Five Disharmonizing Trends in the International Intellectual Property Regime

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Since the creation of the Paris and Berne Conventions, the European Communities and the United States have been pushing for greater harmonization of intellectual property protection throughout the world. In 1994, for example, the World Trade Organization was established, bringing with it the oft-criticized TRIPs Agreement. Less than a decade later, the WIPO Internet Treaties entered into force, updating the international intellectual property regime to reflect changes in the digital environment. At the turn of this century, WIPO also initiated discussions on several harmonization treaties. Two of the more controversial ones concern the Substantive Patent Law Treaty and the Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations.

Notwithstanding these harmonization efforts, countries - both developed and less developed - have become increasingly dissatisfied with the international intellectual property regime. To protect themselves and to reclaim autonomy over their intellectual property policies, they have recently pushed for measures that frustrate the harmonization project. While less developed countries push for the establishment of the development agenda, in the hope of rolling back some of the protection required by the TRIPs Agreement and other international treaties, developed countries use bilateral and plurilateral free trade agreements to pressure their less powerful counterparts to ratchet up intellectual property protection and enforcement. In addition, exporting industries in developed countries have introduced mass-market contracts and technological self-help measures to protect themselves against large-scale piracy and counterfeiting in less developed countries and in the digital environment.

This book chapter focuses on five disharmonizing trends that offer resistance to the recent push for greater harmonization in the international intellectual property arena: (1) the inclusion of reciprocity provisions in national laws, (2) the demands for diversification, (3) the use of bilateral and plurilateral agreements, (4) the creation of non-national systems as a response to Internet disputes, and (5) the reliance on alternative measures by rights holders. The Chapter examines each of these trends and explores the challenges they have created for the future development of the international intellectual property regime.

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Praeger Publishers


Westport, CT


Peter K. Yu

Book Title

Intellectual Property and Information Wealth: Issues and Practices in the Digital Age