Readers interested in the social justice concerns described in Monday's post may be interested in a book chapter that was recently posted by Professor Laurence Helfer: Pharmaceutical Patents and the Human Right to Health: The Contested Evolution of the Transnational Legal Order on Access to Medicines. Helfer is one of the leading scholars of international IP institutions; see, e.g., his classic work on regime shifting.
In this new chapter, he describes the collision of two "transnational legal orders" (TLOs): one focused on IP, and one on the right to health. He breaks down the history into three phases. In Phase 1 (pre-mid-1990s) the two TLOs "existed in relatively stable but distinct policy spaces." In Phase 2 (mid-1990s to 2000), the IP TLO rapidly expanded. Phase 3 (2000 to the present) has involved "a backlash against pharmaceutical patents and a campaign by developing countries and civil society groups to increase A2M [access to medicines]." In broad strokes, this account is probably familiar to many IP scholars, but for those interested in the detailed institutional dynamics behind this story, Helfer's chapter is well worth a read.
In related news, the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline made headlines with its recent announcement that it will stop filing patents in 50 low-income countries and will grant licenses to generics manufacturers in another 35 lower-middle-income countries.