The panel intends to re-think the issue of IPR by critically reflecting on concepts derived from modern legal frameworks. Scholars are invited to discuss adequacy and implications of concepts like property, ownership, protection, compensation relating to local communities, knowledge and resources.
Scholars from various disciplines have contributed to the debate on IPR discussing issues of bio-prospecting, patenting and commoditization of local knowledge and biological resources. Critical voices draw attention to the conflicting agendas of the actors involved (traditional communities, private and public users of biological resources, states, transnational alliances) and highlight the contested areas of debate (ownership, access, compensation, conservation). Discussions focus on legal and ethical aspects. However, the current debate limits the scope of reflection by bracketing context and using concepts restrictively. Traditional knowledge and biological “resources” of nonwestern communities are discussed referring to the concepts of “property” and “ownership” – applying modern legal frameworks. Criticizing appropriation by outsiders turns into an (often patronizing) debate about “protection” and “compensation” according to (inter)national legal specifications. Even by acknowledging the rights of traditional communities, the IPR regime is a tool to control decision making processes, concealing structures of power and hegemony. The panel intends to open up the debate by reflecting existing concepts and their implications while searching for alternatives. Scholars are invited to discuss the following questions theoretically, starting from particular social contexts: Can biological resources and knowledge of traditional communities be seen as property or are concepts of stewardship, unique gift, public good more adequate? Can we assume cultural knowledge to be bounded and exclusive? Should local knowledge be “protected”, are IPR the adequate means? What do the notions of “protection” and “compensation” imply? How are we to conceive the connection between the right to knowledge and resources and the right to self-determination?