Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Article examines the interaction between trade and intellectual property rights policies through certain key developments in United States law, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). While this brief review is not intended to provide a definitive analysis, it will offer worthwhile insights into the prospects for, and implications of, such a merger. For this purpose, this Article considers the efforts in GATT to negotiate a code on intellectual property rights and the parallel efforts in WIPO to negotiate a treaty for the protection of semiconductor designs. While the GATT talks moved through their midterm review in April 1989, WIPO was scheduled to hold a diplomatic conference to conclude a semiconductor treaty in May. This Article focuses on the extent to which trade policy concepts have come to invade the intellectual property rights arena and, similarly, the penetration of intellectual property rights into the fabric of international trade law and policy. In the process, the Article discusses some of the central dilemmas facing United States policy: can the GATT accommodate the notion that implicit in the balance of GATT concessions is the requirement that GATT members respect minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property? Is reciprocity a workable principle for the enforcement of intellectual property rights? Finally, can WIPO be receptive to an enhanced system of enforcement and dispute settlement as a means of instilling greater discipline and rigor into its system of rules?

In an effort to gain further insight into some of these issues, this Article also examines the operation of the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 (SCPA), a sui generis United States law whose reciprocity provisions have spurred a number of countries to enact similar laws to protect chip designs.