

On a global level, countries and states are continuously negotiating agreements which include provisions by means of which nations and states are exempted from complying with strict patent regulations, in specific situations. However, drafting such agreements remains a work in progress, with still many reviews and amendments to come.

All in all, in order to find a good balance, one should bear in mind the combination of all human rights. After all, as stated by Nelson Mandela: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”.

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