UN Human Rights Council Tackles IPRs, Benefits Of Scientific Progress

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The United Nations Human Rights Council last week adopted a resolution promoting cultural rights and diversity, with a commitment to hold a seminar next year on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. The resolution includes continuing support for a special observer on the issue who recently submitted a report raising questions about the impact of intellectual property rights on the diffusion of knowledge.

The Human Rights Council concluded its twentieth regular session on 6 July.

The resolution (A/HRC/20/L.18) states: “regarding the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, as orally amended, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, in 2013, a seminar on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, and to provide all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur.”

The resolution references a report from the special rapporteur for cultural diversity. The rapporteur’s report is here [pdf]. The report contains extensive discussion on the balance of IP rights and public access, suggesting they may be harming access for developing countries in particular, such as in the case of public health.

The Human Rights Council will take forward the discussion of balance.

“[T]he Special Rapporteur proposes the adoption of a public good approach to knowledge innovation and diffusion, and suggests reconsidering the current maximalist intellectual property approach to explore the virtues of a minimalist approach to IP protection,” the May 2012 report said. “Recalibrating intellectual property norms that may present a barrier to the right to science and establishing greater coherence among them seem to be necessary steps. The Special Rapporteur stresses the need to guard against promoting the privatization of knowledge to an extent that deprives individuals of opportunities to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the fruits of scientific progress, which would also impoverish society as whole.”

A similar meeting was held by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last December (IPW, United Nations, 8 December 2012).

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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  1. Tim Roberts says

    To what extent should current efforts to establish and enforce exclusive rights in Traditional Knowledge be objected to as ‘promoting the privatisation of knowledge’?


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