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The Humanitarian Side of Intellectual Property Rights

Technology, in its broadest sense, affects some of the poorest people in the world more that you might imagine. Sometimes, the effects of technology on the poor are indirect. Technology affects health, affect medicine, education, energy generation, water and irrigation, construction, food and agriculture, information and communications, sanitation.

And of course, purpose and benefits of intellectual property (IP) have long been debated. The way IP rights (IPR) differ from regular property right is now well understood, and the implications of IP in the future are yet to be seen (for an interesting debate on these issues. But one thing we do know, is that they affect the poor.  

Sara Boettiger is one of the women working in this field. Here´s a video of a talk she gave on re-thinking IPR models for the poor:

Sara Boettiger an economist and social impact advisor; Assistant Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley; Senior Advisor to Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; a Fellow at the Berkman Center and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils.

She is also co-founder of four non-profits centered on the application of technology to meet the challenges of global poverty: PIPRA, Global Access in Action, GATD and AgPartnerXChange.

Dr. Boettiger advises governments, companies, foundations and private investors on a range of social impact issues, including: impact measurement, public-private partnerships, IPR, the law & economics of open source models, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and development, and challenges in ‘scaling up’ in rural markets.

She received a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in Agricultural & Resource Economics and publishes on the law and economics of intellectual property rights, innovation, and poverty.

At the Berkman Center, Dr. Boettiger is co-directing Global Access in Action. This program takes a ‘ground-up’ approach to legal and policy frameworks that impact access to technology by the poor.

Global Access in Action combines on-the-ground impacts of policies and laws with the expertise of policymakers, donors and academics to explore new solutions that move beyond the ideologically charged debates that often divide business and NGO communities around access to technology issues.

So why is this important to you, oh dear reader (and possible humanitarian and intellectual rights enthusiast)? Well, intellectual property lawyers are in high demand right now, and the upward trend doesn´t seem to be showing any signs of stopping!

However, there is a distinct lack of advocates fascinated by the effect of closed-source and open-source technologies on the developing world. But it is perhaps one of the coolest ways to harness a passion for all things humanitarian, while specializing in a very interesting and relevant area of study.

Taking a more focused look at the economic effects, Mohammad Jahangir Alam, a lecturer at the Southern University Bangladesh notes that open-source software is free of cost, is more secure and reliable, and changes can be made to suit the purposes of the user. Although development and support may stop at any time, it can be of so much benefit to those who cannot buy their own software. This applies to all technologies. This field needs to become more humanitarian. Will you be the one to move the field forward, into a more expansive, fair reality?

If you´d like some help with a personal statement or CV tidy up, please let us know. We wish you the best of luck in your career.

Sara Boettiger on Re-Thinking Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Models for the Poor

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Successful Statements of Excellence in Intellectual Property Law

Why Intellectual Property Lawyers are in High Demand

Sample 1st Paragraph Intellectual Property Law

My background is in engineering and pharmacy and includes three years of research. I have always had an interest in the law and this has developed significantly during my working as a pharmacist. I am required to assess requests for the funding of drug therapy costing $30,000 annually or more. This responsibility inspired an interest in the costing of drugs and the law relating to intellectual property and its effects on the well-being of patients. I want to acquire the specialist legal skills and knowledge which, together with my professional background, will enable me to assist in resisting the abuse of intellectual property laws to limit patient access to life-saving or enhancing drugs. My professional and research experience has called for the characteristics and skills that are directly transferable to the program and that will enable me to excel in the practise of law. These characteristics and skills include; intellectual curiosity, an ability to think originally and creatively, determination, a meticulous ‘eye for detail’ and approaching problems systematically and logically.

All of the Statement samples on this web site were written more than 2 years ago and all are anonymous.


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I get started each day, often before sunrise, drafting on behalf of my clients on their way to Law School. I only do my best, taking the time to reflect on your story as well. Generally speaking, my clients who are seeking to build a career in the area of Immigration Law, are themselves immigrants, or from immigrant families for whom the experience of immigration was in many ways most fundamental to their lives, the challenges that they faced, and also their hard-won triumphs.


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One of the most considerable challenges facing the advancement of progressive intellectual property laws in today’s world may be counterfeiting: the right for ordinary people to obtain affordable imitations of brand name goods, versus the right of businesses to have the registered trademarks protected so only the non-affordable original products can actually bear the trademark. Counterfeit imports stream in rampantly from China, where manufacturers are illegally copying successful registered trademarked goods and selling them for a fraction of the cost. Consequently, foreigners fuel the fire by consuming and purchasing copied goods, provoking vendors to seek out discreet ways to sell and market illegal, untrademarked designs.

Sample 1st Paragraph Law School Admission, Patent Law

I currently work at the interface of science and the law and so it has been necessary for me to become familiar with the law as it relates to my area of responsibility.  During this time, I have become increasingly interested in the interaction and relationship between the two disciplines.  There are some obviously overlapping skills between the scientist and the lawyer, including the application of analytical skills and possessing an ‘eye for detail’.  However, I am aware that the courtroom calls for skills not necessarily apparent in the laboratory and that these include an ability to persuade and also to present scientific data in a form comprehensible to non-scientists. I believe that I do possess the characteristics necessary to enable me fulfill my ambition to become a lawyer/scientist specializing in patent law.

Sample 1st Paragraph Technology, Trade, Land Law

Still only 23 years old, I am an attorney in my country, India, and working towards the publication of two projects that I initially undertook as a student of law, one dealing with Law and Technology and the other with Land Law in India, something which I see as fundamental to the unjust distribution of wealth in my country and the multigenerational perpetuation of that unjust distribution. Your particularly distinguished LLM Program at XXXX University is my first choice for continuing my education so that I might better serve my community and my profession for a variety of reasons; I especially appreciate the opportunity in your LLM Program to study Technology and Law in an in-depth fashion. As a woman as well as an attorney, I also have a passion for the subject of woman and the law, and I have completed an internship in this area.

Libertarians have long been divided on the subject of intellectual property

Intellectual Property or IP is a key element needed to maintain a competitive edge in the market