Chicago Journal of International Law

Start Page



This Comment provides a new system of classifying digital products as goods or services under international trade law. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), WTO member states have limited power to impose protectionist measures on the importation of goods. Under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), states face similar limitations on their ability to restrict international trade in services. But GATS only applies if states opt in, meaning that countries can choose which services are subject to trade liberalization. Within the GATT-GATS framework, digital products are notoriously difficult to classify because they possess traditional characteristics of both goods and services. Though this Comment applies to different types of digital products, it focuses on the international trade of 3D renderings used for additive manufacturing, as this is a type of digital product that has not received any attention in international trade literature. This Comment proposes a three-part taxonomy for distinguishing digital goods from digital services. To distinguish goods from services, I first look at formalistic definitions of good and services. Next, I look at practical concerns of consistency across international trade. Finally, I investigate the underlying goals of the WTO to identify which classification best suits digital products. I conclude that digital products should be treated as services and therefore be governed by the GATS.