Summary and Keywords
Intellectual property rights (IPRs) encompass several different legal regimes—such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, and “sui generis” protections—developed to protect intangible assets associated with ideas, expressions, and inventions, which are included under the broad umbrella term of “intellectual property” (IP). However, the evolution of these legal regimes has always been fraught with tension. Those desiring access to knowledge without restrictive property barriers resisted the expansion of IPRs, which means that the history of IP is entangled in development efforts. As member countries of the United Nations sought to fully extend IP protection around the globe, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was created, central to which was the debate over the scope of international IP and demands by the less developed countries for less restrictive IPRs. However, it is the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPS) that has become the most powerful arbiter of IP rights. Meanwhile, the main debates and the specific political battles surrounding IPRs include, but are not limited to, biotechnology, biopiracy, copyright piracy, file sharing, traditional knowledge, access to knowledge, and access to medicine. Ultimately, the literature on international IP has evolved considerably, becoming increasingly relevant to more than legal scholars and business professionals. Nevertheless, additional research is needed in theorizing about the core concepts of IP; the complex role between nationalism, the state, culture, and IPRs; and the search for alternatives to IP.
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