The protection of intellectual property versus the right to health

The latest PRIF Report by Saskia Scholz and Klaus Dieter Wolf discusses the inversion of a hierarchy of norms

For years the pharmaceutical industry succeeded in massively restricting the production of generic medicines and thus also impeding access to urgently needed treatments – particularly for people in the Third World. As justification, it cited the protection of intellectual property, detailed rules for which were laid down in the TRIPS agreement of 1994. However, rising states, working with civil-society allies, managed gradually to bring about an easing of patent-protection rights in favour of increased regard for the right to health, thus effecting a complete reversal in the norm hierarchy.


Saskia Scholz and Klaus Dieter Wolf analyse in PRIF Report No. 131 Transformation of an Order through Reversal of a Norm-Hierarchy. The Protection of Intellectual Property and the Right to Health this development and formulate a number of corresponding recommendations as to how changes in norms and orders might be successfully brought about in future.


Saskia Scholz studied Peace and Conflict Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt and TU Darmstadt and worked as a student assistant at PRIF in Research Department "Private Actors in the Transnational Sphere".



This PRIF Report was published as HSFK-Report No. 5/2014  (Ordnungswandel durch Umkehrung einer Normenhierarchie. Der Schutz geistigen Eigentums und das Recht auf Gesundheit) in German.



The Report can be ordered at PRIF for EUR 10,- and is also available as free PDF download.