Team leader Andrew Rens
Team leader Andrew Rens

The ASK Justice project team and network hope to empower civil society organisations engaged in intellectual property (IP) law and policy frameworks by providing useful research-based evidence. Our team of researchers are conducting case study research at universities in Botswana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, and are looking specifically at IP law and policy frameworks in these countries. These are also being scrutinised at regional level in the East African Community. In each instance the role of international law, international organisations and other external influences, such as foreign expertise, is taken into account, since these factors have an impact on IP law and policy. The research question to be answered is:

To what extent and in what ways have human rights influenced intellectual property policy processes in the study countries, and how do these processes and policies measure up against human rights principles?”

AJ Graphic Research

The point of departure for the research team in each country is the level of commitment to human rights, nationally, regionally and internationally, with an emphasis on the rights to health, education and information. Researchers are examining formal documents of the IP law and policy frameworks of each jurisdiction, such as policy papers, policy memoranda, Green Papers, White Papers, draft legislation, legislation and court cases. The teams will also examine additional material such as technical expert advice, documents from international organisations, pleadings, interventions by non-profit organisations and the like.

Putting a more human face on the matter, stakeholder interviews will be conducted to establish the extent to which IP law and policy frameworks have taken human rights into account. An important objective is to analyse, through a human rights lens, where IP rights regimes intersect with access to knowledge and access to medicines. Too often, the intersection is ignored and its constituents treated as separate.

While agreeing on a common framework for purposes of comparison, our researchers are formulating further research questions pertinent to their respective countries’ IP landscape as work progresses. Results from these additional questions will eventually help us answer the project’s overarching research question.