USMCA Can Revamp IP for a New Generation


When world leaders gathered in Buenos Aires for the G20 Summit recently to discuss key issues that will impact global development, global trade was at the top of the agenda. During the summit, President Donald Trump, President Enrique Peña-Nieto, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the newly-agreed upon U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USCMA offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn the page on intellectual property (IP) laws and enforcement across North America.

This highly-anticipated trade agreement was negotiated to modernize critical components of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since 1994, the trilateral agreement has increased commerce between the United States, Mexico, and Canada by eliminating trade and investment barriers. The agreement has been a powerful economic driver that improved the standard of living and elevated businesses of all sizes across North America.

While NAFTA was revolutionary for its time, especially concerning IP, times have changed. The rapid rise of technology has fundamentally transformed society and the global economy. Modernized trade agreements must reflect this landscape in order to drive the growth of innovative and creative industries, support job creation, and stimulate economic competitiveness throughout the region.

Fortunately, North American leaders recognized the significance of revolutionizing our IP standards and agreed to the following revisions in the USMCA:

  • Creating a 10-year term of regulatory data protection for biologics, included a broader definition of biologics, and the availability of patent term restoration
  • Establishing ex officio border enforcement against all suspected counterfeit goods including goods in-transit
  • Strengthening civil and criminal penalties for theft of corporate trade secrets
  • Introducing a longer term of copyright protection and stronger digital rights management and technological protection measures


To illustrate the strength of the new IP chapter, GIPC benchmarked the USMCA against the IP standards included in our 2018 International IP Index. The research reveals that the IP-related provisions of the USMCA are a significant upgrade over NAFTA 1.0, TRIPS, and the original TPP agreement. The USMCA represents improved standards for 21st century IP protections in free trade agreements.

The new IP standard created by the USMCA has the potential to bolster IP among North America’s creators and innovators. Millions of jobs rely on patents, copyrights, and trademarks across the three economies. Through refined IP measures, we can create a modernized trilateral trade partnership that spans countless industries and supports millions of jobs across Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

As this trade agreement heads to Congress, members from both parties must reach across party lines to champion strong IP rights. IP is the bedrock of innovation and creativity in every state and every congressional district across the nation. It’s also critical for ensuring that our economy remains competitive. Countless industries rely on IP laws and their enforcement to provide gainful employment, increase market options, and protect consumers.

IP laws must reflect today’s economy, and the USMCA is critical to revitalizing trilateral trade in modern global industries.

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