Intellectual Property and Water Rights

Intellectual Property and Water Rights

United Nations | Vietnam – Every year on the 22nd of March, the World Water Day is observed internationally. The World Water Day 2024 has been initiated by the United Nations with the theme “Leveraging Water for Peace”.

The idea for the World Water Day goes back to 1992, the year in which the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro took place. That same year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution by which 22 March of each year was declared World Day for Water, to be observed starting in 1993. As you may know, more than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water. Cooperation not only paves the way for peace but also propels progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Successful examples of water cooperation highlight its value in conflict resolution and community improvement. In Yemen, water user associations have worked to better manage water resources, reduce disputes and empower women. Meanwhile, river basin organizations in Senegal and elsewhere are praised for strengthening livelihoods, development and peace.

In Vietnam, since 1986 and especially during the early 90s, environmental protection has been regulated as a constitutional principle in light of Articles 17 and 29 of the 1992 Constitution. The first Law on Environmental Protection was passed by the National Assembly on 27 December 1993 and created an important foundation for environmental legislation in Vietnam. Subsequently, in January 1999, Vietnam enacted the first Law on Water Resources No. 08/1998/QH10 aiming to provide a a foundational framework for managing the water sector in Vietnam.

In recent years, the legislative framework on water resources management has further developed. The National Assembly of Vietnam officially approved the Law on Water Resources No. 28/2023/QH15 on 27 November 2023, which includes 10 Chapters and 86 Articles. The National Assembly has also adopted four (4) policy categories in Resolution No. 50/2022/QH15 dated  13 June 2022, including:

(1) Ensuring water source security;

 (2) Socialization of the water industry;

 (3) Water resources economics;

 (4) Protect water resources and prevent and combat harmful effects caused by water.

It can be said that intellectual property and water rights are particularly likely to fall in the middle of the spectrum of rights, and this helps to identify some of their key features. Both are intangible, to some degree – water rights because the right is not to a particular volume of water, but to some portion of the content of a ever-changing stream or lake; and intellectual property because the right is to some sort of product of the mind and not to any particular tangible object. If property is the law of things, then IP and water are examples of resources that are less easily “thingified,” in Michael Madison’s terms. Streams of water and streams of thought both have public and private aspects, with corresponding benefits. A thought (an expression, a solution, a symbol) can be privately entertained in the mind, or it can be shared with others. Once it is shared with others, it becomes to some degree part of the cultural fabric of that community, spurring further thoughts, and as a result it can only be incompletely and with some effort designated as attributable to a particular source through law or norms.

So far, scientists have been developing new methods of obtaining water and purifying it, using various chemical and physical processes. Below are some outstanding water-related technologies.

  1. “Nanotechnology”, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
  2. “Toxin-Eating Bacteria”, developed by researchers at Scotland’s Robert Gordon University;
  3. “MadiDrop Ceramic Water Purification Disks”, developed by a University of Virginia-based nonprofit humanitarian organization called PureMadi;
  4. “The SteriPEN”, marketed by Katadyn Group in Switzerland;
  5. “Salt for Purification”, developed by Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University, and colleague Brittney Dawney from Queens University in Ontario;
  6. “Removing Arsenic With Plastic Bottles”, developed by a Monmouth University (N.J.) chemistry professor Tsanangurayi Tongesayi;
  7. “Super Sand”, developed by a Scotsman named John Gibb;
  8. “Herbal Defluoridation”, developed by Indian researchers and offered in a March 2013 International Journal of Environmental Engineering article;
  9. “Ceramic Water Filters”, developed by a British potter, Henry Doulton, back in the early 1800s for purifying water drawn from the Thames;
  10. “Direct-Contact Membrane Desalination”, developed by New Jersey Institute of Technology chemical engineering professor Kamalesh Sirkar.

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