Uchenna F. Ugwu successfully defended her PhD in Law thesis

Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Centre for Law, Technology and Society is delighted to announce that on Friday, 17th April 2020, Uchenna F. Ugwu successfully defended her PhD in Law thesis titled “Harnessing the Multilateral Patent and Plant Variety Protection Regimes to Advance Food Security: Implications of the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement,” and written under the supervision by CLTS Faculty members, Professor Chidi Oguamanam and Professor Jeremy de Beer.


Dr Ugwu is a lawyer and was a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. She holds a Master’s degree in Public International Law with Distinction from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. Her research analyzes the provisions for patents and plant variety protection in multilateral and regional agreements to explore their implications for food security in West Africa. Previously, Ms Ugwu has carried out academic research with the Open African Innovation Research Group, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, and the Max Planck Institute for IP Competition and Tax Law. She has published several articles relating to her research and presented the results at conferences.

Dr Ugwu’s doctoral research had been made possible thanks to the support of CIGI, SSHRC, IDRC, University of Ottawa and Open AIR.

Beyond her supervisors, Dr. Ugwu’s PhD defense committee included: Professor Peter Yu, Texas A&M University, School of Law (external examiner), Professor Heather McLeod-Kilmurray, Professor Sarah Berger Richardson, and Professor Wolfgang Alschner.


Congratulations to the new Dr Ugwu!



The thesis analyzes the provisions of multilateral, continental and regional intellectual property (IP) and trade agreements to explore whether these provisions advance, or compromise, food security in West Africa. The agreements have been examined for how their provisions integrate IP and food security norms and policies, both within and between different multilateral treaties; and the extent to which the IP frameworks are adaptable to the regional conditions that determine food security in the West African context. In the thesis, food security is viewed as part of the public interest objectives of IP treaties, the human right to food, and the socio-economic rights of international laws, which are relevant in interpreting IP agreements. The method adopted is to examine interfaces among different IP treaties and linkages between regional IP regulation and other rule-based systems, using the principles and tools that international law provides for analyzing relationships between treaties and norms. 

Critical analysis is made of a regional agreement signed between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU), the 2014 EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), to assess what implications the agreement may have for food security in West Africa. Interdisciplinary research is carried out to identify the characteristics needed to advance food security in the region of West Africa. To meet these requirements, philosophical and doctrinal analysis of IP laws and legal theories is conducted to identify which legal principles are best suited for advancing food security in the region. Based on the findings, the thesis draws up a model framework for IP protection that is more suitable for enhancing food security in West Africa.

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