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Support For LDCs To Get IP Rules Extension

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

18 March 2013

In a recent meeting, World Trade Organization (WTO) members have generally accepted that the deadline for least developed countries (LDCs) to protect intellectual property (IP) could be extended beyond the current July 1, 2013 date.

The Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) - which comprises all WTO members - discussed a proposal from the LDCs for their transition period to continue until each of them develops enough economically to be lifted out of the UN-defined least developed category. The group argues that its members still lack the financial and technological capacity to protect IP.

No decision was reached, and TRIPS members will be consulted before their next meeting in June, before the transition period expires. Members were, for example, still undecided on whether to set a new deadline or leave it until each country “graduates” from LDC status.

The transition period does not exempt LDCs entirely from applying the TRIPS Agreement. It does, however, give them the freedom to choose whether or not to protect trademarks, patents, copyright, industrial designs, geographical indications or any other form of IP. If they do protect it - and it was confirmed that several do have some IP laws - then they have to apply provisions on non-discrimination.

The transition period originally lasted for 10 years until 2005. It was extended another seven and a half years until July 1, 2013. A Ministerial Conference in Geneva in December 2011 “invited” the TRIPS Council “to give full consideration” to a further extension. Haiti and Nepal have now formally proposed the extension on behalf of the LDCs.

Broadly, TRIPS members are willing to accept or consider an extension but there is a difference of opinion about the purpose of the transition.

LDCs see it as a flexibility that is necessary because they lack the resources and knowhow to protect IP, and need the time to build up a sound technological base in their countries; while developed countries generally see it as extra time for the LDCs to build up the ability to comply with the TRIPS Agreement.

TAGS: trademarks | patents | TRIPS | Intellectual Property | law | intellectual property | copyright | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | agreements | trade

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