Abstract: International Commitments on Intellectual Property Protection: When Countries Decide to Take Them on Board

Bernardita de los Angeles Escobar


This essay analyzes the path taken by countries in committing themselves to protecting intellectual property (IP) internationally from the late nineteenth century until December 2008. The aim is to unveil economic rationales behind such decisions and the relative role played by Latin American countries. The analysis is based on an index of country-level decisions of membership to international treaties regarding IP protection. Sixty-eight treaties and 189 countries are studied throughout the 1884-2008 period. Data shows that Latin American countries played a significant role in such processes. Before the Great Depression, countries from the Americas, particularly Latin American ones, and Europe led the process. After a drought period around the Second World War, international commitments on IP gained momentum by the late 1950s, with countries of other regions of the world featuring increasing leadership. Nonetheless, data shows that Latin American countries have shown sustained long-term eagerness to protect IP. Yet, the statistical analysis indicates that countries have pursued international IP protection increasingly, the richer they are. Also, countries perform a path-dependent trajectory in international IP protection; the more engaged a country has been in IP protection internationally, the more likely it is for that country to continue undertaking such international commitments. This path dependence appears directly linked to countries' level of economic development.