The 12th International Consumer Law Conference Blog

Organised by NALSAR and the International Association for Consumer Law

25th February, 2009- Architecture of Consumer Protection in a Global Economy

Chair: Sothi Rachagan, Vice President, Nilai University College (Malaysia) Intellectual Property v. Consumer Rights- Need for an equitable balance of rights

Over the last 25 years, the IP regime has been developed so as to greatly tilt the balance in favor of the private rights of the inventor/ creator. There has been an unprecedented increase in the scope and extent of IP rights protection and a decrease in the public right to access. The public rights have been compromised with in all the fronts. This has taken place both at the international level as well as at the national level. The globalization of the Intellectual Property is through Proertization, Expansion and Harmonization. Creations of the middle/ inventions made have been deemed as property and its ownership privatized, it is like a “natural right theory”, the protection granted to private owners expanded, and the new norms standardized / harmonized the world over. The concept of putting patents on goods is not a new one. It is being followed through ages and various ways and is being abided by it as well.

The patent right being provided to people on the basis of their work has been increasing through the ages. Earlier the time span for a patent right was Life time of the author + 7 years from his death. Later this increased to Life time of the author + 50 years from his death and this slowly amplified to the Life time of the author + 70 years from his death. As this very clearly shows that the time period for the patents has been ever since it came into existence. 

The fact that there is no answer to the question as to who owns the patent rights over a traditional knowledge has been explained with the examples of Ethopian Barley, Periwinkle, West African Berry, Poison Dart Frog, Baobab Tree and the Neem Tree all of which belong to a country in specific and are very useful for the making of medicines. None of the listed above except the Neem Tree (it’s belonging to India) has been able to claim a patent right over itself. These goods have been used without the permission of the countries in where they are produced and there is in no way they are even receiving damages or compensation for the same. Only India has been able to attain Bio Privacy over the Neem Tree. The ratcheting up of IP protection adversely impacts almost all the rights of consumers. The paper outlines these developments and then focuses on the impact of the access to knowledge, medicines and seeds.

There is an immense amount of pressure on the developing countries for the Intellectual Property Rights as well as the Patent Rights. There should be efforts made to regain the public domain. In the end the consumer rights are affected immensely by the Intellectual Property Rights and the impact has to be converted into a positive one by using both the Patent rights and the Intellectual Property Rights in a cooperative manner.

The final part of the paper outlines some of the measures underway to reclaim the public domain.

                                  Rapporteurs:

                                – Ayushi Mittal, IInd Year, NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad.

                                – Ankita Gupta, Ist Year, NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad

 

The podcast of the session may be downloaded here.

 

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