Multilateral and bilateral trade agreements have helped standardize intellectual property laws globally. Patents are available for any invention, provided they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application, in accordance with the requirements prescribed in Patent Law Treaty. Via international patent law treaties, the worldwide patent movement has already installed an unflexible system, where patents of 20 years runtime have to be granted for "any invention in any field of technology".
Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) removes most of the remaining national flexibility in patent systems and pave the way for a future world patent granted directly by WIPO, an appealing prospect for transnational corporations and large powers like the US and the EU, for whom patents are the primary means to control a globalised economy.
A world patent system is bad news for developing
countries and their citizens, who would lose even the limited freedom left by the WTO's
TRIPS Agreement to adjust patent systems to national development goals.
The Paris Convention of 1883 ensures that foreign inventors from signatory countries are treated as nationals. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of 1970 provides a common patent application clearinghouse for inventors wishing to file for patents in multiple countries.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) of the WTO, adopted in 1994 and entered into force in 1995, stipulates minimum IP standards for members of the WTO.
The Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) Convention, adopted in 1961 and revised in 1972, 1978, and 1991, has established international standards for plant variety protection (PVP).