Sociology Index

Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

Created to set down minimum standards for intellectual property (IP) regulation. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994, the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is administered internationally by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

TRIPS lays down the requirements that nations' laws must meet for: copyright rights, including the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations; geographical indications, including appellations of origin; industrial designs; integrated circuit layout-designs; patents; monopolies for the developers of new plant varieties; trademarks; trade dress; and undisclosed or confidential information.

TRIPS also administers and stipulates enforcement procedures, remedies, and dispute resolution procedures. The Doha Declaration clarifies the scope of TRIPS; stating for example that TRIPS can and should be interpreted in light of the goal "to promote access to medicines for all."

Unilateral economic encouragement under the Generalized System of Preferences and coercion under Section 301 of the Trade Act played an important role in defeating competing policy positions that were favoured by developing countries.

After the Uruguay round, the GATT became the basis for the establishment of the World Trade Organization. Because ratification of TRIPS is a compulsory requirement of World Trade Organization membership,

Countries seeking to obtain easy access to international markets opened by the World Trade Organization must enact the strict intellectual property laws mandated by TRIPS.

TRIPS has a powerful enforcement mechanism to discipline members through the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism.

The requirements under TRIPS

Copyright terms must extend to 50 years after the death of the author, although films and photographs are only required to have fixed 50 and to be at least 25 year terms, respectively.(Art.7(2),(4))

Copyright must be granted automatically, and not based upon any "formality", such as registrations or systems of renewal.

Computer programs must be regarded as "literary works" under copyright law and receive the same terms of protection.

National exceptions to copyright (such as "fair use" in the United States) are constrained by the Berne three-step test.
Patents must be granted in all "fields of technology," although exceptions for certain public interests are allowed (Art. 27.2 and 27.3 [1]) and must be enforceable for at least 20 years (Art 33).

Exceptions to patent law must be limited almost as strictly as those to copyright law.

States may not offer any benefits to local citizens which are not available to citizens of other TRIPs signatories by the principles of national treatment (with certain limited exceptions, Art. 3 and 5 [2]). TRIPS also has a most favoured nation clause.

A 2003 agreement allows developing countries to export to other countries where there is a national health problem as long as drugs exported are not part of a commercial or industrial policy. Drugs exported under such a regime may be packaged or colored differently to prevent them from prejudicing markets in the developed world.

The obligations under TRIPS apply equally to all member states, however developing countries were allowed extra time to implement the applicable changes to their national laws, in two tiers of transition according to their level of development. The transition period for developing countries expired in 2005. The transition period for least developed countries was extended to 2016.

A 2005 report by the WHO found that many developing countries have not incorporated TRIPS flexibilities (compulsory licensing, parallel importation, limits on data protection, use of broad research and other exceptions to patentability, etc) into their legislation to the extent authorized under Doha.