Chicago Journal of International Law


The applicable international legal framework for the governance of marine genetic resources from areas beyond national jurisdiction is difficult to sort out- at best, it is unclear under which regime such resources fall, and at worst, there is no applicable regime. Despite the ambiguity, the bioprospecting of these resources is ongoing and increasingly being undertaken for commercial purposes. It follows that intellectual property claims, such as patents on inventions and copyrights on publications describing discoveries, are being sought in relation to inventions and publications deriving from these bioprospecting efforts. As a result, nation states are raising important questions regarding the protection of knowledge deriving from these resources using intellectual property rights and the implications of such protection in international law, including the rights granted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as with regard to access and benefit sharing obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This Article identifies some of the options available to nation states to fulfill access and benefit sharing obligations using the intellectual property right system, rather than acting in spite of it, by briefly discussing the tenets of this system and the possibilities it unleashes.