There has been a lot of discussion about the Trans Pacific Partnership, previously due to its content being privately written and decided on. (See previous blog written about those issues.) However, now that the content of this agreement has been made available to the public there are now more specific arguments and discussions being held on its chapters and the legal areas it covers.
Chapter 18 is the section that pertains to Intellectual Property. The chapter summary at the beginning of this section states that this part of the agreement was intended to “help Americans take full advantage of our country’s innovative strengths and help to promote trade and innovation, as well as to advance scientific, technological and creative exchange throughout the region.” However, the actual provisions focus more on protecting the IP rights holders and preventing infringement at all costs, rather than focusing on promoting innovation and exchanging ideas.
Intellectual property laws are intended to balance the incentive for authors and inventors to create new and original works with the ability for others to access these works and comment, critique and build off of them. With stricter punishments and different procedures than normal U.S. intellectual property laws, especially for copyrighted works and patented inventions, this would suggest that innovation would be stifled. If creators are confused about the new regulations under this document they may be more hesitant to invent and create works in order to avoid accidentally violating the new regulations.
However, these regulations could have been worse. Originally the U.S. pushed for some very severe punishments for infringement. Even though most of those have been excluded, the current provisions are still not perfect. Many are concerned that conforming U.S. intellectual property laws to this agreement’s standards will restrict its ability to adapt to future needs and bind Congress’ hands in making IP legislation, especially in the midst of a booming and rapidly changing technology era. If the IP needs of the U.S. end up requiring a deviation from the protocols and regulations laid out in the TPP, it will be interesting to see if the agreement is upheld at the expense of the sustaining these needs or if the provisions will need to be revisited or even abandoned.