Thursday, September 16, 2010

WIPO and the ACTA Threat

My paper, WIPO and the ACTA Threat, has been published in the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the Washington College of Law. Please send any comments to

The new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been seen as a potentially existential threat to the existing World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – as a new plurilateral institution that could replace the older multilateral organization. The ACTA threat to WIPO has a number of predecessors. WIPO’s centrality to international intellectual property norm-setting encountered its first major challenge in 1952 when the Universal Copyright Convention was established under UNESCO. It encountered a second major challenge with the establishment of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (the TRIPs Agreement). The ACTA challenge thus potentially represents a third instance where a major competing norm-setting institution has challenged WIPO. In this paper I review past instances where WIPO has been challenged by an outside norm-setting institution and the responses taken to those challenges. Second, I outline the main proposals for an ACTA institution. Third, drawing on the past instances, I outline the various possible forms that an ACTA-WIPO relationship could take, and various strategies that WIPO could use to maintain its role in the international intellectual property system. Finally, I outline a number of public policy concerns that the institutional proposals for ACTA pose.

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