Among the many changes to the international IP landscape wrought by the WTO's TRIPS Agreement was the unprecedented mandate to impose criminal liability for the most egregious acts of trademark and copyright infringement. Criminal sanctions add to civil and administrative remedies to create a climate of observation of IP rights throughout the WTO space. In anticipation of its joining the WTO -- and in response to pressure from the United States -- China amended its domestic criminal law to provide for the possibility of imprisonment or fines in certain instances of IP infringement as a complement to civil and administrative remedies. Nonetheless, there remains continuing concern held by IP holders about the effectiveness of China's IP enforcement. Much of the current 'TRIPS-plus' program (including the discarded ACTA and the emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP]) is intended to indirectly influence China with regard to IP enforcement.
In 2007, the U.S. brought a three-prong challenge to China's IP system within the WTO dispute settlement system. The central part of the dispute involved a U.S. assertion that China failed to give full effect to the TRIPS criminalization mandate. Article 61 of TRIPS obligates WTO members to provide "for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy on a commercial scale."