Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 91, Issue 3, pp 359–378 | Cite as

Growth via Intellectual Property Rights Versus Gendered Inequity in Emerging Economies: An Ethical Dilemma for International Business



In this paper, we critique the emergent international normative framework of growth – the knowledge economy. We point out that the standardized character of knowledge economy’s flagship – intellectual property rights (IPRs) – has an adverse impact on women in emerging economies, such as India. Conversely, this impact on women, a significant consumer segment, has a feedback effect in terms of market growth. Conceptually, we analyze the consequences of knowledge economy and standardized IPR through a feminist lens. We extend the analyses by pointing to various contradictions surrounding growth norms; for example, there are inherent contradictions between established “formal” legalistic interpretation of IPR, “soft law” norms of corporate social responsibility, a fluid situation of moral claims of human rights, and different institutional capabilities at the international and domestic level. Consequently, we are able to demonstrate how standard IPR laws fail to deliver equity for all. We argue our case through exploring the growth aspects of the agricultural sector in India and the adverse impact of standard biopatenting on women farmers’ rights (as producers and consumers) and preservation of environment. We suggest that desired gendered equity is better achieved when there is a constellation of actors – private-sector business, the state, and civil-society leaders – working together to ensure a balanced development through tailoring of IPR to local needs.


agricultural sector equity gender growth intellectual property rights multilayered governance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DenverDenverU.S.A.

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