TRIPS: Fifteen Years Later

29 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 25 May 2014


Fifteen years ago trade negotiators signed off on the most comprehensive multilateral intellectual property agreement in history. It was both sweeping in scope and legally binding. Hailed as a major change to international market regulation at the time, in retrospect it looks like a relatively timid and permissive agreement. In the years since, advocates for ever-higher standards of property protection aggressively pushed their agendas through bilateral (Bilateral Trade Agreements, Bilateral Investment Agreements, and European Partnership Agreements), regional (Free Trade Agreements), and plurilateral negotiations (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership).

I begin by discussing forum-shifting and regime complexity. I then show how that “5%” that TRIPS advocates did not get in the Uruguay Round routinely has been inserted into regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements. I will discuss top-down vertical forum shifting in greater detail, as this has been intellectual property rationers’ preferred strategy in the face of multilateral stalemate. Instances of extreme vertical forum shifting - what I call “going granular” - will highlight the pervasiveness of this technique. Finally the paper will conclude by discussing some domestic innovations in India and China that have the potential to have a broader impact on the intellectual property policymaking arena.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, International Law, Public Health, Pharmaceutical Industry, International Organizations

JEL Classification: F02, F13, F15, I18, K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Sell, Susan K., TRIPS: Fifteen Years Later. Journal of Intellectual Property Law, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2011, APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Susan K. Sell (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States

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