Bilateralism in intellectual property

Bilateralism in intellectual property

Are bilateral negotiations forcing developing countries into accepting IPR standards over which they have little control?

Examines the way in which bilateral trade negotiations (Bilateral Investment Treaties and Bilateral Intellectual Property Agreements) are being used by the USA and others to build more extensive protection for intellectual property than that set out in the WTO TRIPS Agreement. It uses examples of recent US/EU negotiations with countries such as Nicaragua, Jordan, and Mexico to illustrate how developing countries are being drawn into a highly complex multilateral/bilateral web of intellectual property standards over which they may have little control.

In some cases, these bilateral negotiations are forcing developing countries into TRIPS-compliance ahead of the timetable agreed in 1995. In other cases, they are being used to intervene in the detailed regulation of a developing country's economy. Finally, the paper shows how the Most Favoured Nation principle within TRIPS combines with these bilateral agreements to spread and set new minimum standards of intellectual property faster than would have otherwise happened.

The paper ends with a discussion of the benefits and dangers of multilateralism and bilateralism. It proposes that developing countries should develop a veto coalition against further ratcheting up of IP standards, and that the TRIPS Council shift its purpose from a body which secures a platform for IP regulation to one that polices a ceiling.

[adapted from author]