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WTO Members Celebrate 30th Anniversary 


Recently, members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) marked the 30th anniversary of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The TRIPS agreement, which was reached in Marrakesh and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the WTO in 1995, has had a profound and enduring impact on global trade and intellectual property rights.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Evolution of the TRIPS Agreement
  2. Challenges Related to TRIPS
  3. Way Forward

Evolution of the TRIPS Agreement:

  • Venetian Patent Statute (1474): Europe’s first codified patent system granting temporary monopolies to inventors.
  • Industrial Revolution and International Standards (19th Century): Technological advancements necessitated harmonized patent laws.
  • Paris Convention (1883): Initiated protection of intellectual work across countries.
  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT): Addressed intellectual property in a limited manner.
  • Uruguay Round (1987-1994): Led to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO and the TRIPS Agreement, the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property.
Role of the TRIPS Agreement in International Collaboration:
  • Establishes minimum IP protection standards across member countries, fostering predictability in international trade and R&D collaboration.
  • Requires disclosure of IP laws and regulations, enhancing transparency in the global IP system.
  • Encourages technology transfer between developed and developing countries, with developed nations obligated to provide mechanisms for technology transfer under certain conditions.
  • Emphasizes balancing rights with obligations to promote social and economic welfare, aligning with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • During public health crises like the late 1990s, TRIPS flexibilities were instrumental in ensuring access to antiretroviral treatments, highlighting its importance in such emergencies.

Challenges Related to TRIPS:

  • Limiting Access: Strong IP rights under TRIPS may restrict access to essential medicines, educational materials, and agricultural technologies in developing countries.
  • Patenting of Genetic Resources: Concerns arise over patenting genetic resources and traditional knowledge from developing countries without fair compensation.
  • Inadequate Provisions: TRIPS’ disclosure provisions regarding the origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge are deemed insufficient.
  • Enforcement Challenges: Enforcing IP rights, especially in areas like copyright infringement and counterfeiting, poses difficulties for many developing nations due to limited resources and legal systems.
  • Emerging Issues: Discussions are needed on data ownership, privacy, e-commerce, and the patentability of data-driven inventions in the context of AI and big data.

Way Forward:

  • Standardization and Capacity Building: Developing common standards and best practices for IP enforcement, coupled with capacity-building initiatives for developing nations, can create a more equitable global IP landscape.
  • Open Collaboration Models: Exploring open-source collaboration and Creative Commons licenses can foster innovation while ensuring accessibility to knowledge.
  • Guidelines for Emerging Technologies: Establishing clear guidelines for IP ownership and rights concerning AI and other emerging technologies will be essential for promoting responsible innovation.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024