Book chapter

Intellectual Property Regulation under International Law (2010)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies


The creation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs) in the mid-1990s altered the regulation of intellectual property under international law. Prior to the TRIPs Agreement, intellectual property regulation consisted of a patchwork of international treaties and conventions coordinating reciprocal national treatment of signatory states' domestic intellectual property protection. Generally, those agreements strove for minimum standards of protection, but left levels and types of protection to member states' national discretion. TRIPs's strict uniformity represented a momentous change. Development theorists who have examined the practical implications of intellectual property regulation under international law have echoed critical theorists' assertions of TRIPs as a watershed moment. However, they have expressed concerns over the domination exercised by developed countries over developing countries within the current international intellectual property regulatory system. Of particular importance are international impositions into developing countries' national legal systems via TRIPs, and efforts of developed countries to extract from developing countries intellectual property concessions over and above those contained in TRIPs. A wide range of articles on intellectual property regulation under international law have also been published in legal journals and periodicals. Three broad themes stand out: concerns about practice and practical applications (i.e., practice tips, reviews of cases and WTO decisions); concerns about policy aspects and consequences of intellectual property law; and exploration of the philosophical underpinnings of the law.