State-Sponsored IP Theft: The Huge Hole in the WTO — and How to Fix It

How is it that the world’s trading nations, including Russia and China, are obligated by treaty to protect other nationals’ intellectual property within their own borders, but are free to steal it when operating abroad?  Near-universal digitization of information and pervasive connectivity have turned state-sponsored IP theft into a plague.   The World Trade Organization was created in 1994 — just before the digital revolution shook up commercial and personal life. It was meant to bring IP into the world of “honest commercial practices in international trade,” but the treaty came too early to deal with cross-border, network-enabled IP theft.  This is a huge hole in the way the WTO works, and it’s time to fix it.  This will be hard and will require a sustained diplomatic effort.  This month, in an an article called “The New Industrial Espionage” in The American Interest, I lay out a case for how it could be done.