WTO-China IPR case: A mixed result
The US has complained to the World Trade Organisation that China’s IP rights protection and enforcement legislation violates international agreements. A WTO panel has presented its report and both sides are claiming victory. By Jan Bohanes and Adrian Emch, Sidley Austin, Geneva and Beijing.
Issue: March 2009
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Companies operating in China often
complain of widespread violations of intellectual property
rights (IPR).1 Over the past few years, the United
States government has put diplomatic pressure on China to
remedy this situation, mainly by engaging in bilateral contact
with Chinese authorities and officials. In April 2007, the US
changed its approach and took its complaints to a multilateral
forum - the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The WTO is an international
organisation built on a framework of agreements that cover a
vast range of international commercial activities, including
trade in goods and services. WTO law also establishes minimum
standards for the protection of IPR. The Agreement on
Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs
Agreement) obliges WTO members to create laws and regulations
protecting defined categories of IPR - for instance, patents,
trademarks, copyright, integrated circuits and trade secrets -
and to establish legal mechanisms through which IP rights
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