Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are increasingly recognized as the key economic resource of the future. This has led to considerable discussion of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement which was brokered during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. In this article we present an analysis of a number of key 'moments' in the history of IPRs which eventually led to this particular agreement. We utilize a 'triangulation' between technological history, legal institutional developments and the changes in the understanding of what it means to own ideas to explore the long history of IPRs. Our explicit aim is to establish that the settlement codified in the TRIPs agreement is not the final 'improvement' to legislation governing IPRs or the cumulation of a history of legal rationalization. Rather, the TRIPs agreement is based on a particular constellation of political power and as such remains contested and open to amendment through political engagement.