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Overlaps and Conflict Norms in Human Rights Law: Approaches of European Courts to Address Intersections with Intellectual Property Rights


Grosse Ruse-Khan,  Henning
MPI for Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Max Planck Society;

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Grosse Ruse-Khan, H. (2013). Overlaps and Conflict Norms in Human Rights Law: Approaches of European Courts to Address Intersections with Intellectual Property Rights. Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property & Competition Law Research Paper, No. 13-18.

The relationship between the protection of intellectual property (IP) and human rights has been examined in a growing number of publications. Most focus on the substantive law overlaps, interfaces, tensions and maybe even conflicts between the two areas of law – be it on the national, regional (e.g. European) or international plane. This contribution does not purport to advance this debate on substantive intersections – such as access to medicines under the right to health versus patent protection for pharmaceutical products. Instead, it focuses on the legal mechanisms and approaches to address some of these intersections between the two systems. In that way, it builds on the discourses concerning fragmentation, regime interaction and global legal pluralism that offer different narratives on how specific areas of international law view, define and delineate their relations to another. Within this context, the contribution focuses on the direct and indirect conflict avoidance and resolution approaches adopted by the two main European Courts which have been increasingly asked to rule on cases where intellectual property (IP) protection and human rights are intersecting. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) are both charged with examining the consistency of national laws and measures with human rights protection for IP. Both courts are equally confronted with cases where national IP protection and enforcement measures are argued to interfere and conflict with other human rights, such as freedom of expression and information, the right to privacy or to conduct one’s own business. In reviewing the decisions of the two courts in these areas, this contribution highlights the range of tools and approaches available for human right law to deal with its various interfaces with IP protection.