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Intellectual property and medicine


The course will introduce you to the basic concepts of intellectual property relevant to medical research and development, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, genetic research and public health. You will gain an overview of key current issues, examine some of them in more detail through case studies, and in so doing develop skills and understanding which you can apply to monitor further developments in this fascinating area of the law. You will study the laws of various jurisdictions in the course. Much of the discussion focuses on English law, as shaped also by European Union (EU) legislation, but the aim here is more to illustrate broader legal principles than to give you expert knowledge of this particular jurisdiction, and we will also look at relevant international law and various other national laws. Indeed, the issues raised in this course go beyond the details of particular laws and involve critical socio-economic analysis of the relationship between intellectual property frameworks and the various industries contributing to medical innovation, the possible interaction with research practices and developments, and the consequences for various questions of public health, including individual property interests as well as access to products and information.

Module A: Intellectual property of medicine and its sources


  • International framework and history of intellectual property relevant to medicine
  • Categories of intellectual property relevant to medicine
  • European and National systems (UK and designated jurisdictions)
  • Applications of intellectual property in medical and pharmaceutical industries

Module B: Access to medicines


  • Overview of the issues and history of the campaign
  • Human right to health and the ethics of patents
  • TRIPS Agreement
  • Doha Development Round (Ministerial Declaration; Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health; Decision on Paragraph 6)
  • Paragraph 6 System

Module C: Patents and life forms


  • Legal and socio-legal concept of life form
  • Ethical considerations and exceptions
  • Medical biotechnologies
  • International, European and designated domestic frameworks (including European Biotechnology Directive)
  • Genes and gene sequences
  • Cloning
  • Germ-line modification technology
  • Embryos

Module D: Property in the person


  • Medical and genetic privacy and intellectual property
  • Genetic privacy
  • Genetic sampling and collection; genomic libraries and databases
  • Traditional medicine and genetic resources


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


It is strongly recommended you attempt Module A first.

How to apply

You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • Commercial and Corporate Law
  • Common Law
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • International Business Law
  • International Intellectual Property Law
  • Medicine and the Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

Study Material

Academic Co-ordinator

Professor Johanna Gibson

Professor Johanna Gibson

Professor Johanna Gibson is Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) and Editor-In-Chief of the Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property (QMJIP). She has consulted widely to industry, government, NGOs and the profession, and has been a visiting professor to institutions around the world.Johanna is a founding member of the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP) and a current member of the executive committee (2007-2014).

Johanna is also series editor for Intellectual Property, Theory, Culture (Ashgate) and series co-editor (with Trevor Cook) for Intellectual Property: Practitioner Series (Edward Elgar Publishing) and has held numerous research council grants and private research consultancies across a range of intellectual property issues and areas. She has considerable media experience across television, radio and newspapers, including interviews with CNBC, BBC Radio 4, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Times.