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The intricate relationship between intellectual property exhaustion and free movement of goods in regional organizations: comparing the EU/EEA, NAFTA, and ASEAN

Irene Calboli

Keywords: intellectual property exhaustion; free movement of goods; regional free trade areas; European Union; NAFTA; ASEAN

This article explores the relationship between national rules on the exhaustion of intellectual property (IP) rights and cross-border trade within regional organizations. In particular, this article compares three distinct approaches adopted by: the European Union (EU); the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA); and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Based on this comparison, this article concludes that in order to effectively promote the free movement of goods, members of regional organizations need to consistently adopt national policies on IP exhaustion that support, at least, a system of regional exhaustion such as currently found in the EU. However, this article also posits that different regional organizations may decide to adopt a variety of approaches on IP exhaustion. These variations may be based on the different stages of national development of the various members of a regional organization or the size of national markets and economic strategies, including their current level of international trade and whether this trade is primarily with other members of the same organization or with third countries. With time, different national approaches on IP exhaustion may change and lead to a higher level of harmonization to promote a full-scale free movement of goods within a regional organization.

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