The Alphabet Soup of Transborder Intellectual Property Enforcement

In the past few years, policymakers, academic commentators, consumer advocates, civil liberties groups, and user communities have expressed grave concerns about the steadily increasing levels of enforcement of intellectual property rights. Many of these concerns relate to the “alphabet soup” of transborder intellectual property enforcement, which consists of the following: SECURE (Standards to Be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement), IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce), ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement), COICA (Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act), PIPA (Protect IP Act), SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), and OPEN (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act).

Although I have discussed the various concerns raised by the highly controversial ACTA and the increasingly intrusive digital copyright enforcement agenda, I have yet to explore what a combination of these initiatives would mean for U.S. individuals, technology developers, and small and mid-sized firms. This Essay picks up that task by exploring whether—and if so, why—these entities should be concerned about this half-cooked alphabet soup.

Part II of this Essay identifies six different concerns and challenges ACTA poses to U.S. consumers, technology developers, and small and mid-sized firms. Part III explores the ongoing negotiation of TPP. Although the secretive and dynamic nature of the TPP negotiations has prevented this Essay from providing a detailed analysis of the emerging agreement, this Part explains why TPP is likely to be more dangerous than ACTA from a public interest standpoint. Part IV concludes by highlighting the challenges recently created by SOPA and PIPA—two pieces of legislation that are as problematic as, if not more problematic than, ACTA and TPP.


Featured here is the first part of a paper by Peter K. Yu, Kern Family Chair in Intellectual Property Law and Founding Director of the Intellectual Property Law Center at Drake University Law School. The paper was originally published in the Drake Law Review Discourse. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Professor Yu is a leading expert in international intellectual property and communications law. He also writes and lectures extensively on international trade, international and comparative law, and the transition of the legal systems in China and Hong Kong. The full article can be found here.