Competitive Strategies for the Protection of Intellectual Property

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In the Middle Ages up to 90 percent of the wealth of Europe came from the owning of land. As a result, the law of the times developed elaborate definitions of and protections for property rights in land. Today, we live in an economy deriving ever more of its income from technological advances based on research and human ingenuity. Modern capitalism's increasing dependence on intellectual property has allowed for qualitatively higher levels of efficiency, productivity, and quality of life. Accordingly, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) embedded in patents, trademarks, and copyrights have received increasing attention. The rise of global trade has further broadened the discussion of IPRs from a largely domestic to an international stage.

This century's critical milestone in the improvement and globalization of IPRs came with the conclusion in 1994 of an international treaty on IPRs called TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) as part of the Uruguay Round of trade talks that upgraded the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The TRIPS signatories acknowledged that a higher standard of international protection for IPRs was not just possible but desirable. While the developed nations had to implement TRIPS immediately, most of the developing nations were given a deadline of January 1, 2000. Canada, the United States, and Mexico committed themselves to even more rigorous standards of protection and enforcement in the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The passage of TRIPS sparked a vigorous debate on a number of critical questions.

(1) What are the economic, social, and health-care benefits to developing countries of higher levels of protection for IPRs?
(2) How should they re-fashion their domestic patent and trademark legislation to abide not just by the letter but also by the spirit of TRIPS?
(3) How will IPRs continue to evolve in new trade talks such as the proposed hemispheric agreement, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the millennium round of global talks kicked off in Seattle in November 1999?

The Fraser Institute's Law and Markets Project, seeking to further discussion of possible answers to these questions, invited leading scholars in the field to participate in two back-to-back conferences. The first was held in Santiago, Chile on April 19, 1999, co-hosted with the Instituto Libertad y Desarollo. The second was conducted in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 22, 1999, co-hosted with the Fundacion Republica. This book contains the papers delivered at both conferences. 

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