Chicago Journal of International Law


The goals of advocates for human rights and intellectual property rights are not incompatible, and in fact are harmonious and attainable without excluding or prioritizing one over the other. Yet today we are faced with growing, entrenched views that the only way to achieve the human rights goals of health, food, and education is through a reduction of intellectual property rights, and the view that only by expanded intellectual property rights can we provide incentives for innovation that will address the concerns for health, food, and education. The appearance of the conflict arises from the fact that certain human rights documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UDHR") and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights5 ("ICESCR") provide that every person has the right to health, food, and education, but these rights may be negatively impacted by the human right-also stated in these documents-for authors and inventors to retain moral and material interests in their creations. If an author has the right to material interests in his expression, this right may be realized through domestic copyright law providing a limited monopoly on that expression, thus increasing the cost for others to use the original author's work. If that "expression" is educational materials, the increased cost may place those materials out of the financial reach of those who could benefit most from it. In the international arena, the debate regarding this conflict focuses on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS"), which requires state parties to implement certain minimum intellectual property laws to protect both domestic and foreign authors and inventors. Accordingly, a state that was once able to obtain intellectual property inexpensively because it did not have to recognize foreign copyright and patent interests now has to provide such protection, increasing the cost of such things as healthcare, food, and educational materials. Thus, if intellectual property laws are utilized to realize the human right of an author or inventor to moral and material interests in a creation or invention, this may conflict with the human right to health, food, and education. [CONT]