The Principle of National Treatment in International Economic Law
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The Principle of National Treatment in International Economic Law

Trade, Investment and Intellectual Property

Edited by Anselm Kamperman Sanders

The principle of national treatment, or the non-discrimination clause, is a principle that applies across many fields of international economic law. This book offers a unique horizontal examination of the principle as it applies within international trade law, international investment law, and intellectual property law. An invaluable conclusion draws together the common strands and highlights the variations in application between these fields.
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Chapter 8: National treatment under the Paris Convention

Christopher Heath


International treaties on intellectual property (IP) have long been governed by the principle of national treatment first enshrined in the Paris Convention of 1883. While the principle of national treatment has been a relatively recent addition to treaties related to international trade, and can in fact be found in the GATT Agreement of 1947 only in a very limited scope (see below), specialists in IP have been working with this principle for more than 100 years. One reason for this difference may be the fact that treaties on international trade tend to deal with goods, while IP treaties concern rights, or the possibility of obtaining those. Applying the principle of national treatment to foreign goods would in effect mean the abolition of import duties, a goal most trade treaties purport to achieve, but have failed to do. Treating foreigners and nationals alike in the case of obtaining rights makes imminent sense, however, at least where a uniform and international right for a certain achievement cannot be obtained, but where applicants have to rely on national laws in order to obtain rights. The principle of national treatment in intellectual property law can only be appreciated from its historical context, however. It is inseparable from the deliberations made in the preparation of the Paris Convention 1883, and the principle of territoriality of rights that must be called its counterpart.

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