HIV/AIDS, ‘TRIPS plus’ and ‘Knowledge Ecology:’ Unpacking the Semantics of Transnational Intellectual Property ‘Harmonisation’


  • Mike Upton University of Manchester / Goldsmiths, University of London



intellectual property, HIV/AIDS, pharmaceuticals


This article considers the semantics employed by various actors in the negotiation and contestation of processes associated with the transnational ‘harmonisation’ of intellectual property law, particularly as these processes impact on access to medicines for HIV/AIDS treatment. I draw on fieldwork conducted with several international organisations concerned with intellectual property in Geneva, Switzerland, to consider the ways in which a diverse set of actors discursively re-signify the practices of pharmaceutical companies that are perceived to limit access to medicines. While this semantics engages with dominant intellectual property concepts, I argue that it simultaneously presages the construction of alternative paradigms. Thus practices and concepts that may initially appear to embrace, or participate in, neoliberal processes, on closer inspection can also turn out to be sites of problematisation.

Author Biography

Mike Upton, University of Manchester / Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr. Mike Upton is a Mildred-Blaxter Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. His interests focus on the intersection of intellectual property practices and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, particularly as they concern access to medicines and drug development.