Mediating Interactions in an Expanding International Intellectual Property Regime

13 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2004

See all articles by Laurence R. Helfer

Laurence R. Helfer

Duke University School of Law; University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts


The last few years have been a particularly heady period for governments, private parties, and NGOs seeking to develop new rules to regulate intellectual property ("IP") protection standards. During that time, a slew of lawmaking initiatives, studies, and reports have been launched in a strikingly large number of international venues. Work on intellectual property rights is now underway in intergovernmental organizations such as the World Trade Organization ("WTO"), World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO"), and Food and Agriculture Organization ("FAO"); in negotiating fora such as the Convention on Biological Diversity ("CBD") and its Conference of the Parties and the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; and in United Nations expert and political bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In some of these venues, IP lawmaking has involved the negotiation of new international agreements. In others, IP norms are being generated through the reinterpretation of existing treaties or the creation of nonbinding guidelines, resolutions, and other forms of soft law.

This essay views these myriad developments through the lens of the international relations theory of regimes. It uses the insights of regime theory to make three basic points. First, it explains why IP lawmaking has broken out of the confined institutional spaces of established international IP fora, such as WIPO and the WTO, and has moved into a broad and growing array of other international venues in environmental law, human rights, and public health. Second, it shows how this recent expansion helps to enrich regime theory itself by illustrating how regimes evolve over time and how they interact with institutions and actors in other issue areas. And third, it describes a working typology of the different modes of interaction that are developing among the many international venues in which IP lawmaking is now occurring.

Keywords: International Law & Trade, Intellectual Property, Comparataive Law

Suggested Citation

Helfer, Laurence R., Mediating Interactions in an Expanding International Intellectual Property Regime. Available at SSRN:

Laurence R. Helfer (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

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University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law
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Copenhagen S, DK-2300


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