The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property

During the last century, before the existence of any international convention in the field of industrial property, it was difficult to obtain protection for industrial property rights in the various countries of the world because of the diversity of their laws. Moreover, patent applications had to be made roughly at the same time in all countries in order to avoid a publication in one country destroying the novelty of the invention in the other countries. These practical problems created a strong desire to overcome such difficulties.

During the second half of the last century the development of a more internationally oriented flow of technology and the increase of international trade made harmonization of industrial property laws urgent in both the patent and the trademark field.

When the Government of the Empire of Austria-Hungary invited the other countries to participate in an international exhibition of inventions held in 1873 at Vienna, participation was hampered by the fact that many foreign visitors were not willing to exhibit their inventions at that exhibition in view of the inadequate legal protection offered to exhibited inventions.

The Congress of Vienna for Patent Reform was convened during the same year, 1873. It elaborated a number of principles on which an effective and useful patent system should be based, and urged governments “to bring about an international understanding upon patent protection as soon as possible.” As a follow-up to the Vienna Congress, an International Congress on Industrial Property was convened at Paris in 1878. The Conference adopted a draft convention which contained in essence the substantive provisions that today are still the main features of the Paris Convention. The Conference was convened in Paris in 1883, which ended with final approval and signature of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The Paris Convention was signed by 11 States. It was only during the first quarter of the 20th century and then particularly after World War II that the Paris Convention increased its membership more significantly. The Paris Convention has been revised from time to time after its signature in 1883.


National Treatment

National treatment means that, as regards the protection of industrial property, each country party to the Paris Convention must grant the same protection to nationals of the other member countries as it grants to its own nationals. The relevant provisions are contained in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. This national treatment rule guarantees not only that foreigners will be protected, but also that they will not be discriminated against in any way. Without this, it would frequently be very difficult and sometimes even impossible to obtain adequate protection in foreign countries for inventions, trademarks and other subjects of industrial property.

The Right of Priority

The right of priority means that, on the basis of a regular application for an industrial property right filed by a given applicant in one of the member countries, the same applicant (or its or his successor in title) may, within a specified period of time (six or 12 months), apply for protection in all the other member countries. These later applications will then be regarded as if they had been filed on the same day as the earliest application. Hence, these later applications enjoy a priority status with respect to all applications relating to the same invention filed after the date of the first application. The right of priority offers great practical advantages to the applicant desiring protection in several countries. The applicant is not required to present all applications at home and in foreign countries at the same time, since he has six or 12 months at his disposal to decide in which countries to request protection.

Independence of Patents

It means that the grant of a patent for invention in one country for a given invention does not oblige any other member country to grant a patent for invention for the same invention. Furthermore, the principle means that a patent for invention cannot be refused, invalidated or otherwise terminated in any member country on the ground that a patent for invention for the same invention has been refused or invalidated, or that it is no longer maintained or has terminated, in any other country. In this respect, the fate of a particular patent for invention in any given country has no influence whatsoever on the fate of a patent for the same invention in any of the other countries

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Copyright protection on the international level began by about the middle of the nineteenth century on the basis of bilateral treaties. The need for a uniform system led to the formulation and adoption on September 9, 1886, of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Berne Convention is the oldest international treaty in the field of copyright. It is open to all States.

The aim of the Berne Convention, as indicated in its preamble, is “to protect, in as effective and uniform a manner as possible, the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works.” Article 1 lays down that the countries to which the Convention applies constitute a Union for the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works.

Basic Principles

The Convention rests on three basic principles.

Firstly, there is the principle of “national treatment”, according to which works originating in one of the member States are to be given the same protection in each of the member States as these grant to works of their own nationals.

Secondly, there is automatic protection, according to which such national treatment is not dependent on any formality; in other words protection is granted automatically and is not subject to the formality of registration, deposit or the like.

Thirdly, there is independence of protection, according to which enjoyment and exercise of the rights granted is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work.

One of the important provisions is the one that covers works or expressions of what is called “folklore.”Without mentioning the word, the Convention provides that any member country may give protection to unpublished works where the identity of the author is unknown, but where there is every ground to presume that the author is a national of that country, by designating, through the national legislation, the competent authority which should represent the author of unknown identity and protect and enforce his rights in the countries party to the Convention. By providing for the bringing of actions by authorities designated by the State,

the Berne Convention offers to countries whose folklore is a part of their heritage, a possibility of protecting it.

The minimum standards of protection provided for in the Berne Convention also relate to the duration of protection. Article 7 lays down a minimum term of protection, which is the life of the author plus 50 years after his death.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

 The Patent Cooperation Treaty is an agreement for international cooperation in the field of patents. It is often spoken of as being the most significant advance in international cooperation in this field since the adoption of the Paris Convention itself. It is however largely a treaty for rationalization and cooperation with regard to the filing, searching and examination of patent applications and the dissemination of the technical information contained therein. The PCT does not provide for the grant of “international patents”: the task of and responsibility for granting patents remains exclusively in the hands of the Patent Offices of, or acting for, the countries where protection is sought (the “designated Offices”). The PCT does not compete with but, in fact, complements the Paris Convention. Indeed, it is a special agreement under the Paris Convention open only to States which are already party to that Convention.

To achieve its objective, the PCT: –

1.establishes an international system which enables the filing, with a single Patent Office (the “receiving Office”), of a single application (the “international application”) in one language having effect in each of the countries party to the PCT which the applicant names (“designates”) in his application

  1. provides for the formal examination of the international application by a single Patent Office, the receiving Office

3.subjects each international application to an international search which results in a report citing the relevant prior art (mainly published patent documents relating to previous inventions) which may have to be taken into account in deciding whether the invention is patentable

  1. provides for centralized international publication of international applications with the related international search reports, as well as their communication to the designated Offices
  2. provides an option for an international preliminary examination of the international application, which gives the applicant and subsequently the Offices that have to decide whether or not to grant a patent, a report containing an opinion as to whether the claimed invention meets certain international criteria for patentability.

The Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Protocol Relating to that Agreement

The system of international registration of marks is governed by two treaties, the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, which dates from 1891, and the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement, which was adopted in 1989. The system is administered by the International Bureau of WIPO.

Filing an International Registration

An application for international registration (an “international application”) may be filed only by a natural person or a legal entity which has a real and effective industrial or commercial establishment in, or is domiciled in, or is a national of, a country which is party to the Madrid Agreement or the Madrid Protocol, or who has such an establishment in, or is domiciled in, the territory of an intergovernmental organization which is a party to the Protocol, or is a national of a member State of such an organization.

The Madrid system of international registration cannot be used by a person or legal entity which does not have the necessary connection, through establishment, domicile or nationality, with a member of the Madrid Union. Nor can it be used to protect a trademark outside the Madrid Union.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) and WIPO-WTO Cooperation

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO Members. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994. Members are left free to determine the appropriate method of implementing the provisions of the Agreement within their own legal system and practice.

The TRIPS agreement introduced intellectual property law into the international trading system for the first time and remains the most comprehensive international agreement on intellectual property to date.

The obligations under TRIPS apply equally to all member states, however developing countries were allowed extra time to implement the applicable changes to their national laws, in two tiers of transition according to their level of development. The transition period for developing countries expired in 2005. The transition period for least developed countries to implement TRIPS was extended to 2013, and until 1 January 2016 for pharmaceutical patents, with the possibility of further extension.

It has therefore been argued that the TRIPS standard of requiring all countries to create strict intellectual property systems will be detrimental to poorer countries’ development.


  1. National treatment
  2. Most favoured nation: With regard to the protection of intellectual property, any advantage, favour, privilege or immunity granted by a Member to the nationals of any other country shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the nationals of all other Members.

The three main features of the Agreement are:

Standards: In respect of each of the main areas of intellectual property covered by the TRIPS Agreement, the Agreement sets out the minimum standards of protection to be provided by each Member.

Enforcement: The second main set of provisions deals with domestic procedures and remedies for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Agreement lays down certain general principles applicable to all IPR enforcement procedures. In addition, it contains provisions on civil and administrative procedures and remedies, provisional measures, special requirements related to border measures and criminal procedures, which specify, in a certain amount of detail, the procedures and remedies that must be available so that right holders can effectively enforce their rights.

Dispute settlement: The Agreement makes disputes between WTO Members about the respect of the TRIPS obligations subject to the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures


In recent years, many developing countries have been coming under pressure to enact or implement even tougher or more restrictive conditions in their patent laws than are required by the TRIPS Agreement – these are known as ‘TRIPS plus’ provisions.  Countries are by no means obliged by international law to do this, but many, such as Brazil, China or Central American states have had no choice but to adopt these, as part of trade agreements with the United States or the European Union. These have a disastrous impact on access to medicines.

Common examples of TRIPS plus provisions include extending the term of a patent longer than the twenty-year minimum, or introducing provisions that limit the use of compulsory licences or that restrict generic competition.



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