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Intellectual property rights, the bioeconomy and the challenge of biopiracy


The last several decades have seen the emergence of intellectual property rights (IPRs), especially patents, as a key issue in developments across the fields of law, the economy and the biosciences, and as part of the burgeoning "bioeconomy". This paper examines how the categories of nature and knowledge, so vital to IPR regimes that support bioeconomy-type projects, are challenged by the allegation of biopiracy. It reflects on the relationship between nature, IPR and the bioeconomy, and presents an example of how the creation of new categories, in this case genetic resources, come to impact on how we come to understand nature in relation to the economy and IPRs. The paper then follows this with an analysis of how knowledge is treated in those same systems, focusing specifically on some of the challenges that arise when attempting to bring traditional knowledge (TK) under the rubric of the IPR system. Finally, it examines the allegation of biopiracy in greater depth, and reflects on how it critiques the way the bioeconomy and the IPR regime treat nature, culture, knowledge, and the relationship between them.

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Correspondence to Chris Hamilton.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Hamilton, C. Intellectual property rights, the bioeconomy and the challenge of biopiracy. Life Sci Soc Policy 4, 26 (2008).

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