Developing a Private International Intellectual Property Law: The Demise of Territoriality?
William & Mary Law Review, Forthcoming
91 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2009
Date Written: November 8, 2009
Although intellectual property law is a relatively recent legal innovation, it has from an early stage in its development possessed an international dimension. As far back as the late nineteenth century, this resulted in the adoption of a group of multinational treaties that remain the foundation of what can be called the public international law of intellectual property. Efforts to develop a private international law of intellectual property are much more recent, and are ongoing in a number of different institutional settings. Yet, the need for attention to this field remains acute. This Article explores the content of a private international law of intellectual property. It does not seek to articulate a comprehensive scheme. Rather, this exploration is intended to facilitate consideration of the core principle of territoriality that informs so much of the existing regime. The Article sketches the basic principles of private international law that apply in transborder intellectual property disputes, examining treaty provisions and developments at the national and regional level. Some of the leading questions are highlighted by discussion of six recent transborder intellectual property disputes. These disputes help to illustrate aspects of cross-border exploitation of intellectual property that need to be taken into account both in critiquing current approaches and in formulating alternatives. The Article then turns to focus on the concept of territoriality. Territoriality is a principle that has always received excessive doctrinal purchase in intellectual property law. Moreover, the normative force of the principle has declined as units of social and commercial organization have come to correspond less neatly with national borders, and as private ordering has weakened the capacity (and perhaps the claim) of the nation-state exclusively to determine the behavior of its citizenry. Finally, many of the same values (for example, diversity of legal regimes, tailoring of intellectual property to local needs, and protecting rights on an international basis) that the public international intellectual property system sought to further through its promulgation of the principle of territoriality can now best (and perhaps only) be achieved by reconfiguring the principle. This Article approaches the task of reconfiguration in two ways. First, it explores some of the different ways in which the principle of territoriality might conceptually inform a private international law of intellectual property. Contemporary multi-territorial intellectual property disputes are characterized by an excess of shared but weaker prescriptive and adjudicatory authority. The Article suggests a restrained concept of territoriality that reflects that reality, drawing in particular from the treatment of extra-territoriality in trademark law. The Article also approaches the question less conceptually and proposes liberalization of a specific principle of private international intellectual property law: limits on consolidated adjudication of infringement claims under domestic and foreign intellectual property laws.
Keywords: Territoriality, choice of law, exclusive jurisdiction
JEL Classification: K11, K33. K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation