Monday, February 04, 2008

Patents and Human Rights [comments by Dr. Ekbal]

There is growing recognition that the regulation of patents and other Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) cannot be reasonably made with a unique, universal standard. Different socio-economic conditions and levels of development require different intellectual property systems, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kerala and neuro-surgeon B. Ekbal said.
He was presenting a paper ‘Intellectual Property Rights: Challenges to Academic Research’ at a national seminar on ‘Quality Access and Social Justice in Higher Education,’ organised by the Kerala State Higher Education Council.

The patent system may entail considerable short-term costs for developing countries, mainly due to administrative costs and problems with higher prices for medicines and key technological inputs while long-term benefits seem uncertain and costly to achieve in many nations, particularly poor countries. Moreover, higher standards of patent protection are unlikely to have a positive effect on local innovation except in countries and sectors that have reached a certain level of technological development and have the capacity to finance substantial research and development, Dr. Ekbal said.
IPRs should not be implemented so as to violate and infringe upon human rights; they should be subsumed to human rights, national interests and the preservation of genetic resources. “In fact, intellectual products are basically social products. While granting certain rights to innovators, this should not be forgotten. Therefore intellectual property rights cannot be considered as ‘rights’ as in the case of immutable human rights,” he argued in his paper.
Dr. Ekbal pointed out that the whole argument regarding IPR is built on a contradiction that in order to promote the development of ideas it is necessary to reduce the freedom with which people can use them. Central to the projected utility of IPRs is the notion that creation is facilitated by the provision of a temporary monopoly that ensures that the author of a work will be the sole beneficiary of any profits. With the institutionalisation of IPRs, individual creators ceased to be beneficiaries and were replaced by large corporate interests. Most individual creators do not gain much from IPRs and are frequently ignored or exploited.

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