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What Does Intellectual Property Have to Do With Free Trade?

Posted July 02, 2014

The term “intellectual property” (IP) generally refers to three areas of law collectively: patent, copyright, and trademark. These are all known in legal parlance as “intangible interests” that are defined and protected by statutory or common law. Since IP law was introduced into the international trading system for the first time 20 years ago with the World Trade Organization (WTO) administered Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), it is now a significant feature of most free trade agreements.

With the latest rounds of negotiations concerning both the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) taking place this month — free trade agreements that could rewrite global rules on IP enforcement and potentially affect the digital rights of citizens around the world — the non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) raises a fundamental question: Should intellectual property be included in trade agreements?

The EFF states it “does not believe that IP and trade agreements are a good match” and along with a number of other public interest groups contends that the “undemocractic” and secretive process by which trade agreements are negotiated is an unacceptable means for devising binding rules that change what it regards as national non-trade laws.

Click here to view a playlist of other videos from the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) event that was held in Washington on June 24.