Thumbnail Image

The Politics of Knowledge and the Reciprocity Gap in the Governance of Intellectual Property Rights

ABSTRACT This study examines the politics of knowledge benefit-sharing within the re-regulatory framework of the Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement which entered into force in 1995 under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The thesis argues that TRIPS both represents a mainstream legal mechanism for states and organisations to govern ideas through trade, and is characterised by a commercial direction away from multilateralism to bilateralism. In its post-implementation phase, this situation has seen the strongest states and corporations consolidate extensive markets in knowledge goods and services. Through analyses of the various levels of international and national governance within the competitive knowledge structure of international political economy (IPE), this study argues that the politicisation of intellectual property has resulted in the dislocation of reciprocity from its normative roots in fairness and trade equity. In conducting this enquiry the research focuses on the political manifestations of intellectual property consistent with long-standing epistemic considerations of reciprocity to test the extent to which the intrinsic public good value of knowledge and its importance to human societies can be reconciled with the privatisation of public forms of knowledge related to discoveries and innovations. This thesis draws on Becker's virtue-theoretic model of reciprocity premised on normative obligations to social life to ground its claim that an absence of substantive reciprocal requirements capable of sustaining equivalent returns and rewards is detrimental, both theoretically and practically, to the intrinsic socio-cultural foundation and public good value of knowledge. The conceptual framework of reciprocity defined and developed in this study challenges the materialist controlling authority and proprietary ownership vested in intellectual property law. A new conceptual approach proposed through reciprocity, and provoked by on-going debates about IP recognition, knowledge protection, access and distribution is advanced to counter strengthened and expanded IPRs. Theories of knowledge and property drawn from political philosophies are employed to test whether reciprocity is sufficiently robust enough, or even capable of, encompassing the gap between capital and applied science. This thesis argues that hyper-capitalism at global, national and local levels, accompanied by the boundless accumulation of technology, closes down competition both compromising IP as private rights and the viability of their governance. The political implications of the protection and enforcement of private rights through IP is examined in two key chapters utilising empirical data in relation to traditional knowledge (TK) and reciprocity; the first sets the parameters of TK and the second explores aspects of Māori knowledge systems and reciprocity directed at identifying national and local issues of significance to the debates on IP governance. As a viable direction for knowledge governance this thesis concludes that the gap between the re-regulatory trade framework of intellectual property on the one hand, and reciprocity on the other, requires closing to ameliorate the detrimental disruptions to democratic integrity, fairness and trade equity for significant numbers of communities and peoples around the world.
Type of thesis
Emett, R. A. (2007). The Politics of Knowledge and the Reciprocity Gap in the Governance of Intellectual Property Rights (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2569
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.