North Korea is a poor, communist and very isolated country, that is not very active on the international stage (except when it comes to nuclear weapons). It therefore is also not party to a large number of multilateral conventions.

North Korea is however party to a significant number of treaties of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property organization) (see here. This includes the Patent Law Treaty (since last month), the Lisbon System ("appellations of origin"), the Hague system (designs) and the Madrid System (Trademarks). Especially the Lisbon system has not many members, which makes the move of North Korea all the more surprising...

My question is: why does North Korea choose to give priority to adhering to these conventions?

  • Do nuclear weapons get covered by intellectual property? Jun 8, 2018 at 8:14
  • 1
    Just a wild guess : they might be concerned about how the name "Korea" is defined when applied to appelations of origin, since the peninsula is divided between two antagonist countries who share that name.
    – Evargalo
    Jun 8, 2018 at 9:24
  • 6
    Just to be clear, "be a member" does not always mean "adhere".
    – user4012
    Jun 8, 2018 at 10:47
  • @user4012. yes, that was not the right word choice. NKorea is a party to those conventions, and by virtue of that a member of the related Wipo-Unions. Jun 8, 2018 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


North Korea may be looking to replicate the success of South Korea. The south changed from a poor agricultural economy to one of the wealthiest countries in the world based on a ‘creative economy’ in less than 50 years. This may not seem possible to us given the countries relations with the rest of the world. However, this doesn't mean that people within North Korea may not have a very different view of what is possible in the future.

North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University made this statement when it setup a intellectual property organization, “The first aim is to promote creative activities of creators and developers by commercializing various forms of creative works and boosting the distribution and utilization [of the products]” [NK News]


I'm guessing there might be more than one reason. One might be being egged to sign them to get aid, e.g. by the EU, which cares about "appellations of origin".

A more insidious one might have been dancing around sanctions. I could only find Fox News articles on this, so take it with a grain of salt:

In 2012, Fox News reported that WIPO had shipped U.S.-made computers and sophisticated computer servers to North Korea, and also to Iran, without informing sanctions committee officials.

The shipments were ostensibly part of a routine technology upgrade. Neither country could obtain the equipment on the open market, and much of it would have required special export licenses if shipped from the U.S.

The report kicked off an uproar, but after a lengthy investigation, the U.N. sanctions committee decided that the world organization’s porous restrictions had not been violated, while also noting WIPO’s defense that as an international organization, it was not subject to the rules aimed at its own member states.

  • Fox News should never be used as a reference.
    – Ben Mz
    Aug 25, 2018 at 17:10

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