The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
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
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
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
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,
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 ) 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 ). 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.