Chapter 1: Introduction
Intellectual property is increasingly a global commodity. Its intangible nature fits it perfectly for cross-border travel. Technologies of all kinds and in all fields have developed with almost incredible rapidity. As a result, many products of intellectual property may be readily enjoyed by users – both legitimate and illegitimate – all over the world. Counterfeit and pirate intellectual property is therefore a huge concern to right holders. But the process of defending intellectual property rights in such an environment can often be difficult and expensive. Intellectual property law has had to respond to these realities. Traditionally, intellectual property rights have been territorial in nature. In an economic world where trade is frequently international, and more and more commonly global, this fact gives rise to difficulties and conflicts between national systems. This engenders efforts towards cooperation and harmonisation at international levels, in an attempt to reduce obstacles to trade, and to increase the general international standard of protection for intellectual property. Such forces are not new; the Paris and Berne Conventions represent significant harmonisation efforts dating from the nineteenth century. However, the current economic significance of intellectual property rights results in ever-growing pressure for harmonisation. These may well be matters of great political importance and delicacy, not simply collections of rules which need tidying up. In some areas – such as patent litigation, for example – there have been identifiable, widely acknowledged problems.