International Intellectual Property System

Course summary

The international intellectual property law system ('the IIPS') began developing in the 19th century in response to the then advances in cross-border trade. As intellectual property laws are territorial, so some mechanism had to be found through which protection could be accorded to authors and inventors as their works were traded abroad. The response over the subsequent years was the establishment of a number of international bodies responsible for the development and oversight of a variety of treaties and agreements. These measures have had a significant impact on the shape and growth of domestic intellectual property laws. However, there are significant tensions within the systems, including those pertaining to the relationship between IP and trade (especially the TRIPs Agreement) and to the interests of developing nations and autochthonous communities, and the negotiation of new instruments (such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA) has proven to be difficult and controversial.

We will examine the IIPS, primarily from an institutional perspective, across a range of forms of intellectual property and at the margins of IP, within the domains of information, communication, and international trade. This will encompass the analysis of the architecture of the IIPS, the consideration of the ways in which the laws are developed and debated, and the study of formal and (selected) substantive aspects of selected treaties alongside current developments and emerging issues.

Please note: we will not be looking in depth at substantive aspects of IP law except where they are relevant in the context of the IIPS. It is assumed that you have a basic knowledge of IP law prior to taking this course.


  1. The IIPS: institutions and actors
  2. The IIPS: principles
  3. The Berne system
  4. IP and the World Trade Organization
  5. Human rights and the IIPS
  6. Culture, heritage and folklore
  7. Trade marks, domain names, and geographical indications
  8. Current issues in international patent law
  9. Enforcement and dispute resolution
  10. Emerging technologies and the IIPS

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge that covers and integrates all the main areas of international IP law, including the principles, actors and treaties and also develop a critical understanding of the interface between international IP law and other branches of international law;
  • apply the knowledge and understanding to current developments and tensions within international IP law and its interface with other branches of international law;
  • critically analyse and evaluate current issues and tensions in international IP law and its interface with other branches of international law;
  • exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in undertaking reading and research and make informed judgments on current issues and tensions in international IP law.


One essay of up to 4,000 words (80%) and short essay of up to 1,000 words (20%) 

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

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