Washington Law Firm Creates New Line of Law Practice
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Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, the 110-attorney intellectual property law firm of Washington has announced a new line of law practice that combines the tenets of human rights with IP law. The movement is led by Jorge Goldstein, veteran attorney and the founder of the firm who in known for his practice in health sciences.

The pro bono practice aims to use IP law to help indigenous groups in developing countries protect their right to native, regional, and ethnic intellectual property, including medicinal plants and systems, artwork and styles. These rights are often usurped by multinational companies which patent and start selling them. Such infringements often happen in the pharmaceutical industries.

The group is based on a concept that claims the economic right to one’s creations is a human right. Goldstein told the media that the practice is an extension of the District-based nonprofit Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisers started a decade ago.


PIIPA has recently represented the African Artists Collaborative to help African artists copyright their music and movies before distribution in U.S. and Europe. PIIPA co-founder Michael Gollin told the press that “A decade ago when PIIPA started, there was the perception that IP was a club used by the ‘haves’ or the world against the ‘have-nots’ … Now there’s increasing recognition of using IP to protect local creative action.”

PIIPA coordinates between intellectual properties lawyers from across the globe with governments, public interest groups and indigenous tribes in less-developed countries. Goldstein’s first case from PIIPA was in helping the IP agency of the Peruvian government. A foreign company bought a locally produced and used aphrodisiac constituent, the maca root, and then patented the active ingredient in U.S. after extracting and isolating it. Then the company tried to restrict Peru’s own rights to export maca products.

Even though the practice is still small, at least 35 attorneys have expressed interest in joining. The practice may also lead to tours to the geographic locations of ethnic communities and interactions with local craftsmen.

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Goldstein expressed his views to the media, “If you are an indigenous tribe and you’ve got a cultural right like textile know-how, you’ve got a right to enjoy the fruits of your creation … You are not subject to someone coming in, walking away with it and obtaining a patent.”



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