Intellectual property, biotechnology and process tracing

Applying political research methods to legal study

Authored by: Benjamin Farrand

Routledge Handbook of Socio-Legal Theory and Methods

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138592902
eBook ISBN: 9780429952814
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the application of a novel research method for law to a question concerning how different legislative systems, underpinned by substantially different political and institutional structures and cultures, can nevertheless reach very similar regulatory outcomes. It takes the example of the limitations placed upon the patenting of human embryonic stem cell-derived inventions (or hESCs) on the basis of moral concerns in the EU and China, two systems in which the moral status of the embryo differs considerably. This chapter considers how the use of process tracing, a methodological tool from political science and international relations, can be used to explore how divergent institutional designs can identify and solve problems with very similar solutions, despite very different processes of identifying and approaching those problems. Exploring the role of institutional learning as a means of regulatory transfer, this chapter demonstrates how the use of a process tracing socio-legal method can allow lawyers to better understand the causes of legal change in a way that cannot ordinarily be uncovered using more traditional doctrinal analysis.

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