Despite securing bold new intellectual property commitments through multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements, the U.S. and its partners have been unsuccessful in getting other countries to implement and enforce intellectual property rules. In large part, the U.S. and its allies have failed because they systematically tried to impose one-size-fits-all rules and enforcement systems on developing countries and net intellectual property importers. Developing countries have resisted because of their own domestic constituencies, rules that are often ill suited to their needs, and resentment of being the target of external pressures. However, the U.S. and its allies, rather than modifying their approach to make it more realistic and less confrontational repeatedly have doubled down on their approach. Given the difficulty both of monitoring domestic implementation and of imposing enforcement from without, this approach is inevitably self-defeating and leads to an acrimonious cat and mouse game between those who seek more protection and enforcement, and those who seek increased flexibility in implementation and access to intellectual property.
Susan K. Sell is Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. She has published a number of books and articles on the politics of intellectual property and global governance, including Private Power, Public Law: the Globalization of Intellectual Property Rights, and has co-edited Who Governs the Globe? She was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. in 2012-2013 and is currently writing a book on forum shopping and intellectual property enforcement.