From Global Scripts to Local Translation
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In this chapter, I consider one dimension of the translation of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, by following its translation as a set of prescriptions – as a set of official rules carried on paper, expected to have a predefined impact – in Djibouti and Ghana. I use the term prescription here with the meaning that is given to it within actor-network theory (ANT), when looking at technologies, to reflect the idea that any technology (including here legal technologies) comes with a script that carries, amongst other things, a series of expectations on its ability to generate actions from others (Akrich and Latour, 1992). I question here the impact that TRIPS as a set of rules is having on local legislation, and how the specific contexts of Djibouti and Ghana have responded to the expectations attached to TRIPS. In doing so, I therefore analyse what are commonly referred to as ‘implementation’ issues, and engage with the particularities of the networks at play, and in particular the links between the translation of intellectual property (IP) and local forms of expertise (Barrett, 2004). The nature of TRIPS as textual material is central to this analysis, and this chapter seeks to demonstrate the series of socio-technical translations that occur when the text of TRIPS and its embedded prescriptions interact with legal institutions in Djibouti and Ghana. This chapter constitutes only a prelude to unpacking the complexity of TRIPS, and of IP, in the rest of this study. But questioning this process of translation is also important for emphasizing the complexity of the process of translation from global law to local practices, systematically explored in the literature in this field. Importantly, the chapter also interrogates the travels of TRIPS into Djibouti and Ghana, by returning to their first entry points in the networks of IP – or what would become so under the influence of TRIPS. I am predominantly concerned here with exploring how those in charge of translating TRIPS initially responded to this new actor and, consequently, in the different realities adopted by TRIPS as it travelled to those two remote locations. Many other questions raised by the translation of rules into practice are explored in the next chapter, but these are best understood with a clear introduction to what implementing a complex legal text such as TRIPS in Djibouti and Ghana means in terms of process.
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