ASK Justice seeks to bring about positive change in intellectual property (IP) law and policy processes by:

  • bringing the rights of access to medicines (A2M) and to knowledge onto the IP policy agenda;
  • providing research-based evidence for policy-making and civil society campaigns; and
  • building the knowledge base and next generation of scholars on the IP and human rights interface.

Context: The intersection between human rights and intellectual property

Human rights  are fundamental rights that vest in people and are expressed in international instruments and national Bills of Rights. By contrast, intellectual property (IP) rights refer to a number of differing legal regimes which grant monopolies over creations of the mind; from artistic and literary works to scientific discoveries, inventions, brands and designs. Individual or collective IP is protected by law in the form of patents, copyright and trademarks, among others. IP rights are considered important insofar as they control and reward innovation. More ...

The ASK Justice project and network

The overarching goal of the ASK Justice project is to contribute to positive policy change – specifically, informing and influencing current and future IP law and policy reform processes, from a human rights perspective – with regard to increasing A2K and A2M in four Southern and East African countries: Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. The project sought to achieve this using a multipronged approach involving networking and collaboration, teaching and research, capacity-building, and contributing to public understanding, discourse and debate.

The project comprises three core components – policy research, teaching/curriculum development and public voice/outreach – which are intended to work in an interrelated and mutually informing manner. More ...

Policy research on intellectual property reform through a human rights lens

The policy research examines recent and current IP reform processes in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and the East African Community through a human rights lens, using a case study method that allows for a comparison of the interactions between human rights and IP law in these countries.
At the start of the ASK Justice project, each of the participating countries had either recently completed or was contemplating IP-related legislative reform processes. The question ASK Justice sought to answer was: have these processes been taking sufficient consideration of the potential impact(s) of IP rights on citizens’ human rights?

Teaching at the interface of human rights and intellectual property

The teaching component aims to develop resources to assist both network members and other scholars to teach issues at the intersection of IP and human rights.
Issues pertaining to IP and human rights must find their way onto policy agendas in an informed and sustainable manner, and the academic field must be further developed. In order to address this, the ASK Justice project placed emphasis on the need to institutionalise teaching and learning around IP and human rights in African universities, and to contribute to the development of a new generation of scholars. By integrating the human rights angle into mainstream IP course offerings, the project will strengthen the sustainability of teaching, research and public voice on these issues in higher education in Africa.

A public voice for intellectual property and human rights issues

The aim of the public voice component is to disseminate the outputs, insights, experiences and expertise of the ASK Justice project and network to policy-makers, civil society organisations, academics and the general public. In order to achieve this effectively, emphasis was also placed on building the capacity of network members in the relevant tools.
The public voice component of ASK Justice serves as a central communication point through which the teaching and research outputs and insights, as well as the diverse experiences and expertise of network members, may be disseminated to key stakeholders and target audiences.

ASK Justice Leadership meeting, Nairobi, Kenya 2018. From left: Naomi Njuguna, Rose Nakayi, Lillian Makanga, Zahara Nampewo, Nan Warner, Gabriela de Luca, Tobias Schonwetter and Lloyd Lotz.

ASK Justice network

The ASK Justice network comprises academics from law faculties and centres at six Southern and East African universities. Network members engage collaboratively in research and the development of new curricula, as well as outreach activities related to the project, with a specific focus on A2M and A2K. A number of network members bring existing expertise to the project based on their prior experience with OSF initiatives in this field.