Intellectual Property, Human Rights, and Public-Private Partnerships

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This chapter focuses on the roles and responsibilities of intellectual property-related public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the international human rights regime. It begins by debunking two key claims transnational corporations (TNCs) have advanced in the area intersecting intellectual property and human rights. Although PPPs involve many types of private sector partners, this discussion singles out TNCs because of their frequent and vocal opposition to business and human rights initiatives. Such a focus will underscore the immense challenge of protecting human rights in the private sphere.

This chapter then examines the "protect, respect and remedy" framework and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which John Ruggie presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in his capacity as the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises. These documents are highly relevant to the discussion of the human rights responsibilities of PPPs because they apply to not only States and TNCs, but also other types of private sector partners, such as donor and civil society organizations. After evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the Ruggie Framework and the Guiding Principles, this chapter will explain why these partnerships should assume greater human rights responsibilities than TNCs.

The chapter concludes with three specific examples illustrating how PPPs can be utilized to foster a more appropriate balance between intellectual property and human rights. These examples are important because striking this balance will require more than efforts in identifying, cataloguing and clarifying human rights responsibilities. To achieve such a balance, governments, intergovernmental bodies, TNCs and nongovernmental organizations will also need to pro-actively develop PPPs for human rights in the intellectual property arena.

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Cambridge University Press


Margaret Chon, Pedro Roffe, & Ahmed Abdel-Latif

Book Title

The Cambridge Handbook of Public-Private Partnerships, Intellectual Property Governance, and Sustainable Development