Least-Developed Nations Propose Extension Of Deadline To Join TRIPSPublished on 16 November 2011 @ 1:30 am
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
Least-developed countries at the World Trade Organization have proposed an extension of the deadline they are facing to comply with a WTO agreement on intellectual property rights. But they left open how much more time they would like after the 2013 deadline.
[Update: WTO members in committee on 17 November agreed to ask ministers in December to invite consideration of the extension.]
Least-developed countries (LDCs) originally were required to comply with the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by 2005. But that year were given an extension to 2013 (2016 for pharmaceutical products as extended by the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health). In the interim, countries were supposed to submit lists of their priority needs for technical and financial cooperation in TRIPS implementation, but only six have managed to make the submissions so far, according to sources.
The proposal, entitled “Elements Paper on the Extension of the Transition Period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement, was a “communication” from Bangladesh on behalf of the LDC Group. It is dated 11 November and available here.
The proposal “instruct[s] the TRIPs Council to take a favourable decision in this regard and report thereon to the WTO ninth Ministerial Conference to be held in December 2013.” The current deadline is 1 July 2013.
Sources said the upcoming December 2011 ministerial would be called on to give the proposal a political statement asking the TRIPS Council to “take a favourable decision” on the extension proposal, and report to the next ministerial, which is said to be expected to take place after the 2013 deadline passes.
The proposal was presented at an informal consultation of the TRIPS Council on 15 November, according to sources. A formal TRIPs Council meeting may be held on 17 November if further consultations show consensus.
Some countries not required to join the TRIPS agreement have been upgrading their IP laws through other means such as through trade negotiations, consultations, technical assistance and guidance from experts, developed countries, regional and international organisations. LDCs hold a very small percentage of the world’s IP rights, and many IP rights holders do not bother to register in these countries because the markets are so small.
But the LDCs still see a benefit in extending further. The proposal states: “Least Developed Country Members continue to face serious economic, financial and administrative constraints in their efforts to bring their domestic legal system into conformity with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, and as such the continued relevance of the previous request made for an extension of the transition period under Article 66.1.”
The LDC proposal received significant South and North support, sources said, but the largest IP-holding nations asked for more time to consider the proposal, including looking at its relationship to other possible topics under negotiation at the WTO.
William New may be reached at email@example.com.