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LDCs Request Extension To Implement IP Frameworks

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

28 November 2011

Among draft decisions on intellectual property rights set to be tabled at the World Trade Organisation's December ministerial, concessions have been proposed for least developed countries in their efforts to introduce WTO-compliant frameworks for the protection of intellectual property rights.

The draft decision would extend the deadline placed on least developed countries (LDC) to identify their needs for assistance to implement intellectual property frameworks in compliance with the WTO agreement. This assistance — to be provided by the WTO, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and other agencies — is to be fundamental in enhancing the nations' ability to protect intellectual property. LDCs have requested that ministers extend the timeframe given that only six nations have currently outlined their assistance needs (Sierra Leone, Uganda, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Tanzania and Senegal).

A number of members have said they support extending the deadline, some adding that this would assist least developed countries in eventually being able to protect intellectual property fully, which in turn will encourage economic activity.

The least developed countries’ original 2005 deadline for protecting intellectual property under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement was extended in that year until July 1, 2013. The deadline does not apply to pharmaceutical patents; the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health extended the period for least developed countries to comply with provisions on pharmaceuticals to 2016.

Least developed countries, like all WTO members, are bound by the TRIPS Agreement, which sets down minimum standards for national intellectual property regimes, however the agreement includes transition periods for countries to delay protecting intellectual property.

This means that as far as the WTO is concerned, least developed countries still do not have to protect trademarks, patents, copyright, geographical indications and other types of intellectual property. However, if they do — and several do provide at least some kind of protection — then they have to comply with the TRIPS Agreement’s non-discrimination clauses.

In a second draft decision also relating to intellectual property, ministers will vote to extend a moratorium in place which prevents WTO member states bringing 'non-violation' cases. So called non-violation cases can be brought where a nation feels that another government's action or specific situation has deprived it of an expected benefit, even if no agreement has been violated.

The WTO noted however that opinions differ among WTO members on whether non-violation cases are feasible in intellectual property. The TRIPS Agreement contains a temporary restraint on bringing non-violation complaints. This has been extended several times, more recently from one Ministerial Conference to the next.

The TRIPS Council has now proposed that ministers agree to a further extension until the ninth Ministerial Conference in 2013.

TAGS: compliance | trademarks | patents | TRIPS | law | intellectual property | copyright | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | Bangladesh | Rwanda | Senegal | Sierra Leone | Uganda | standards | trade | Tanzania

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