The foremost international intellectual property rights systems that currently exist include the following:
- The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT). This Treaty is an important one for the digital age. Administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Treaty addresses the protection of Copyright as it relates to technological inventions, most especially the internet. Under this treaty, storing a work in digital form using an electronic medium would constitute a reproduction of that work.
- The Berne Convention. Ratified in 1886, this is the oldest International Law that governs Copyright. The latest version of it was adopted in Paris in 1971. Under the Berne Convention, it was established that no formal registration is required for Copyright protection. Countries that have signed up to the Treaty are required to recognize the Copyright of foreigners without having them go through any formal requirements. This is known as the Principle of National Treatment.
- TRIPS Agreement. Known as the Agreement on Trade Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the TRIPS Agreement re-establishes the Berne Convention and it is administered by the World Trade Organization. The TRIPS Agreement also extends Copyright to cover new areas which the Berne Convention does not provide protection for, including computer programs and electronic databases.
- The Paris Convention. This Convention provides protection for marks that are well-known and prevents those who want to unfairly exploit the well-known mark for commercial gain from doing so. The TRIPS Agreement also provides similar protection for trademarks.
- The Madrid System. There are two international laws within the Madrid System: The Madrid Agreement focuses on the International Registration of Marks (1891) and the Madrid Protocol. The Madrid System allows applicants to file one application and pay only one set of fees to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) International Bureau which then passes the application to the number of nations specified by the applicant. Applicants must have a valid Trademark registered in their home country in order to get an International Registration under the Madrid System however. The system is also only available to citizens who belong to a member state of the system. There are currently 90 members in the Madrid system but Nigeria isn’t one of them.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The Treaty provides a simplified process whereby an applicant can file a Patent application to the International Bureau of WIPO and obtain protection in different nations after the application has undergone several procedures.
The Hague System. This System grants an Industrial Design Right in several nations through a simplified process. The applicant files one application and pays one set of fees to the WIPO Bureau. The Hague System is like the Madrid System in many ways but one key difference is that it does not require applicants to file an application in their home country first.
It is hoped that more countries will sign up to International Intellectual Property Rights Systems. This will result in the expansion of the protection applicants can have in countries outside their home country.