International intellectual property rights have emerged as one of the most important foreign policy issues for many industrialized countries, particularly the United States. U.S. companies complain that they have suffered greatly from the lack of rigorous and uniform international standards for intellectual property rights. The U.S. government has undertaken efforts to strengthen worldwide protection of intellectual property rights through bilateral consultations with other countries and multilateral fora such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Most developing countries have committed themselves, pursuant to recent treaties, to raising their standards of intellectual property protection within a grace period. How quickly increased standards of protection will be adopted, and what form those standards will take, remains an open question.
Intellectual property rights are granted by national governments and are enforceable only in the country in which they are granted. Once granted, they can be traded or licensed like other forms of personal property. Intellectual property can best be defined as "information with a commercial value" ( Primo Braga 1995, 381). The most common forms of intellectual property rights are patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Patents protect the physical