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New Work on Intellectual Property and Late Development

"The Political Contradictions of Incremental Innovation: Lessons from Pharmaceutical Patent Examination in Brazil," Politics & Society 39, No. 2 (June 2011), pp. 143-174.

Neodevelopmental patent regimes aim to facilitate local actors' access to knowledge and also encourage incremental innovations. The case of pharmaceutical patent examination in Brazil illustrates political contradictions between these objectives. Brazil's patent law includes the Ministry of Health in the examination of pharmaceutical patent applications. Though widely celebrated as a health-oriented policy, the Brazilian experience has become fraught with tensions and subject to decreasing levels of both stability and enforcement. I show how one pillar of the neodevelopmental regime, the array of initiatives to encourage incremental innovations, has fostered the acquisition of innovative capabilities in the Brazilian pharmaceutical sector, and how these new capabilities have altered actors' policy preferences and thus contributed to the erosion of the coalition in support of the other pillar of the neodevelopmental regime, the health-oriented approach to examining pharmaceutical patents. The analysis of capability-derived preference formation points to an endogenous process of coalitional change.

"The Puzzling Politics of Patents and Innovation Policy in Mexico," Law and Business Review of the Americas 16, No. 4 (Fall 2010): 823-838.

This article examines changes to one aspect of Mexico's intellectual property (IP) system, patents: state-granted rights of exclusion over inventions. Mexico's patent regime has undergone three sets of changes in the last twenty years, each offering stronger rights of exclusion over more types of knowledge and information. The first and most critical change was the introduction of a new patent law in 1991. A second change, specifically regarding pharmaceutical patents, was introduced following legislative debate in the early 2000s. The third set of changes, which includes a set of measures to integrate patent policy with national innovation policy and encourages closer ties between public science and private industry, was also introduced in the early 2000s. In each instance of change in Mexico, policy has consisted of a movement toward "strengthening" the level of intellectual property rights (IPRs): offering private rights of exclusion on more types of knowledge, granting the owners of the private rights more ability to control the use of their privately owned knowledge, and extending the amount of time that the private rights endure. The objective of this article is to present and explain this trajectory of persistent strengthening of IPRs. It is a puzzling outcome simply because the policy orientation has not been successful by most measures, i.e. the new patent policy has increased the cost of accessing knowledge without sparking increases in innovative activities or outputs. 

Intellectual Property, Pharmaceuticals and Public Health: Access to Drugs in Developing Countries, co-edited with Samira Guennif, Alenka Guzman, and Lalitha Narayanan. Edward Elgar (forthcoming, 2011).

This volume examines pharmaceutical development, access to medicines development, and the promotion of public health in the context of two fundamental changes that the global political economy has undergone since the 1970s, the globalization of trade and production and the increased harmonization of national regulations on intellectual property rights (IPRs). With authors from eleven different countries presenting original case studies of national experiences in Africa, Asia and the Americas, the book analyzes national strategies to promote pharmaceutical innovation, generic pharmaceutical production, and generic pharmaceutical importation. The authors focus on patents and also an array of regulatory instruments, including pricing and drug registration.


Previous Publications:

Politics of Intellectual Property: Contestation Over the Ownership, Use, and Control of Knowledge and Information

  • edited by Sebastian Haunss and Kenneth C. Shadlen
    Edward Elgar, 2009.

Sebastian Haunss and Kenneth C. Shadlen, along with a global collection of contributors (from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America), focus on how business organizations, farmers, social movements, legal communities, state officials, transnational enterprises, and international organizations shape IP policies in areas such as health, information-communication technologies, indigenous knowledge, genetic resources, and many others. The innovative and original chapters examine conflicts over the rules governing various dimensions of IP, including patents, copyrights, traditional knowledge, and biosafety regulations. Read more on Politics of Intellectual Property.

Politics of Patents and Drugs in Brazil and Mexico: The Industrial Bases of Health Policy

  • Comparative Politics 42/1 (October 09), pp. 41-58
    By Kenneth C. Shadlen

After introducing pharmaceutical patents in the 1990s, Brazil subsequently adjusted the patent system to ameliorate its effects on drug prices while Mexico introduced measures that reinforce and intensify these effects. The different trajectories are due to the nature of the actors pushing for reform and subsequent patterns of coalitional formation and political mobilization. In Brazil, government demand for expensive, patented drugs made health-oriented patent reform a priority, and the existence of an autonomous local pharmaceutical sector allowed the Ministry of Health to build a supportive coalition. In Mexico, government demand made reforms less urgent, and transformations of the pharmaceutical sector allowed patent-holding firms to commandeer a reform project. The existence of indigenous pharmaceutical capacities can broaden the political coalitions underpinning health reforms. Read more on Politics of Patents and Drugs in Brazil and Mexico.