UC Law SF International Law Review


The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the coming into force of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) creates a new dynamic in the field of the international regulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs). The TRIPS Agreement establishes minimum IPRs protection standards on both the substantive and enforcement levels, and provides a trade-based mechanism for the enforcement of these standards. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) continues to play a major international IPRs role, serving as a forum for the negotiation of new rules, acting to administer IPRs conventions, and providing technical assistance to both developed and developing countries. There is evident potential for conflict between the institutional roles and activities of the WTO and WIPO in the international IPRs field, yet there is also a clear complentarity between the roles and activities of these two organizations.

This Article explores the new multilateral IPRs framework. After identifying areas in which the potential for inter-institutional conflict exists, including the areas of rulemaking and dispute settlement, the author identifies the roles for which the WTO and WIPO are each institutionally best-suited. He suggests that the WTO maintain its primary focus of providing the framework for liberal multilateral trade, and that in the IPRs context this means establishing and enforcing primary rules intended to maintain a competitive balance in trade among WTO Members. WIPO should maintain its role in providing a forum for the negotiation of substantive rules, administering the IPRs treaty system, and providing technical assistance. With perhaps a modicum of new inter-institutional architecture, the roles and activities of the WTO and WIPO should prove largely complementary. and the activities of the two organizations may act as a catalyst for global economic development.