Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The interface between Intellectual Property (IP) and Human Rights (HR) law and policy has been a central focus of domestic and international negotiations. The relationship between these two fields continue to intersect and has captured the attention of governments, policymakers, and activist communities in a diverse array of international and domestic political and judicial venues. An effective human rights practitioner would need to understand the intersections between IP and HR and ensure a balance between the expansionism tendencies of IP in areas including freedom of expression, public health, education, privacy, agriculture and the rights of indigenous people.

To build the legal pillar of your human rights learning journey, this unit, Intellectual Property and Human Rights is concerned with developing your knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles and arguments that underpin the intersections between IP & HR.

The aim of the unit is to introduce you to the intersections between IP & HR and to equip you with the requisite knowledge to achieve equilibrium between IP & HR.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe fundamental concepts and theories relating to the human rights and Intellectual Property (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Explain how Intellectual Property and Human Right intersect (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Illustrate understanding of the need for balance between Intellectual Property Interests and respect for human rights law (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  1. Introduction: Mapping the Interface of Human Rights and Intellectual Property
  2. The Human Right to Health and Access to Patented Medicine.
  3. Creators’ Rights as Human Rights and the Human Right of Property.
  4. Right to Freedom of Expression, to Cultural Participation and to Benefit from Scientific Advancements.
  5. The Right to Education and Copyright in Learning Materials
  6. The Human Right to Food, Plant Genetic Resources, and Intellectual Property
  7. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Intellectual Property

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12-week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of private study.

The strategy is to encourage students to actively engage with unit content and their peers; to provide a clear link between lecture content and tutorial practicum to develop an authentic, case-based understanding (of principles and theory) that (in combination with learning from other units) bridges the gap between theory and practice. Thus, the learning and teaching strategy extends from within this unit, to integrate with other units in the course. Within an integrated learning framework, lectures will provide core content relating to the topics identified above and begin a process of active, engaged, exploration, which will be deepened by detailed explanation and further investigation in tutorials. Through direct interaction between students and teachers, students active, engaged exploration of the foundational knowledge they acquire supports its assimilation in the form of comprehension of concepts and theory. Students are then encouraged to test that evolving understanding by applying it to factual situations, to produce solutions supported by legal authorities and arguments; and to reflect on their learning. Each component is intended to build on knowledge, understanding and skills to progressively scaffold student learning.

The online learning platform used in this unit provides multiple preparatory and practice opportunities to guide in-class and out-of-class study. Online learning assistance in the form of learning resources, notices, assessment information (including online submission, marking and return of results/feedback), is student focused, affording greater accessibility and flexibility to the learning experience.

Assessment strategy and rationale

It is proposed that this unit be assessed by three assignments used deliberately as an integral part of the learning process to guide and scaffold learning, as well as to determine learning outcomes.

First, a basic content knowledge assessment (e.g. via a quiz).

Second, a case-study based assessment that challenges students to explain how particular principles are applied by the legal institutions that are the central focus of the course.

Third, an assessment requiring longer answers from students that extends the second assessment tasks. For example: based on three case-studies, students would be asked to (a) List the fundamental concepts and institutions at play (b) explain how these explain/illuminate the human rights principles shown, and finally, to highlight the differences and similarities between the ways the concepts and theories apply across the three case studies.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Multiple choice online quiz: Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of fundamental human rights and Intellectual Property principles.



GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Case-study based short answer paper, focusing on understanding of particular human rights and intellectual property principles.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Extended written essay or case studies.: This assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the intersection between human rights and Intellectual Property.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Laurence R Helfer & Graeme W Austin, 2012 Human Rights and Intellectual Property, Mapping the Global Interface, Cambridge University Press

Gabriele Spina Ali, ‘Intellectual Property and Human Rights: A Taxonomy of their Interactions’ (2020) 51(4) International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law 411.

Abbe Brown, Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Competition Access to Essential Innovation and Technology (Edward Elgar, 2012)

Wathsala R Samaranayake, ‘A Critical Evaluation of the Interface between Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights with Special Emphasis on Indigenous Intellectual Property’ (2022) 25(2) Journal of World Intellectual Property 412

Christophe Geiger, Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property (Edward Elgar, 2015)

Jacob Zweig, ‘Fair Use as Free Speech Fundamental: How Copyright Law Creates a Conflict between International Intellectual Property and Human Rights Treaties’ (2013) 64(5) Hastings Law Journal 1549.

Willem Grosheide (ed), Intellectual Property and Human Rights: A Paradox (Edward Elgar, 2010)

Laurence R Helfer (ed), Intellectual Property and Human Rights (Edward Elgar, 2013)

Paul Torremans, Intellectual Property Law and Human Rights (4th ed, Wolters Kluwer, 2020)

Mathews Duncan, Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Development: The Role of NGOs and Social Movements (Edward Elgar, 2011)

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