Towards access – combining intellectual property, competition and human rights

18 November 2009 - A Workshop on Openness in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt


The owners of intellectual property (“IP”) have power. They can prevent access to important software for use in education and in health and can prevent others using this in their own innovation. This workshop will explore the place of competition and human rights in addressing these issues and in managing the impact of IP upon enabling access to essential technologies. 

In particular, the workshop will consider whether or not, and how, the interface between three apparently disparate legal regimes might be explored at international level; and the possible impact on development and capacity building as a whole. This workshop will focus on discussion from both an academic and an activist perspective, with a view to setting a foundation for future liaison with international institutions, IP owners and practitioners.

It is envisaged that the workshop will start with five or six speakers, from a range of countries, with expertise in different aspects of IP, competition and human rights and in securing wider access to technologies. There will be short presentations in which key issues and perspectives will be introduced, together with possible areas of convergence and divergence. There will then be 40 minutes of open discussion from speakers, the floor, and via remote access. Discussions will be chaired and issues introduced to enable a wide airing of all views. 

The following speakers have confirmed their attendance: Dr Abbe Brown, University of Edinburgh (expertise in the interface between IP, competition and human rights), Lea Bishop Shaver (Yale Law School and A2K Program Director, Information Society Project, expertise in communications technologies and the relevance of IP and human rights), Dr Nagla Rizk (American University in Cairo, expertise in developing economics and communications technologies) and, via remote access, Professor Charlotte Waelde (University of Edinburgh, expertise in legal means of controlling the information environment). Invitations will also be issued to a competition expert from a developing country, an expert in IP, trade and human rights from India and an expert in competition and IP from Australia. Funds have been secured to support the travel of some speakers. Potential speakers have been identified but names are excluded as involvement is not yet confirmed. 

In terms of the IGF as a whole, the workshop will have links with Tunis Commitment paras 2-4, 9, 10, 16, 17, 28, Tunis Agenda paras 72, 90, Geneva Declaration para 42 and Geneva Plan para C 3 10(d). There will be some synergies with the work of the Dynamic Coalitions of Access to Knowledge, Open Standards, Internet Bill of Rights, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Media on the Internet and Internet and Climate Change; the key contribution of this workshop will be to reach across these fields.

List of speakers are as follows:

1) Dr Abbe Brown Dr Brown, Lecturer in Information 
Technology Law, University of Edinburgh and solicitor (non practising) 
Scotland, England and Wales and Australia. Her doctoral thesis 
explores the interface between intellectual property, competition and 
human rights with a focus on adversarial situations. She is now 
exploring the place for the interface between these fields in the 
international policy space.

2) Professor Surinder Kaur Verma <>
Prof. Verma is Director of the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi. She 
has expertise in international intellectual property law, particularly 
concerning developing countries.

3) Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama <>
Dr. Jayawickrama is the former Sri Lankan Secretary of Justice and an 
expert in
constitutional law and the application of human rights law, both 
nationally and

4) Dr. Lea Shaver <>
Dr. Shaver, a lecturer at Yale Law School, specialises in 
international intellectual property and human rights, and directs the 
Access to Knowledge research programme of the Information Society 

5) Dr. Nagla Rizk <>
Dr. Rizk is an associate professor of economics at The American 
University in Cairo, and specialises in the area of economic 
development and technological change.

6) Professor Charlotte Waelde <>
Professor. Waelde, chair of intellectual property law at the 
University of Edinburgh Law School, is co-director of SCRIPT: the AHRC 
Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology 
Law. Her particular area of expertise is the interface between 
intellectual property and new technologies and she has led a SCRIPT 
project exploring "Intellectual property, competition and human rights".

An additional speaker from Australia who is an international 
specialist in regulatory economics has also been invited but is as yet 
unconfirmed, and we will advise as soon as possible.