In 1996, a book called “Beyond Intellectual Property” was published by International Development Research Centre. A law book written by two people entirely unschooled in law, of whom one is the present speaker, this was hardly a world-changing event. The book was very much of its time, being published soon after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which itself came five centuries to the year after a rather more noteworthy event. That said, talking about the book, not so much what it contains, but about why it was written at all and during the decade it was, can reveal much about a specific moment in time that the book, at least in part, captures. Ten years earlier, this book would never have been written; ten years later it is unlikely it would have been needed. That this book is so much of its time testifies perhaps to a certain uniqueness of the era in which it was produced. As we will see, intellectually, legally, and politically shifts were taking place and interacting with each other in some quite remarkable ways. Certain individuals played a big part in this, and nobody did more than the book’s main author Darrell Posey. For Darrell, the book was a logical and hugely compelling extension both of his scientific work on the ethno-ecological practices of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, and of his environmental activism. In the end, there was no revolution as such; a five hundred-year legacy is not so easy to counteract. But change did take place and it’s possible the era the book represents did lead to improvements in the status of Indigenous peoples.

About the speaker 

Professor Graham Dutfield 
The University of Leeds

Graham Dutfield is Professor of International Governance at the University of Leeds. As such he has a keen interest, going back several decades, in governance of technology, knowledge and property in the context of such major global challenges as public health, food security, biodiversity conservation, ecosystems management, and climate change. His research on intellectual property crosses several disciplines, including law, history, politics, economics and anthropology. More general scholarly interests include the law, science and business of creativity and technical innovation from the enlightenment to the present, especially in the life sciences. Among his most recent publications are a second edition of Dutfield and Suthersanen on Global Intellectual Property Law, and a history of the pharmaceutical industry called That High Design of Purest Gold: A Critical History of the Pharmaceutical Industry, 1880-2020 

About People, Plants and the Law Online Lecture Series

The People, Plants, and the Law lecture series explores the legal and lively entanglements of human and botanical worlds.

Today people engage with and relate to plants in diverse and sometimes divergent ways. Seeds—and the plants that they produce—may be receptacles of memory, sacred forms of sustenance, or sites of resistance in struggles over food sovereignty. Simultaneously, they may be repositories of gene sequences, Indigenous knowledge, bulk commodities, or key components of economic development projects and food security programs.

This lecture series explores the special role of the law in shaping these different engagements, whether in farmers’ fields, scientific laboratories, international markets, or elsewhere.


Online Seminar via Zoom