Although often now presented as a potentially universal set of legal principles, the particular history of the initial development of intellectual property rights (IPRs), first in Venice, then subsequently in Britain and across Europe is directly related to Europe's specific history. In this paper, I argue that we cannot separate the development of intellectual property as a legal form from the specific early history of capitalism in Europe. The technological, institutional and political philosophical developments that underlay the development of nascent IPRs were a specific historical conjunction and suggests that rather than a universal set of rights, IPRs must be set in their historical, political economic context. In conclusion I draw some links between questions of differential treatment under contemporary multilateral governance through the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement and this early history of intellectual property to criticise the claims for a universal set of institutionalised rights without regard to levels of economic development.
RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Politics and International Studies
reprinted in: May, C (ed.) The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Rights (3 vols) (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2010)