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WTO TRIPs - Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights

The importance of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in international trade is increasing day by day. The agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) establishes standards for the protection of intellectual property rights including patents, industrial designs, trademarks and copyrights. The Trips agreement is an important aspect of the WTO.

TRIPs trade related intellectual property rights

Image Credits © World Trade Organization

square What is TRIPs Agreement?

The TRIPs is a WTO agreement. It is an international agreement signed by member countries to protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPRs) such as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights, etc.

square Objective of TRIPs Agreement ↓

The main objective of WTO TRIPs agreement is to promote effective and adequate protection of the Intellectual Property Rights on a global scale.

square Features of TRIPs Agreement ↓

The main features of the WTO TRIPs agreement are :-

  1. To ensure that government of each member country provides some minimum standards of protection to the IPRs of its fellow members.
  2. To ensure that government of every member country takes important steps at domestic level for the enforcement of IPRs.
  3. To settle disputes between WTO members.
  4. All developing countries has a transition period of five years to give effect to the provision of TRIPs agreement.
  5. The protection available for patents is for a time period of 20 years while that for copyrights it is 50 years.
  6. In Dec 1999, a bill providing protection to service mark was introduced.
  7. The Department of Industrial Development prepared a bill in respect of Industrial Designs.

square Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and TRIPs ↓

Most of the value of high technology products, new medicines and other high-end goods lies in the total amount of innovation, invention, research, design, investment, testing and development time involved. The original inventors or creators deserve rights to prevent other people from stealing and imitating their inventions and technologies. Developed countries are mostly the owners of intellectual property while underdeveloped and developing countries are users of intellectual property. Before WTO TRIPs agreement came into force, the extent to safeguard and enforce intellectual property rights varied significantly around the world. Due to lack of an international agreement on IPRs it was very difficult to trade innovative products and equally protect the interest of their creators. The WTO TRIPs agreement came as an answer and an attempt to solve problems related to protection of IPRs. TRIPs agreement was meant to narrow the gaps in the way these rights are protected around the world and to bring them under common international rules and regulations. TRIPs ensure and make it mandatory that each government has to give minimum levels of protection to the intellectual property of its fellow WTO members. Thus the main objective of WTO TRIPs agreement is to promote effective and adequate protection of IPRs.

square Negative Impacts of TRIPs Agreement ↓

The TRIPs agreement of WTO favours developed countries over the underdeveloped and developing countries. The TRIPs agreement favours the developed nations as they hold a large number of patents and copyrights. As members of WTO, the developing nations have to comply with the TRIPS agreement, and make necessary changes by the year 2004. In this connection, India has made amendments in its Patent Act of 1970 in 1999.

The agreement on TRIPS extends to agriculture through the patenting of plant varieties. This may have serious implications for developing countries agriculture, including India. Patenting of plant varieties may transfer all gains in the hands of MNCs, which will be in a position to develop almost all new varieties with the help of their huge financial resources and expertise.

The agreement on TRIPS also extends to the level of microorganisms as well. Research in microorganisms is closely linked with the development of agriculture, pharmaceuticals and industrial biotechnology. Patenting of microorganisms will again benefit large MNCs as they already have patents in several areas and will acquire more at a much faster rate.

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