U.S. trade is increasingly dependent on high-technology and innovation-intensive goods. Companies like Microsoft, Merck, Tommy Hilfiger, or Disney represent very different parts of the U.S. industrial base. But they share a reliance on innovation and export and, therefore, an interest in ensuring adequate intellectual property protection for their products worldwide. Piracy is a scourge because it affects the symbols of U.S. economic strength and greatest hope for the future--modern information-intensive industries.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the United States formulated an aggressive external intellectual properties rights policy. Dozens of bilateral agreements were signed with countries to increase the standards of intellectual property protection abroad. The crown jewel of the U.S. policy was the ratification of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Intellectual property protection, once a purely domestic issue, became a matter of trade policy.
This paper examines the challenges facing the United States as it tries to revitalize its intellectual property rights policy. The new WTO trade rules and the lassitude--domestic and international--following the last, long trade round are impeding the formulation of an effective policy. Intellectual property disputes, however, continue to surface as new technologies create new challenges and as monitoring and enforcement problems recede further behind borders.