Ethics of Intellectual Property Rights: Challenges & Solutions

New IP Lawyers Workshop

Friday 17 March 2017

Executive Business Centre, Bournemouth University

“Ethics” as a principle that guides our society on what is “good” or “bad” fuels controversies on all scientific disciplines. Being at the crossroads between scientific innovations and public policy, the field of intellectual property appears to embrace many of the tensions created by exclusiveness on the fruits of human mind. Although neoclassical economic theory bestows intellectual property rights (IPRs) with the function to promote innovation for the benefit of society, this theory has been put to the test by new institutional economics, empirical studies, and IP scholars, who have voiced growing concerns on IPRs’ negative effects on innovation and societal welfare. Some current examples that illustrate worries on societal welfare are related to the difficulties of accessing protected innovations, such as medicines and food products. The territorial application of IPRs may also hinder people’s fundamental rights to benefit from information and culture in a globalised world (e.g., access and use of copyright protected films, video on demand, literary works, etc.).

Other concerns may arise from increasing litigation, strategic use of IPRs to drive away competitors, and abuse or misuse of rights. These situations may waste resources instead of making a positive contribution to innovation. Technological advancements may pose further challenges. Their impact on societal welfare will depend on the object and scope of protection. The potential of 3-D printing to improve biomedical tools, for example, will be determined by the uses allowed under IPRs.

In these terms, IPRs cannot be considered detrimental for innovation. They are a business tool that directs the flow of capital towards ‘desirable’ inventions and facilitates profitmaking. What should be questioned, thus, is the way they are used. In some areas, however, IPRs may be deemed undesirable and alternative systems of protection may bring more benefits to society (e.g., pharmaceuticals). Hence, the question:

How to Reconcile IPRs with Ethics for the Benefit of Society?


9.45 – 10.00           Welcome Speech

10.00 – 12.15         Ethics in copyright and other related rights

David Felipe Alvarez, University of Nottingham: “Fair remuneration, an ethical question of author’s moral and material rights” Discussant: Ruth Towse, Bournemouth University

Matej Gera, Bournemouth University: “Do people deserve to know the truth? Ethical implications of using copyright as an inhibitor to dissemination of historically important information – case study of Vasiľ Biľak’s memoirs” Discussant: Jose Bellido, University of Kent

 Thomas Kirchberger, Johannes Kepler University Linz: “Open Design and Intellectual Property” Discussant: Sally Weston, Bournemouth University

Patricia Peck Garrido Pinheiro, University of São Paulo: “Who is the rightful owner of Internet databases?” Discussant: Maurizio Borghi, Bournemouth University

12.15 – 13.15       Lunch

13.15 – 15.00      Ethics role in international intellectual protection

Jurate Breimelyte, Barcelona Autonomous University: “Open biobanks. A right way of applying intellectual property rights in genetic research” Discussant: Roger Brownsword, Bournemouth University

Plamen Dinev, City, University of London: “3D Printing and Intellectual Property Law” Discussant: Dinusha Mendis, Bournemouth University

Florelia Vallejo-Trujillo, University of Nottingham: “Ethical issues in the process of producing the international legal IP standards on ABS” Discussant: Graham Dutfield, University of Leeds

15.00 – 15.30        Coffee break

15.30 – 16.45        Ethics and other legal issues

Zoi Krokida, University of Reading: “Accountability and IP Law: From concept to practice” Discussant: Krzysztof Garstka, University of Cambridge

Martin Szarkiszjan, Nottingham Trent University: “Trade Mark Law in a State of Anomie. Is it? Should it be?” Discussant: Lingling Wei, Bournemouth University

Marta Breschi, University of Trento: “Intellectual property rights protection from a transatlantic perspective” Discussant: Marc Mimler, Bournemouth University

16.45 – 17.00          Concluding remarks