Ethics in IP 3: The Right to Science

My past two posts on ethics in intellectual property (Part One, and Part Two on biotechnology) were essentially online brain dumps in advance of the Dubrovnik conference on Data Science and the Right to Science, hosted by the Inter-University Center. The IUC sits perched just outside the historic walls of Dubrovnik (thankfully still standing despite the damage done to its on screen simulacrum in Game of Thrones). My presentation at the conference had a simple goal: stop intellectual property law being used as a excuse for issues with access to medicine, inefficiencies in research, or overemphasis on technological solutions to social problems

It was a productive weekend.…

Now available: Plausibility in the JIPLP

I’ve just had word from the Oxford Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice that my new article is online (only five months after I wrote it, but there we are). Please do have a read and let me know what you think. The article reviews the Supreme Court decision in Warner-Lambert v Actavis [2018] UKSC 56 and proposes some practical approaches to interpreting the Supreme Court’s guidance.

Plausibility after Warner-Lambert v Actavis: fantastic legal tests and where to find themRead more...

Ethics in IP, Part Two: Can I patent this fish?

This is the second part of a series (most likely of three parts) on ethics in intellectual property law. The first part is available here: “is there a role for ethics in intellectual property?“. In this part we focus on biotechnology and biological inventions.

In my last post I wrote about how ethical principles underlie the rights conferred by intellectual property law, and also how they shape the exceptions to those rights, both in relation to patentability, and infringement. More of the same this time round, but with a greater focus on humans, and plants, and micropigs.

In particular I want to look at the following propositions: why you can’t patent something in nature just because you discovered it; why you can’t patent plants or animals; and why some biotechnological inventions are unpatentable because of their effect on human dignity.… Read more...

Is there a role for ethics in Intellectual Property?


This is the first in a series of posts that will explore the interaction between ethics and the law of intellectual property. This first post will look at the ethics underlying intellectual property law, and the extent to which ethics has shaped exceptions to rights in intellectual property law.

Intellectual property and ethics may seem strange companions to some practitioners, but the law of intellectual property is philosophically rooted in ethical considerations. George Bell, a Scottish advocate in the early part of the 19th century, described the moral imperative behind intellectual property protection:

Of all things, the produce of a man’s intellectual labour is most peculiarly distinguishable as his own; and the Patents, or the statutes on which Copyright now rests, are intended not so much to create a right, as to protect it against invasion

George Bell, Commentaries on the Law of Scotland

Bell’s perspective reflects the philosophical conception of intellectual property originating in the work of John Locke, writing in his Second Treatise on Government.… Read more...

Garmin v Philips: Changing Cases

On 29th January 2019 the Hon. Mr Justice Henry Carr handed down his judgment in the case of Garmin (Europe) Limited v  Koninklijke Philips N.V. [2019] EWHC 107 (Ch).

The aim of this article is to look at how the parties’ cases in Garmin v Philips appear to have changed during the course of litigation, and to think about why that often tends to be the case in litigation, and in particular for patent litigation. As Henry Carr J says in his judgment: “Cases change during the course of litigation, which may mean that issues once seen as important no longer matter.Read more...