Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 5, 2021

Reductionist Intellectual Property Protection and Expansionist (and “Prodevelopment”) Competition Rules as a Human Rights Imperative? Enhancing Technology Transfer to the Global South

Klaus D. Beiter ORCID logo

Abstract

Increasingly, the economy of industrialised countries moves away from being based on a multiplicity of independent innovators to one characterised by cross-licensing and the pooling of intellectual property (IP) rights. Competition law is accorded a more limited role. Refusals to license or restrictive licence terms are tolerated. This paradigm emphasises the innovation at the expense of the dissemination rationale of IP and competition law. The pressure on developing countries is to follow suit. However, this approach jeopardises overcoming the technology dependence of these states. Yet, the political consensus underlying the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was that, in exchange for IP rights protection, a transfer and dissemination of technology benefiting the global South would occur. This has not taken place so far. Taking this promise seriously requires according an enhanced, more social role to competition law. Articles 8(2), 31 and 40 of TRIPS – the TRIPS competition rules – could be interpreted in a way to accomplish this. This article argues in favour of a “prodevelopment” approach to IP-related competition law. This could be viewed as a demand of the rule of law at the international level. On the one hand, treaties such as TRIPS are to be interpreted in good faith. On the other, public interest and human rights considerations justify, as it were, require, such an approach. Articles 7 and 8 of TRIPS can play a crucial role in this regard. They reflect such public interest considerations as “object and purpose” of TRIPS. They also provide a link to international human rights law (IHRL). IHRL protects a (group) right to development, confirming “policy space” for World Trade Organization (WTO) members and the freedom to opt for a competition law model that facilitates dissemination. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) further protects various economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (REBSPA). These rights may be said to give rise to “transfer and dissemination of technology” as a human right. Duties under the right to development and “territorial” and “extraterritorial” human rights obligations (ETOs) under the ICESCR support an understanding of competition law which is pro development, which takes account of local access and welfare needs. The article concludes with a set of 10 consolidated considerations for a “prodevelopment” IP-related competition law.


Corresponding author: Klaus D. Beiter, B.Iur. LL.B. (UNISA, Pretoria), Dr. iur. (LMU Munich), Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa; and Affiliated Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich, Germany, E-mail:

Acknowledgment

Sincerest thanks go to an anonymous reviewer for very valuable comments.

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Published in Print: 2021-01-27

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