Selected Areas of Work


Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright

Copyright reform is under active discussion at the national level in the United States and in many other countries.  PIJIP has built a large body of work on fair use and other limitations and exceptions to copyright.  Foremost among these is the series of “Codes of Best Practices” or “Principles” for fair use in specific professions or use groups, such as journalismacademic and research libraries, poetry, and documentary filmmakers.  These codes are jointly developed by affected stakeholders, with guidance from PIJIP and the AU Center for Social Media.

Internationally, PIJIP has organized a network of IP scholars that has produced model legislation a supporting materials for countries revising their copyright laws.

Scientific Data Release and Genome Commons

The multinational effort to sequence the human genome generated vast quantities of data about the genetic make-up of humans and other organisms. But, in some respects, even more remarkable than the impressive quantity of data generated by the human genome project (HGP) is the speed at which that data has been released to the public. At a 1996 summit in Bermuda, leaders of the scientific community agreed on a groundbreaking set of principles requiring that all DNA sequence data be released in publicly-accessible databases within twenty-four hours after generation. These “Bermuda Principles” represent a significant achievement of private ordering in shaping the practices of an entire industry and have established rapid pre-publication data release as the norm in genomics and other fields. We are studying the effect of scientific data release in genomics and other scientific disciplines, as well as legal structures and intellectual property regimes that are best-suited to optimize the public use and dissemination of scientific data.

Standards-Essential Patents and FRAND Licensing

Technical interoperability standards are ubiquitous in the modern information infrastructure.  Most of these standards are developed within voluntary consensus standards organizations (SDOs) that are open to broad industrial, academic and governmental participation.  When private actors obtain patents covering standardized technology, they can exert significant pressure on markets for standardized products.  Thus, many SDOs require their participants do disclose patents covering standards prior to adoption or finalization and/or require participants to license such patents on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms. Needless to say, defining FRAND has not been easy, and the meaning of FRAND is at the core of much of the patent litigation that is currently sweeping the smart phone industry.

The results are being watched closely by regulatory and enforcement agencies across the world, and will likely have a major impact on the future of this and other industries.  We are at the forefront of analyzing the legal ramifications of these practices and the impact of patents on technical standardization.

Scientific Publishing

The “serials crisis” in scientific publishing, in which academic libraries across the world have been forced to cancel subscriptions to scientific literature due to spiraling subscription rates, can be traced to the significant copyright rights demanded by publishers from academic authors.  Current open access channels of distribution offer alternative approaches to scientific publishing, but neither the Green OA self-archiving nor the Gold OA author-pays models has yet achieved widespread acceptance. Moreover, recent proposals to abolish copyright protection for academic works, while theoretically attractive, may be difficult to implement in view of current legislative and judicial inclinations. Likewise, funder open access mandates such as the NIH OA Policy, which are already responsible for the public release of millions of scientific articles, suffer from various risks and political uncertainty.  We are actively exploring the contours of this debate and formulating proposals to address the significant risk to scientific research presented by the current dysfunction of the publishing industry.

Access to Medicines

Access to Medicine Legal Education Initiative:  Working with the Open Society Institute and the UN Development Programme, PIJIP has organized numerous short courses and workshops in Pretoria, South Africa, and  Kiev, Ukraine.  We work with local academics and leading advocates to train students, pracitioners, elected officials, and health advocates in the use of IP flexibilities to guarantee access to generic medicines.

US Prescription Policies and Access to Medicines: State governments have begun to pass laws restricting data mining – the process by which pharmaceutical firms purchase prescribing records to hone their marketing tospecific doctors. Data mining grants pharmaceutical marketers undue influence on prescribing decisions, raises overall healthcare costs for consumers and bulk purchasers, and violates both patient and prescriber privacy.

Compulsory Licensing:  PIJIP faculty, staff and students have advised stakeholders in multiple countries where disputes arose over the issuance of TRIPS-compliant compulsory licenses for medicines. These include the well known disputes over cancer and HIV/AIDS medicines in Thailand and antiretroviral medicines in Brazil.