Intellectual Property Rights and the World Trade Organization: Retrospect and Prospects

GianCarlo Moschini
May 2003  [03-WP 334]

This paper analyzes the main economic issues of intellectual property rights (IPRs) protection in the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A retrospective view on the establishment of the TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) Agreement, a still controversial accomplishment of the Uruguay Round of trade liberalization, is provided. The paper reviews the economic rationale for the harmonization of IPRs, drawing both on economic theory considerations as well as emerging empirical evidence. The logic of linking IPR protection and trade in the context of the WTO is also re-examined. Some specific attention is devoted to the implications of TRIPS for agricultural and biotechnology innovations. The impact that IPR protection can have in promoting growth and development, and the relation of IPRs with other economic policies, is discussed. The paper concludes with an analysis of the prospects for more (or less) IPRs-related consensus in the current round of WTO negotiations.

Keywords: copyrights, cross-border externalities, intellectual property, international trade, patents, trademarks, TRIPS, WTO.

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