Friday, 14 August 2009

Whose right? - HIV activists call for People's Property Rights

The concept of a People's Property Right apparently conceived by economist Joseph Stiglitz is the solution supported by Javed Jabbar, a former senator and minister from Pakistan, in a speech in Bali at the 9th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP). He suggests setting up a fund to pay fees to scientists who come up with cures for key diseases - after which the [IP rights in and to] the drugs would go into the public domain instead of being ‘owned’ by pharmaceutical companies. Johanna Son reports further here and the leo highlights:

"These are medicines that make for life and death," argued Jabbar, also global vice president for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. By applying the patent system to the drug product and the process, "we create inherently unjust monopolies and block knowledge transfer" that could save so many lives around the world.

It is time to rewrite the rules of intellectual property rights, a pillar of the world trade system, critics like Jabbar argue. "In the context of HIV and AIDS, we need a new concept of people’s property rights instead of intellectual property rights."


This Afro Leo believes that the concept of "people's property rights" already exists. For example, exclude recipes, algorithms, business methods, software etc from patent protection and what happens, they cannot be protected by patents and end up in the public domain ie they are no different to "people's property rights" and the people who create them are paid by way of a fee or charge. Assume for a moment though that the concept evolved from a Jabber/Stiglitz soundbite into a recognised form of property right, then consider what would would be right in circumstances where a HIV scientist employed by a pharma company came up with a cure for Aids using a plant extract that had been developed by a poor (in terms of money) indigenous community (protected by TK) with a high HIV mortality rate. Jabber would want that cure to be free for all (the People's Property Rights soundbite), the indigenous community (assuming it could be defined) would want recognition and wealth (through some right to the IP in the cure) to help its people, and the pharma company an incentive (in the form of an IP right) to keep on employing good HIV scientists. Whose right?

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