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Resource Guide for Researching Intellectual Property Law in an International Context

Written by Andrew Larrick Last Updated June 2008

Users of this guide may also want to consult Columbia Law Library’s Guide to Treaty Research and (for information about resources related to the WTO) International Trade Law Guide, or, for European matters, the guide to European Union Legal Materials.


This Guide

The international treatment of Intellectual Property rights involves to a significant degree both the traditional concerns of public international law (i.e. the law of nations) and the concerns of the ‘conflict of laws’ or 'private international law' with the problem of determining in what jurisdiction to pursue a private legal dispute and what law will be applied to it. Intellectual Property problems, in that sense, involve both foreign and international law.

This guide covers the multi-lateral treaties and international bodies that guide the public international dimension of IP law, and indicates sources for primary and secondary materials related to those international systems. This guide also includes citations and links to sources that collect IP laws of various national jurisdictions, to facilitate research into the actual IP rights in foreign jurisdictions. In reality, international Intellectual Property research will tend to involve a combined process of locating and understanding foreign laws within the system of international law that has developed to shape both the parameters of IP protection that countries can and must offer and the ways in which they must offer protection to foreigners.


Intellectual property in the international arena is a highly treaty-bound area, and one in which the international aspect goes largely toward enabling the enforcement of private rights across borders. A practical question in international intellectual property will typically involve determining the rights in a work in another country than its country of production. International IP law-making involves the use of treaty regimes and the other tools of public international law to create international predictability in the state-by-state definition and enforcement of private rights.

The progressive internationalization of the market for intellectual goods has, over the past 100-plus years, resulted an increasingly elaborate web of treaty relations between nations -- a layer of international law-making that interacts with each country’s domestic intellectual property law. Traditionally, these treaties have both set up a predictable structure to ensure that foreign IP owners will be treated equitably in terms of local IP norms through mechanisms like ‘national treatment,’ and have also shaped (‘harmonized’) transnational norms for what ‘mainstream’ IP protection should look like.

Types of Intellectual Property Protection

Internationally, the two most significant definitional categories of intellectual property are copyright and industrial property, which includes both patents and trademarks. The boundaries of copyright are drawn differently from one legal system to another, and rights in certain kinds of works that in American jurisprudence and scholarship are covered by copyright are often referred to internationally as covered by ‘neighboring rights’ that are distinct from but typically similar to ‘true’ copyrights -- often one will see references to ‘copyright and neighboring rights’. Intersecting areas such as trade-secret and competition law are not covered in this guide but the researcher should be alert to their sometimes-close relationship to legal problems involving the intellectual property rights discussed in this guide. Other categories, such as protection for industrial designs and the European database right, fit more-or-less easily around the margins of the core legal regimes, but for reasons of space and scope are dealt with only tangentially in this guide.

National treatment

The core multi-lateral intellectual property conventions (the Berne and Paris conventions) have long enshrined the principle of national treatment in international intellectual property law. This is the principal that (with certain treaty-defined exceptions) nations party to the convention are required to accord to the citizens of other parties the same rights to copyright and industrial property that they accord to their own citizens. National treatment is also at the heart of much of the web of bilateral treaties that came to the fore even prior to the rather venerable multi-lateral conventions, and which remain important. Be careful to distinguish a 'national treatment' standard from a 'reciprocity' standard.


In the Industrial Property (including Patent) context, where one of the major difficulties prior to the advent of international IP law in the late-19th century was the loss of ‘novelty’ for an invention in one country’s patent system by the very fact of its having been patented in another countries system, the Paris convention and later treaties have also developed systems to preserve the ‘priority’ of an invention by providing for a grace period after application in one country to apply with that earlier priority date in the other nations party to the convention.

Substantive treaty requirements

Additionally, over time, the major IP conventions (and many of the bilateral treaties) have increasingly sought to harmonize intellectual property by establishing substantive minimum norms of protection. The most recent generation of treaty-making in the Copyright, Patent, and Trademark areas has shown an increased tendency to attempt to harmonize IP law with a bolder imposition of requirements (substantive minimums of protection and maximums for formalities).

International deposit/registration regimes

There are also a number of multi-lateral treaty systems that establish mechanisms to facilitate the application for protection for industrial property in multiple nations.

Major public (free) web sources for international and comparative IP materials

  • Extensive treaty collections (WIPO treaties and others)
  • Materials related to treaty administration and rule-making
  • Collections of national legislation br/

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which administers most of the major multi-lateral intellectual property conventions, provides free online access to the texts of treaties that it administers, as well as a large collection of national legislation and regional and other non-WIPO treaties. WIPO's The Collection of Laws for Electronic Access ( provides a searchable and browsable (through a 'tree' type structure of folders) collection of national IP legislation, WIPO-administered treaties, and bilateral and regional IP-law treaties.

For the WIPO-administered treaties, one can browse through the directory structure under the broader category Regional Legislation and Multilateral Treaties or go directly to a separate page that lists all of the WIPO-administered treaties ( and lists them in three labeled columns: The first column, listed under IP protection defines basic minimum standards for protection and establishes the priority and national treatment norms described above. The second group, listed under Global Protection System lists treaties dealing with various categories of industrial property that create systems by which one international registration or filing has effect in multiple signatory states. The third column lists treaties that define international classification and labeling systems for subject labeling to facilitate searching for prior art (a topic that is not addressed in this document).

Clicking on any of the treaty titles brings up a page with links to the treaty text, a summary of the treaty, lists of contracting parties, links to additional materials such as agreed statements of the diplomatic conference that adopted the treaty, and, where relevant (as in the Patent Law Treaty), regulations passed by the treaty’s empowered administering body.

Citations are also provided below to the treaties in official and major unofficial American and International sources.

  • Information related to the TRIPS treaty
  • Rule-making and administrative materials related to TRIPS
  • Products of WTO dispute-settlement processes

The World-Trade Organization maintains a web site collecting materials related to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) that was part of the Uruguay Round agreements that established the WTO:

This site includes links to the text of the TRIPS agreement, to a wide range of explanatory materials related to Intellectual Property in the WTO system, and links to the text of various historical and negotiation materials from the Uruguay Round process.

Following the link (down the page) labeled 'disputes' runs a pre-set search for requests for consultations to the WTO's dispute settlement board that relate specifically to TRIPS ( The TRIPS agreement brought intellectual property protection within the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. One can also conduct a search for IP-related issues from the web site devoted to dispute settlement in the WTO, as well as find a large amount of descriptive material related to the WTO dispute resolution process:

Information related to the Universal Copyright Convention. At the main portal site, click culture and then copyright to open the pages of copyright-related materials.

Foreign Law: Collections and descriptions of national IP laws

The following are freely available, online, sources for texts, links, or descriptions of foreign IP laws.

Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (WIPO)

Under the legislative texts heading, this searchable online database contains records of information about IP laws from various countries, and full text in many cases (generally in national languages). The database is searchable, and can also be browsed either by country or by broad topical area.

Collection of National Copyright Laws (UNESCO)

The statutes in this database of full-text statutes (browsable in a region/country structure) are provided by the member states in official translations to any one of the official languages of UNESCO, but the indexing and information about the statutes is always provided in English, French, and Spanish.

Global Legal Information Network (Library of Congress)

The U.S. Library of Congress maintains a database of laws, regulations, and other legal materials as submitted by governments and international agencies. A GLIN entry typically consists of both a public English-language metadata record for a submitted item, and a locally hosted full-text, original language, deposit of the submitted item -- often as a scan of a print original.

The number of countries participating in GLIN is limited, and because it is submission-based there is no guarantee of comprehensiveness, but it can be a valuable tool for unearthing primary materials from foreign legal systems -- try using the advanced search to combine subject keyword terminology with a named country.

Collections and descriptions of national IP laws: Print Collections and Subscription Resources

This section references selected comparative works that compile, exerpt, or describe the IP-related law of assorted foreign jurisdictions. Works that address aspects of international IP law are addressed within the appropriate topical sections of this guide.

Copyright Laws and Treaties of the World. br / JX6555 Un29, 2d. floor NO LONGER UPDATED br /

A looseleaf compilation, compiled by UNESCO. This work is no longer kept up to date in print -- the latest update covers the period up to 1995. It is, however, a source for English-language translations of actual primary copyright legislation from numerous countries. The collection of laws on the UNESCO website, referenced above, will be the better option for currency.

Trademarks Throughout the World. br / Comp 675 T6711, Cellar; and Westlaw TMWORLD br /

Looseleaf compilation of summaries of trademark law and legislation (summary and citation) from numerous countries and other jurisdictions.

World Patent Law and Practice: Patent statutes, regulations, and treaties. br / Comp 671 W89, Cellar; and Lexis BAXPAL (as Baxter World Patent Law) br /

Looseleaf service that covers the patenting process and substantive patent rules of numerous jurisdictions, as well as the principal multilateral conventions.

Foreign Law Guide br / (Law Library indexes and databases page, or K38 .R49 1989 in Reference) br /

The Foreign Law Guide (Reynolds and Flores, eds.) is an extremely effective initial source to consult to determine the publication titles, etc., for laws of particular foreign jurisdictions, and addresses a very large number of national jurisdictions. It is available both as a multi-volume looseleaf set and online -- follow the links on the law library's electronic resources page. Within the section covering each individual jurisdiction there is also a topical list of laws, and the intellectual property topics are among those addressed. Generally these topical listings are quite good at highlighting sources for any available English-translations of that country’s statutory and regulatory materials.

International Copyright Law and Practice (P.E. Geller, ed.). br / Comp 673 In81, 3d floor Reserve; and Lexis INTCLP br /

The bulk of this frequently-updated looseleaf treatise consists of chapters on copyright law in various individual countries, in an amply footnoted description/commentary form (references but does not reproduce primary materials). Additionally, the first section of the treatise is a long chapter entitled International Copyright: An Introduction which is perhaps the most readable single account of the workings and inter-relationships of transnational copyright. There is a similar article on The European Community and Copyright.

World Intellectual Property Rights and Remedies (D. Campbell, ed.) br / Comp 670 W893, Cellar br /

Set of binders include pamphlets with commentary and (sometimes) legal texts, arranged by national jurisdictions.

Intellectual Property Protection in Asia, 2nd Edition (A. Windeburg, ed.) br / Comp 670 In7981, Cellar br /

Looseleaf. Tabbed sections cover (narrative discussion and citations) selected jurisdictions. The focus is East Asia, though India is included.

Intellectual Property: Eastern Europe Commonwealth of Independent States (D. Garrison, ed.) br / Comp 670 In802 br /

Looseleaf. Includes both commentaries/narrative descriptions and translated laws.

Major Multi-Lateral Intellectual Property Treaties: Citations and Sources


The Berne Convention

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is a foundational treaty in international copyright law. The convention was completed in 1886 and has been revised several times, most recently in 1971. The central undertaking of the Berne Convention was to internationalize copyright protection by requiring members to offer copyright protection for works first published in other Berne Convention countries and for unpublished works by nationals of Berne Convention countries. The Berne Convention also requires each member country to grant to foreign authors who are nationals of member countries the same rights that it grants its own nationals. The Berne Convention specifies a minimum term for copyright protection, and calls for the removal of most formalities. For most of the history of the Berne Convention the United States was not a party to the convention. The comprehensive 1976 Copyright Act moved the United States closer to many of the Berne norms (e.g. removing many formalities of registration and marking) and the U.S. became a party to the Berne Convention in 1989. A number of the recent controversial changes in U.S. copyright law were driven forward at least in part by arguments for closer adherence to the Berne Convention (and, later, the WIPO Copyright Treaty).

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Sept. 9, 1886, as last revised at Paris, July 24, 1971, 828 U.N.T.S. 221.

(U.S. Senate Treaty Doc. 99-27, KAV 2245, 1 B.D.I.E.L. 715; also reprinted at 17 U.S.C.A. 104)

The WIPO website includes a page with links to the full text (Doc and PDF files) of the Berne Convention, as updated; a full list of contracting parties and detailed dates of accession; and lists of the members of the Assembly and Executive Committee of the Berne Union that administers the treaty regime:

Universal Copyright Convention

The Universal Copyright Convention is not a WIPO administered convention. The UCC was spearheaded by the United States at a time when the U.S. was not a member of the Berne Convention, and entered into force in 1955. While the U.S. has subsequently become a party to Berne (and the later WIPO Copyright Treaty), the researcher may still need to determine the status of foreign copyrights in countries that are party to the UCC but not to Berne.

Universal copyright convention with three protocols annexed thereto. Geneva, Sept 6 1952; entered into force Sept. 16, 1955 br / 6 UST 2731; TIAS 3324; 216 UNTS 132 br / as revised (1971, into force 1974) br / 25 UST 1341; TIAS 7868

The Universal Copyright Convention is administered by UNESCO, which does provide Web access to the text of the treaty, which is linked (under ‘copyright’) from:

WIPO Copyright Treaty

The WIPO Copyright Treaty (and its companion Performances and Phonograms treaty, discussed below) were promulgated by WIPO at the end of 1996 and acquired the requisite number of accessions to enter into force in early 2002.

The WIPO Copyright Treaty was intended to adapt the international copyright regime to what are termed in the preamble the questions raised by new economic, social, cultural and technological developments and the profound impact of the development and convergence of information and communication technologies on the creation and use of literary and artistic works.

The WIPO Copyright Treaty builds upon the Berne convention by adding strengthened and more explicit requirements relating to information technologies. It (like the TRIPS agreement within the WTO) requires protection for computer programs as literary works subject to copyright.

WIPO Copyright Treaty br / Genev,a Dec. 20, 1996; entered into force March 6, 2002 br / 36 I.L.M. 65 (1997) br / WIPO Doc. CRNR/DC/96 (Dec. 20, 1996) br / U.S. Senate Treaty Doc. 105-17

The WIPO website includes a website for the WCT that links to Doc and PDF files of the full texts, lists of parties and members of the Treaty Assembly, and other information:

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

The WPPT is a particularly close companion of the WIPO Copyright Treaty that was formally promulgated as a distinct treaty to account for the fact that while in many legal systems the public-performance right and the rights of the producers of phonograms are parts of copyright, in other legal systems they are distinct 'neighboring rights'. The general aim of the treaty -- an international copyright response to issues posed by electronic communications -- was the same as for the WCT.

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty br / WIPO Doc. CRNR/DC/96 br / U.S. Senate Treaty Doc. 105-17

WIPO’s web site for the treaty contains the text in multiple file formats, lists of parties, and other details:

Other treaties

International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations of 1961 (Rome Convention) br / (joint UNESCO, WIPO, WTO administration) br /

The United States is not a party.
Full treaty information:

Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of their Phonograms (Geneva Convention) br / 25 UST 309, TIAS 7808, 866 UNTS 67 br / (joint UNESCO, WIPO, WTO administration)

Full treaty information:
This treaty established minimum international protections against the unauthorized duplication of phonograms.

Brussels Convention Relating to the Distribution of Programme-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite of 197413 I.L.M. 1444

Full treaty information:

Secondary Sources

The WIPO treaties 1996: the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty : commentary and legal analysis, Reinbothe, Jorg and Silke von Lewinski br / JX 6555 R27 2002, 3rd Floor Reserve

Texts, commentary, and drafting history of the recent, Internet-oriented, Copyright conventions.

International Copyright Law and Practice (P.E. Geller, ed.). br / Comp 673 In81, 3d floor Reserve; and Lexis INTCLP

The bulk of this frequently-updated looseleaf treatise consists of chapters on copyright law in various individual countries, in an amply footnoted description/commentary form (references but does not reproduce primary materials). Additionally, the first section of the treatise is a long chapter entitled International Copyright: An Introduction, a highly readable single account of the workings and inter-relationships of transnational copyright. There is a chapter, similar to the national chapters, on The European Community and Copyright.

Additional materials are referenced under the Collections and Descriptions portion of this guide.

Industrial Property


One line of patent-related treaties functions similarly to the copyright treaties in combining the national-treatment (and, for patent, priority) functions and providing substantive minimum protections. Additionally, there is an international system of trans- national application and registration of patents (and similar systems for other forms of industrial property).

Paris Convention (Patents)

The Paris Convention is the original multi-lateral convention regarding the protection of Industrial Property. The Paris Convention addresses both patents and trademarks, and also has articles addressing industrial designs, trade names, appellations of origin and indications of source, and unfair competition law.

For the various categories of Industrial Property, the Paris Convention establishes the right to national treatment, defines certain common minimum standards for substantive protection. Also, because industrial property rights (i.e. patents and trademarks) generally require a showing of novelty, and without some kind of international coordination a pre-existing patent in one country could defeat the novelty of the claim in subsequent countries, the Paris Convention creates a ‘right of priority’ that allows an applicant for an industrial property right a period of time after an original application in a member country to apply in additional member countries with the same priority date.

Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property br / March 20, 1883 br / TS 379 br / 25 Stat. 1372 br / II Malloy 1935 br / 1 Bevans 80

The WIPO web site for the Paris Convention includes (with PDF files available) the text of the treaty; lists of and ratification details for the parties; and a list of the members of the Assembly and the Executive Committee of the Paris Union, the administrative body for the treaty regime:

See here for information about the Paris Convention in connection with trademark.

Patent Law Treaty

Patent Law Treaty br / Done June 1, 2000, entered into force April 28, 2005 br / 39 I.L.M. 1047

The WIPO site for the Patent Law Treaty includes links to the full-text; links to WIPO regulation under the treaty; lists and statistical information about parties to the treaty, and members of the administering Union:

This update to the Paris system dealt primarily with harmonization of formalities and efforts to streamline patent procedure. Contentious substantive issues were deferred to the proposed Substantive Patent Law Treaty.

Patent Cooperation Treaty

In addition to the Paris Convention system allowing subsequent applications within 12 months of the first, the Patent Cooperation Treaty establishes a system for an international patent application. Patents are still granted (or not) by the individual country patent offices, but these administrative mechanisms facilitate the filing of one application (with, critically, one application date) rather than requiring inventors to individually navigate the patent application systems in each country in which they wish to seek protection.

Patent Cooperation Treaty br / Done June 19, 1970; entered into force Jan. 24, 1978 br / 28 UST 7645; TIAS 8733 br / 1160 UNTS 231

The WIPO web site for the Patent Cooperation Treaty includes links to the full-text of the treaty; regulations of the rule-making body under the treaty; lists of parties to the treaty and accession details; and lists of members of the Union that administers the treaty:

There is also a comprehensive WIPO website covering the workings of the PCT System, which can be entered at:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a web portal with many U.S.- centered resources related to the administration of the PCT system:

Substantive Patent Law Treaty (proposed)

WIPO's Standing Committee on the Law of Patents has proposed repeated drafts of a substantive patent harmonization treaty to complement the harmonization of formalities and procedures embodied in the recent Patent Law Treaty.

WIPO's page on Substantive Patent Law harmonization, includes links to drafts of the convention and to agendas and other materials from the meetings of the Standing Committee.

Other Treaties

Strasbourg agreement concerning the international patent classification br / Done March 24, 1971 br / Entered into force October 7, 1975 br / 26 UST 1793; TIAS 8140

Budapest treaty on the international recognition of the deposit of microorganisms for the purposes of patent procedure br / Done April 28, 1977 br / Entered force August 19, 1980 br / 32 UST 1241; TIAS 9768

International convention for the protection of new varieties of plants of December 2, 1961, as revised. br / Done Geneva, March 19, 1991; entered into force April 24, 1998; for the US Feb. 22, 1999

Secondary Sources

World Patent Law and Practice: Patent statutes, regulations, and treaties. br / Comp 671 W89, Cellar; and Lexis BAXPAL (as Baxter World Patent Law) br /

Looseleaf service that covers the patenting process and substantive patent rules of numerous jurisdictions, as well as the principal multilateral conventions.

International Patent Treaties: with commentary, Nelson, Jon. br / Oceana, 2007 br / 4th floor, K1503 .N45 2007

Additional materials are referenced under the Collections and Descriptions portion of this guide.


As with patents, there is a ‘standards of protection’ and an ‘international registration’ set of trademark treaties. Like other forms of industrial property, trademarks are covered by the Paris Convention.

Paris Convention (Trademarks)

In regard to trademarks, the Paris Convention provides for a grace period after a first national application to apply for trademark protection in subsequent treaty signatories while retaining priority.

More complete information regarding the Paris Convention is included here in the Patent portion of this research guide.

Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property br / March 20, 1883 br / TS 379 br / 25 Stat. 1372 br / II Malloy 19351 Bevans 80

Trademark Law Treaty

The trademark law treaty greatly restricts the number of formalities and complexity that is allowed to exist in national trademark registration systems.

Trademark law treaty and regulations. br / Geneva, Oct. 27, 1994; force Aug. 1, 1996; for U.S. Aug 12, 2000 br / TIAS; 2037 UNTS 35

Madrid Agreement and Madrid Protocol

The Madrid Agreement created a multinational ‘union’ for the facilitation of trademark applications and registrations – the Madrid Protocol created a second such union, deriving many features from the first but with an overlapping though distinct membership. The United States, for instance, is a party to the Madrid Protocol but not to the Madrid Agreement.

WIPO’s comprehensive web site relating to the Madrid system can be entered from this URL:

Madrid Agreement concerning the international registration of marks of April 14, 1891, as revised at Brussels on December 14, 1900, at Washington on June 2, 1911, at The Hague on November 6, 1925, at London on June 2, 1934, at Nice on June 15, 1957 and at Stockholm on July 14, 1967 br / 828 UNTS 390 br /

Protocol relating to the Madrid agreement concerning the international registration of marks. br / Done Madrid, June 27, 1989; entered force Dec. 1, 1995; for U.S. Nov. 2, 2003 br /

Classification Related Treaties

Nice Agreement, as revised, concerning the international classification of goods and services for the purposes of the registration of marks br / Done Geneva, May 13, 1977; entered force Feb. 6, 1979; for the US Feb 29, 1984 br / TIAS

Structure of WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organizations. WIPO is dedicated to the enhanced and harmonized protection of works of intellectual property, and was also formed to harmonize and coordinate the administration of the various individual intellectual property treaty regimes (effectively merging the administrative functions of the pre-existing treaty-based intellectual-property unions). WIPO has since played an active role in fostering increased internationalization of intellectual property protection, culminating in new far-reaching treaties including the Patent Law Treaty and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

WIPO was established by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization of July 14, 1967, which entered into force in 1970. WIPO took on the administration of earlier treaty-based unions in the copyright (Berne Convention) and industrial property (Paris Convention) realms, and has fostered and administered subsequent treaties dealing with intellectual property matters.

Organization of WIPO

WIPO consists of a General Assembly, a Conference, and a Coordination Committee. The Director General of WIPO is elected by the General Assembly.

Functioning of WIPO

WIPO has traditionally functioned through the development and promulgation of multi-lateral treaties. The treaty-making process tends to involve establishment of a Committee of Experts to monitor and consider developing issues, followed by preparation for a diplomatic conference, and the convening of the diplomatic conference to adopt a treaty. The treaty is then submitted to the ratification and accession process of various states.

This process leads to an active role for the WIPO organs in facilitating international discussion of international IP issues, the treaty-directed process does not primarily involve WIPO in either the standing, active, administration of disputes between private parties or states or an active ongoing ‘legislative’ or ‘adjudicatory’ function. WIPO does not have a full-scale dispute resolution mechanism analogous to that of the WTO.

Arbitration and Mediation, and Dispute Resolution for Domain Names

In 1994 WIPO established the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, to provide alternative dispute resolution services for the resolution of international commercial disputes between private parties, with a particular focus in intellectual property arbitrations.

Perhaps more importantly, the Arbitration and Mediation Center provides binding Domain Name dispute resolution services under its Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, by agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN has served since 1996 as the as the governing authority responsible for global coordination of the Internet's system of names and numbers.

Records and decisions of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center and the Domain Name Dispute Resolution Service can be found on the WIPO web page:

Additional information about domain name dispute resolution, including the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, is available on ICANN's web site:

TRIPS and International IP in the WTO system

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property was promulagated in 1994 as Annex 1C of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, a product of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. It therefore supplemented the earlier focus on trade in goods that had run through the various rounds of GATT negotiations, and brought trade in intellectual products into the heart of the global free-trade system.

TRIPS adopts requirements of previous multi-lateral conventions in both copyright and industrial property, and in particular embraces the requirements of the Berne and Paris conventions (thus essentially making them, or at least their standards, mandatory for WTO members). The TRIPS agreement also adds more requirements regarding domestic IP enforcement mechanisms and brings Intellectual Property disputes between nations into the WTO system for dispute resolution. As part of the WTO agreement, TRIPS also embodies the most-favored-nation concept, under which trade-related priveleges granted to one country must also be granted to all WTO Member STates.

The WTO has a large website of TRIPS resources within the larger WTO site, as one of the Trade Topics selectable from the main gateway page at, or directly at Along with a link to the text of the agreement (a link to the legal texts portion of the WTO site) the TRIPS page contains a large amount of explanatory material.

Because it is part of the governing function of the WTO, the TRIPS agreement involves significant ongoing reporting requirements for WTO member states, and disputes related to TRIPS also come within the WTO's dispute settlement mechanisms. The WTO website, and the TRIPS gateway within it, provide access to databases of these materials.

TRIPS-related dispute settlement materials:

Disputes between nation under the TRIPS agreement are subject to the WTO dispute settlement mechanisms. There is a dedicated page for TRIPS-related disputes at br /

The WTO website also includes a great deal of information about its dispute settlement system at: br /

Secondary Sources

Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights: A Concise Guide to the TRIPS Agreement, Blakeney, Michael br / JX 6558 B5841 1996, 2nd Floor.

A single volume, practically oriented, introduction to the (then new) TRIPS agreement.

The TRIPS Agreement: Drafting History and Analysis, 2nd edition, Gervais, Danielbr / JX 6558 G329 2003, 3rd Floor Reserve

Detailed analysis and reconstruction of the evolution of TRIPS, including, when available, earlier language and drafts.

Regional materials and sources

Several regional international bodies and legal systems are relevant in intellectual property law. Of most note are European systems and treaty regimes, both inside and outside of the European Union itself.


Secondary Sources

Intellectual Property in Europe, 3rd Edition, Tritton, Guy, et / London : Sweet Maxwell, 2008br / 4th floor, KJE2636 .T75 2008

Tritton's treatise is an excellent and comprehensive single-volume overview of European intellectual property law, broadly construed. The text covers all categories of intellectual property, including its interactions with competition law. The text focuses on Community Law, although the relevance and application of the major multi-lateral regimes (Berne, Paris, TRIPS) with EC law is extensively addressed, as is the European Patent Organization. This work does not address the IP-related national law of individual European states.

The European Patent System: the law and practice of the European Patent Convention, Paterson, / London : Sweet Maxwell, 2001br / 2nd floor, JX 6558 P2733 2001

Guide to European Patents, Rudge, Andrewbr / Thompson-West, 2008br / Westlaw: EUROPATENT

For additional collections of legislation from, or descriptions of the law of, individual European jurisdictions, please consult the resources addressed under the broader Collections and Descriptions portion of this guide.


Along with the global systems to both harmonize patent protection and provide trans-national systems for registering and maintaining patents (procedural harmonization), there are European systems with these same twin purposes.

European Patent Convention and European Patent Organisation


The European Patent Convention is a multilateral treaty to which all EU and several non-EU European countries are party. The EPC created the European Patent Organisation, of which the European Patent Office is the ‘executive’ body (grants European patents) and the Administrative Council has ‘legislative’ authority (implementing regulations, rules, adopting the budget). While the Patent Cooperation Treaty allows use of a single application and search, but leaves further substantial examination for the individual countries where protection is sought, the EPC goes a step further and provides a centralized process for application, search, and examination but still results in a uniform batch of individual national patents. Unlike the PCT system, the EPO is not just a mechanism for a consolidated application -- patents are processed and granted by the EPO. Enforcement, questions of infringement and attacks upon patents after granting are still handled under national laws, however. The coexistence of the European system with the PCT system, and with the possibility for individual national applications, leads to overlapping and complicated interactions between the different systems.

Convention on the Grant of European Patents (European Patent Convention) br / Oct. 5, 1973 (as amended June 28, 2001) br / O.J. EPO 2003, 3 br /

The EPO issues Implementing Regulations under the EPC, periodic amendments and appended Protocols, and Decisions of the Administrative Council. These are published in the organizations' Official Journal (O.J. EPO). The Official Journal is online at the EPO website ( from 1997 forward:br /

EPO annual reports are available in the law library (JX1 Eu748) and on the EPO website.

Because the EPO actually conducts the examination and granting of patents, it includes decision-making bodies and an appellate structure consisting of the Board of Appeal and a second appellate tier in the Enlarged Board of Appeal. Decisions of the Boards of Appeal create case-law for the EPO and are available (browse or search) through its web site ( and in print as the European Patent Office Reports (JX 6558 Eu7451).

European Union

All European countries are parties to the Paris Convention and members of the WTO, which includes the TRIPS Agreement. The EU has also been active in regards to patent harmonization. The Community Patent Convention, which would have created a unitary and autonomous patent system for the EC was never ratified, but the Biotechnological Patent Directive has harmonized European law on one major set of contentious issues. The EC also provides for a system of Supplementary Protection Certificates, as a sui generis IP right to effectively grant a term of protection to compensate for time 'lost' during the regularoty approval process for patented pharmaceuticals. The Commission has also proposed the harmonization of the law of Utility Models, a sort of 'lesser' patent recognized in some member states.

The Europa portal contains a Summaries of Legislation page, as a sub-category of the Common Market heading, for Intellectual Property subjects, including Patents:br /

Within the European Commission, Patents and other Industrial Property are within the competence of the Directorate General for the Internal Market. The Commissions' web site for Industrial Property is a useful source for updated information on legal initiatives of the Commission, and is a source for both core legal texts and for COM documents related to the /

Patent and Industrial-Property directives and regulations can be reached online, on the Europa portal, through multiple paths. The Commissions' site for Industrial Property typically links them. Alternatively, use the Directory of Community Legislation in Force, within the Eur-lex portion of the site. Industrial Property directives and regulations are cataloged and linked within Chapter 13.30.99 of the Directory (Note also that some legislation related to Pharmaceutical products, cataloged as Chapter 13.30.15, does have major Patent Law implications in connection, e.g., with compulsory licensing.)

Biotechnological Patent Directivebr / Directive 98/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 1998 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions br / [1998] OJ L213/13 br /

Online text and information about the directive can be reached on the Europa site in several ways. The 'Biotechnology' item on the Commissions' Industrial Property page links to the informational page about the directive. Alternatively, it can be reached from the Europa portal through the Directory of Community Legislation within Eur-Lex.
The Biotechnological Patent directive required harmonization of member law on contentious isssues related to biological patents related to genetically-engineered organisms and related research

Supplemental Protection Certificate br / Council Regulation (EEC) No 1768/92 of 18 June 1992 concerning the creation of a supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products br / [1992] O.J. L182/1 br /

Online text and information, available through the Commissions' Industrial Property portal or through the Directory of Community Legislation.

Regulation (EC) No 1610/96 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 1996 concerning the creation of a supplementary protection certificate for plant protection products br / [1996] O.J. L198/30 br /

Online access as above.

The Supplemental Protection Certificate is a sui generis intellectual property right with generally comparable effect to that of a patent. The SPC was created in EC law as a form of de facto patent extention to make up for time lost to the often-extended (and, indeed, Directive-mandated) pharmaceautical approval process in the member states. The duration of an SPC calculated based on the time period between the patent application and first regulatory approval within the European Economic Area, but never more than five years.


All of the European countries are parties to the Paris Convention, and all the EU countries are also parties to the Madrid Protocol, as is the EC itself.

Registered trademarks are quite comprehensively harmonized in the European system, through the combination of a Directive to harmonize national law within the Community and the establishment by Council Directive of the unitary Community Trade Mark. Substantively, the law for the CTM and the law of registered national marks as harmonized under the Directive are essentially the same.

The Europa portal contains a Summaries of Legislation page, as a sub-category of the Common Market heading, for Intellectual Property subjects, including Trademark:br /

The Commissions' Industrial Property portal, is also an especially useful starting point for official information and updates related to European trademark law.

Trade Mark Directivebr / First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marksbr / [1989] O.J. L40/1br /

Online text and information, through the Europa site, is linked from the Commissions' Industrial Property portal and from the Directory of Community Legislation (as with Patent law, under Chapter 13.30.99).

Community Trade Markbr / Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade markbr / [1994] O.J. L11/1br /

Online text and information, and links to editions with amendments incorporated, is also linked from the Commissions' portal for Industrial Property and from the Directory of Community Legislation. The informational page here is especially useful due to the many subsidiary regulations and amendments of the CTM.

The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market registers Trademarks and Designs. OHIM's web-site includes an extensive informational page, legal portal, and online access to the registration process:br /


The EC Member Countries are all members of the Berne Union, and hence are guided not only by the National Treatment principles of Berne, but by its additional harmonization around substantive minimums of protection. The EC and Members are also members of the WTO, and hence covered by the TRIPS agreement.

In addition to the background harmonization resulting from shared adherence to the global multilateral arrangements, the Community has engaged in European legislation along two prongs -- one related to detailed and rather specific areas of law and the other related to the perception of broad-based copyright challenges from the Information Society.

The Europa portal contains a Summaries of Legislation page, as a sub-category of the Common Market heading, for Intellectual Property subjects, including Copyright:br /

The Commission's Internal Market Directorate also maintains a Copyright portal page, including information and links to legislation and other legal documents, including links to the relevant Directives:br /

Computer Programs Directivebr / Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs br / [1991] O.J. L122/42 br / Amended by Directive 93/98/EC (Term Directive)br /

The Computer Programs Directive harmonizes Member law around the recognition of copyright in computer programs as 'literary works' within the Berne tradition, while harmonizing the standard of originality for computer programs, excluding the possibility of 'moral rights' in computer programs, and standardizing some aspects of the law related to software licensing.

Rental Right Directivebr / Directive 92/100/EEC on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property ibr / [1992] O.J. L246/61 (repealed and replaced)br / Directive 2006/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property (codified version)br / [2006] O.J. L376/28

The Directive requires that members grant rights-holders a right to authorize or prohibit lending and rental as defined in the directive.

Satellite and Cable Directivebr / Council Directive 93/83/EEC on the coordination of certain rules concerning copyright and rights related to copyright applicable to satellite broadcasting and cable retransmissionbr / [1993]OJ L 248/15

The Satellite and Cable Directive primarily harmonizes European law regarding the law of which Member State govern the communication to the public of a broadcast signal, given the transnational nature of satellite and other broadcast technologies.

Term DirectiveCouncil Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rightsbr / [1993]OJ L 290/9 br / Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights (codified version)br / [2006]OJ L 372/12br /

The Term Directive harmonizes the basic term of copyright (but not the related rights) at 70 years beyond the life of the author -- a standard that exceeds the requirements of Berne and of TRIPS.

Information Society Directivebr / Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information societybr / [2001]OJ L 167/10br /

The Directive was intended to respond with the copyright implications of the Internet, and to allow the EC and Members to ratify and implement the WCT and WPPT. Accordingly, it covers a much broader swath of copyright law, and 'codifies' a wider range of revisions through the Community, than do the other copyright-related directives.

Database Protection

The Database Directive harmonizes a substantial amount of copyright protection around original works included within databases, and in certain kinds of databases themselves that meet the Directive's originality standards. Even more signifanctly, the Directive creates a new, 'sui generis,' intellectual property right, outside of copyright, to protect investment in a broadly-defined category of databases.The sui generis database right has no American counterpart.

The Commission's Copyright portal includes links and information to legal sources and news related to the database protection:br /

Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databasesbr / [1996]OJ L 77/20

Additional Secondary and Collected Sources

Please note that most - and likely the most valuable - books and other secondary sources are addressed within the relevant topical sub-sections of this guide, and are not listed here.

Basics of International Intellectual Property Law, Letterman, G. Gregorybr / JX 6558 L569 2001, 2nd Floor

This book is a usefully compact and readable overview of all of the IP subject areas internationally. In addition to topical chapters, there is a useful chapter with short overviews of the various IP conventions and treaties, and useful description of their complex interrelationships.

WIPO Intellectual Property Handbook: Policy, Law, and Usebr / JX6558 W72 2001, 2nd Floor, and online at

International Intellectual Property Law, D’Amato, Anthony and Doris Estelle Long, / JX 6558 In8025 1997, 2nd Floorbr /

A compilation of essays and articles on international IP law in a useful topical organization.