Is There a New Extraterritoriality in Intellectual Property?

How to Cite

Holbrook, T. R. (2021). Is There a New Extraterritoriality in Intellectual Property?. The Columbia Journal of Law & The Arts, 44(4).


This Article is the first to comprehensively interrogate the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent interventions in extraterritoriality as it relates to the three historical forms of federal intellectual property: patent, copyright, and trademark. In this manner, it fills an important gap in the literature because most assessments of the presumption focus only on one area of law. Moreover, this Article offers a novel comparative assessment of the evolution of the presumption across the patent, copyright, and trademark regimes, offering both a descriptive account of the state and evolution of the law, as well as a normative assessment of whether the current state of the law best effectuates the policies that justify these forms of protection.

In reviewing the application of the Supreme Court’s recent jurisprudence in these three areas of intellectual property, the Article concludes that the Supreme Court’s effort to standardize the law of extraterritoriality has failed. Lower courts’ engagement with the presumption has been, at best, inconsistent. There are times where the courts simply ignore the Court’s recent cases, relying on previous cases and doctrine without pausing to reconsider whether those doctrines survive the Supreme Court’s latest changes to the law. The Article also concludes that this inconsistency cannot be justified based on the differing policies surrounding copyright, trademarks, and patents.

This Article proceeds as follows. Part I discusses the state of the law of extraterritoriality in copyright, trademark, and patent, as it stood before the Supreme Court’s recent intervention. This review demonstrates that all three disciplines were treating extraterritoriality very differently, and none were paying much attention to the presumption against extraterritoriality. Part II reviews a tetralogy of recent Supreme Court cases, describing the Court’s attempt to formalize its approach to extraterritoriality across all fields of law. Part III analyzes the state of IP law in the aftermath of this tetralogy of extraterritoriality cases. It concludes that there has been some impact on patent law, but virtually none on copyright or trademark. The Article assesses whether there is a new extraterritoriality for intellectual property and concludes that there is not: The Supreme Court’s efforts, at least in IP, have not led to greater coherence. While there may be reasons for the lower courts’ failure to follow the framework, it does represent a missed opportunity for cross fertilization, at least among intellectual property regimes, if not across all fields of law. It also offers a call for the consideration of comity—looking to foreign law and potential conflicts—in deciding whether to apply U.S. law extraterritorially.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Timothy R. Holbrook