Intellectual Property and Global Health: From Corporate Social Responsibility to the Access to Knowledge Movement

C.A. Timmermann, H. van den Belt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Any system for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) has three main kinds of distributive effects. It will determine or influence: (a) the types of objects that will be developed and for which IPRs will be sought; (b) the differential access various people will have to these objects; and (c) the distribution of the IPRs themselves among various actors. What this means to the area of pharmaceutical research is that many urgently needed medicines will not be developed at all, that the existing medicines will not be suitable for countries with a precarious health infrastructure or not target the disease variety that is prevalent in poorer regions. Such effects are commonly captured under the rubric of the ‘‘10/90 gap’’ in biomedical research. High prices will also restrict access to medicines as well endanger compliance to treatment schemes. IPRs are mainly held by multinational corporations situated in the developed world, which not only raises egalitarian concerns, but also severely limits the possibilities of companies in poorer countries to realize improvements on existing inventions, as they cannot financially afford to secure freedom to operate, which systematically shrinks the number of potential innovators. Those inequities lead to an enormous burden for the global poor and since no institution is willing to assume the responsibility to fulfil the right to health and the corresponding right of access to essential medicines, we have to analyse alternatives or additions to the actual intellectual property regimes in order to create new incentives to fill this gap.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-73
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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