By Chris Adams

What happens when a company in one country develops a new breakthrough technology – in pharmaceuticals, for example, or information technology – and another country appropriates it for their own uses?

That’s the basis of intellectual property rights, which are awarded to the creator of an innovative technology for a certain period.

But widespread piracy, counterfeiting and infringements of those intellectual property rights constitute a barrier to trade. If such infringements happen within a country, they are handled by that country’s judicial system.

But if the intellectual property crosses national boundaries, it’s up to international bodies to deal with it.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Bryan Mercurio (bio, Twitter), a law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, gave an overview of intellectual property rights and how they are enforced worldwide.

Some of the key cases on intellectual property rights involve pharmaceuticals, and Mercurio detailed those – including the way that India handles drug patents in a way that the inventor of those drugs says violates World Trade Organization rules.