Economic, social and cultural rights in India: Opportunities for advocacy in intellectual property rights

Sunil Abraham and Vidushi Marda

The rights established in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are socioeconomic rights and are easily mapped onto rights to education, work, science and culture. These rights, however, are not as easily mapped onto intellectual property rights. This three-part case study contemplates the ICESCR through aspects of intellectual property in India, namely, mobile patents, free and open source software (FOSS), and India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library. Through these, it demonstrates the potential of these technologies in realising ESCRs.

A distinguishing factor of the ICESCR is the emphasis on the progressive realisation of rights within the Covenant, which indicates the necessity of parties to take steps for the realisation of ESCRs to the best of their ability given the resources available, with a view to fully realising these rights in the long term. This is particularly relevant in India, where the large population and scarcity of resources require gradual realisation and sustained planning. This case study advocates for the progressive realisation of the rights outlined below, and sheds light on the current state of progress in India, as well as providing an overview of the framework within which these rights will be realised.

Although these three case studies focus on distinct areas – mobile patents, FOSS and open standards, and traditional knowledge – they can also be understood as tied together through the central theme of a mobile phone. The first case study on mobile patents deals with the hardware of the phone, the second deals with the software in discussing open software and standards, and the third case study on traditional knowledge focuses on the person holding the phone who consumes information-embedded products such as traditional foods and medicines.

« Go back