Interpreting the Overlap of International Investment and Intellectual Property Law

Journal of International Economic Law, 2016, 1–23

21 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2017

See all articles by Susy Frankel

Susy Frankel

Victoria University of Wellington

Date Written: April 14, 2016


Many investment agreements include intellectual property (IP) in the definition of ‘covered investment’ or ‘asset’. Until recently, what this means in practice has not been the centre of any significant dispute. Now some IP right holders are challenging domestic intellectual property law through investor-state arbitration. In such disputes, the interpretation of relevant international agreements is subject to the rules of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which require an analysis of the object and purpose of the treaty being interpreted. The object and purpose of international IP law are not only to provide rights holders with levels of protection at domestic law, but also to enable national regimes to calibrate IP law to meet certain domestic goals. Such goals relate predominantly to incentives to innovate or create, which are broader than simply protection, and include, for example, the need to encourage follow-on innovation. Also, related to IP law are other goals such as access to information and availability and affordability of pharmaceuticals. The objects and purposes of investment agreements are primarily about protecting investment from expropriation and ensuring fair treatment at domestic law. Thus, the protection of IP and the protection of investment as matters of international law overlap but are far from identical objectives. This article discusses how the objects and purposes of IP as an investment asset should be interpreted within the framework of investment disputes on the basis of Vienna Convention rules.

Keywords: Intellectual property, investment, interpretation, TRIPS Agreement, Vienna Convention

Suggested Citation

Frankel, Susy R., Interpreting the Overlap of International Investment and Intellectual Property Law (April 14, 2016). Journal of International Economic Law, 2016, 1–23, Available at SSRN:

Susy R. Frankel (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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