Policy Analysis

The Exhaustion of Intellectual Property Rights: Should countries favour consumers or private interests?

By Mark Halle on June 29, 2007
Mark Halle, IISD's Director of Trade and Investment, examines the exhaustion of intellectual property rights and how related policy must balance the needs of consumers and private interests. Rights are "exhausted" once a patent-holder sells his/her invention. Same holds true for copyright and trademarks, notes Halle. Once you pay for your iPod, you have the right to display and refer to its Apple trademark publicly. And when you buy the latest John Grisham bestseller, your right over that book includes displaying it publicly, lending it to your friends and making photocopies of your favourite pages because the author's rights were exhausted with the purchase. Decisions about exhaustion are typically based on geography. To simplify, national exhaustion tends to favour the producer, while international exhaustion tends to favour the consumer.