Book review: Intellectual Property Rights and the Life Science Industries

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Review of the book Intellectual Property Rights and the Life Science Industries: a twentieth century history / by Graham Dutfield, Ashgate, Hampshire, 2003. ISBN 0 7546 21111

Never judge a book by its cover. This aphorism applies doubly to this book. Firstly, it has a very poor cover in terms of visual appeal, whereas actually it is quite an interesting read. Secondly, and of more note, the content does not really live up to the title. It does not constitute, as a reader might assume, a detailed analysis of the history of the interaction between intellectual property rights ('IPR') and the life sciences industries (a catch-all phrase used to cover everything from organic chemistry, synthetic dyestuffs pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, plant breeding, to genomics and other developments). Rather it is an interesting historical discussion of the evolution of these different industries, alongside a fairly high level discussion of the IPR issues connected to them. The historical review of the life sciences industries (which comprises the significant middle section of the book) is sandwiched in between a relatively generic introduction to IPR matters (including some brief discussion of economic and regulatory issues), and the concluding chapters, which look at future trends in IPR, from globalisation, through forms of 'resistance' to conventional IPR regimes, ending with a discussion of the net impact of IPR on the life sciences industries.

To my reading, there was insufficient effort to synthesise the two strands of the book - IPR, and the life science industries - and look at their interconnection in depth and detail. This left me a little disappointed, as there are numerous areas of quite specific interaction between the life sciences industries and the IPR systems that could have provided subject matter for a text devoted to looking at the detailed interplay between the legal structures granting rights in relation to intangibles and the biotechnology industries dealing with the tangible use of those rights. However, it may be a little harsh to criticise the text too much from the perspective of a number of detailed issues it did not cover or explore in much depth. To be fair, the book is attempting a broader macro view of the interaction, looking more at the drivers for, and consequences of, expansion of the 'proprietarian' model of IPR to service the demands of the 'powerful economic actors' of the life sciences industries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-177
Number of pages5
JournalAdelaide Law Review
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Intellectual property


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