International Protection of Intellectual Property

Cite this article as:"International Protection of Intellectual Property," in The Business Professor, updated January 23, 2015, last accessed August 4, 2020,



What international protections exist for intellectual property rights?

International intellectual property law is the subject of treaties between nations throughout the world. The United States is a signatory to numerous international agreements respecting intellectual property rights. Some of the primary agreements are as follows:

•    Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) – TRIPS is the most recognized agreement among nations concerning the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights. TRIPS is a model agreement promulgated and administered with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Most nation members of the WTO are signatories to the agreement. It provides standards for how intellectual property should be regulated within a country. This includes standards for recognition and protection of intellectual property rights. Forms of intellectual property recognized under TRIPS include copyrights, trademarks, trade dress, geographical identification, designs, patents, new plant varieties, and confidential trade information.

⁃    Note: The scope of protections under TRIPS was further defined under the Doha declaration, a WTO statement issued in 2001.

•    World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – WIPO is an agency of the United Nations charged specifically with promoting economic development through the facilitation of intellectual property recognition and protection among member countries. The WIPO was formed as part of a multilateral treaty between 188 UN members. WIPO is charged with administering numerous intellectual property agreements between member nations.

•    Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883 (Paris Convention) – The Paris Convention was one of the first treaties focusing on the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights. It is administered by the WTO.

•    Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) – The Berne Convention is an intergovernmental treaty administered by WTO that focuses on protecting copyrights among signatory nations. Notably, this convention introduced the concept of affording copyright protection to works that are not filed with a governmental office.

•    WIPO Copyright Treaty  (WCT) – The WCT is a WIPO administered treaty focusing on copyright protection among signatory nations. Currently, 94 nations are signatories to the agreement. The WCT focuses on the copyright protection of information technology, computer software, and program design. It offers protections in addition to the Berne Convention.

•    Madrid Protocol – The Madrid Protocol is an amendment to the Madrid system for International Registration of Marks. WIPO administers the protocol, which provides the primary international rules for the recognition of trademark rights. Notably, it allows for the multi-jurisdictional registration of trademarks throughout signatory countries.

•    Patent Copyright Treaty (PCT) – The PCT is a treaty among WTO countries concerning the recognition and protection of patent rights. It provides a uniform system for filing for patent protections within signatory countries, known as the “international Patent Cooperation Union”. Notably, it allows for a central filing of an “international application” and preliminary investigation of the filing. The results of the application may then be uniformly presented for protection among signatory nations.

•    The Patent Law Treaty of 2000 (PLT) – The PLT is a treaty among 59 countries establishing uniform procedures in the patent filing process. It seeks to resolve issues unresolved under the PCT.

•   Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purpose of Patent Procedure (Budapest Treaty) – The Budapest Treaty is a WIPO administered international treaty and for states that are a party to the Paris Convention. It provides an international patent procedure for microorganisms. Deposit of microorganisms at a central location allows for the adequate disclosure required under most patent procedures.

•    Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – ACTA is an international treaty focusing on intellectual property protection and enforcement by preventing counterfeit goods and copyright infringement. Approximately 30 countries are signatories to ACTA.

•    Discussion: Why do you think the law allows initial purchasers of a copyrighted item the ability to sell or transfer that item? Is there an argument for limiting a purchaser’s authority? Is there an argument for allowing a purchaser to copy or reproduce the item?

Was this article helpful?