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International agreements

Trade agreements and other international treaties sometimes contain clauses about patents.

Overview of the main organisations

  • GATT - from 1947 to 1994

Useful to know exactly what's in them

Don't let others misrepresent them

These agreements are usually very vague. Vague clauses can easily be abused, allowing someone to falsely claim that the agreement requires something. For example, some people have claimed or implied that the TRIPS agreement requires software ideas to be patentable. This is not true at all. The treaty actually only has the vague requirement that innovations be patentable for all "fields of technology". Software is never mentioned there; and when software is mentioned, the treaty considers it a work of authorship (not a technology), like a book i.e. copyright not patents. (This is discussed in more detail on the TRIPS page - the point here is that it's always worth reading the exact text.)

Avoid requiring violation of the treaty

Some treaties should be ignored or abolished, but if you want to achieve the goal of ending software patents, you should look for the easiest way. Using the TRIPS example again, we can block software patents without having to also abolish or change TRIPS. Maybe TRIPS should be abolished, but that's a lot of work, and it's unnecessary for the goal of ending software patents.

You could of course still make tangental mentions of TRIPS being a catastrophe. Just don't make that big project a precondition for the much smaller project of ending software patents.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

Wikipedia has good articles about many of these bodies: