Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 10: Human rights and intellectual property law at the bilateral and multilateral levels: Substantive and operational aspects
The relationship between multilateral human rights treaties and bilateral compromises on intellectual property has come to the forefront in the last decade. The mushrooming of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) – an important number of them bilateral free trade agreements – containing highly detailed and increasingly demanding intellectual property articles has caused concern in numerous human rights forums. This preoccupation arises because of the potential impact of new bilateral intellectual property compromises on access to public goods and on the protection of a range of fundamental guarantees related to civil freedoms. The World Trade Organization (WTO) counts 116 PTAs containing relevant intellectual property provisions. A thorough review of the WTO regional trade agreements databaseshows that the number of treaties that could be counted is indeed higher, even if a number of specific treaties counted by the WTO should not be included in the list. According to our own estimates, the total number of agreements notified to the WTO containing relevant intellectual property provisions is 141. While the actual number of treaties is relevant in itself because it informs the potential tensions with human rights treaties, it becomes even more important when considering the fact that more than 75 per cent of the PTAs containing intellectual property provisions entered into force in the last 12 years. In addition to the novelty of the phenomenon, the strengthening of the substantive content of the treaties also merits attention.
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