In this paper, we expand the analysis of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in free trade agreements (FTAs) undertaken by Puutio (2013). Our research is based on the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Agreements Database (APTIAD) upon which we have built a parallel database that documents trends in the inclusion of IPRs in FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region.
We note that:
i. Technological progress, digitalization and globalization generate constant impetus towards international harmonization and increasingly complex IPRs legislation;
ii. FTAs are flexible venue for international IPRs norm-setting, which poses significant challenges as well as opportunities; and
iii. Forum shifting is best viewed as a rational response to private progress and public stagnation.
We find that:
i. Countries within the region have been involved in a growing number of bilateral and regional preferential trade agreements;
ii. FTAs cover an increasing amount of subject matter over time, in line with technological progress and absorptive capacities; and
iii. The stringency of IPRs in FTAs has grown; however, there is no clear evidence of spiraling or ratcheting up across all development groupings.
In part I we discuss the foundations of assessing IPRs clauses in FTAs. In Part II we present the current state of affairs in Asia and the Pacific.