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 holders...