This article provides a novel explanation for the global intellectual property (IP) paradox, ie the consistent growth of the multilateral IP system in spite of mounting evidence that its effects are at best neutral if not disadvantageous for low-income and most middle-income countries and thus the majority of contracting states. It demonstrates that the multilateral IP system is deliberately structured as a virtual network that exhibits network effects similar to a social media platform, for example. The more members an IP treaty has, the more IP protection acceding states can secure for their nationals. Conversely, every accession enlarges the territory in which nationals of previous members can enjoy protection. Due to these increasing returns to adoption, signing up to and remaining part of the global IP network is attractive, irrespective of the immediate effects of a treaty.
Peukert, Alexander, Network Effects of the International Intellectual Property System (June 11, 2021). Forthcoming, 24 Tulane Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property (2022).