The TRIPS Agreement:
The TRIPS Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 1995, is to date the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property.
The areas of intellectual property that it covers are: copyright and related rights (i.e. the rights of performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations); trademarks including service marks geographical indications including appellations of origin; industrial designs , patents including the protection of new varieties of plants; the layout-designs of integrated circuits; and undisclosed information including trade secrets and test data
Features of the Agreement:
Standards. In respect of each of the main areas of intellectual property covered by the TRIPS Agreement, the Agreement sets out the minimum standards of protection to be provided by each Member. Each of the main elements of protection is defined, namely the subject-matter to be protected, the rights to be conferred and permissible exceptions to those rights, and the minimum duration of protection. The Agreement sets these standards by requiring, first, that the substantive obligations of the main conventions of the WIPO, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Convention) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) in their most recent versions, must be complied with. With the exception of the provisions of the Berne Convention on moral rights, all the main substantive provisions of these conventions are incorporated by reference and thus become obligations under the TRIPS Agreement between TRIPS Member countries. The relevant provisions are to be found in Articles 2.1 and 9.1 of the TRIPS Agreement, which relate, respectively, to the Paris Convention and to the Berne Convention. Secondly, the TRIPS Agreement adds a substantial number of additional obligations on matters where the pre-existing conventions are silent or were seen as being inadequate. The TRIPS Agreement is thus sometimes referred to as a Berne and Paris-plus agreement.
Enforcement. The second main set of provisions deals with domestic procedures and remedies for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Agreement lays down certain general principles applicable to all IPR enforcement procedures. In addition, it contains provisions on civil and administrative procedures and remedies, provisional measures, special requirements related to border measures and criminal procedures, which specify, in a certain amount of detail, the procedures and remedies that must be available so that right holders can effectively enforce their rights.
Dispute settlement. The Agreement makes disputes between WTO Members about the respect of the TRIPS obligations subject to the WTO's dispute settlement procedures.
The Agreement provides for certain basic principles, such as national and most-favoured-nation treatment, and some general rules to ensure that procedural difficulties in acquiring or maintaining IPRs do not nullify the substantive benefits that should flow from the Agreement. The obligations under the Agreement will apply equally to all Member countries, but developing countries will have a longer period to phase them in. Special transition arrangements operate in the situation where a developing country does not presently provide product patent protection in the area of pharmaceuticals.
The TRIPS Agreement is a minimum standards agreement, which allows Members to provide more extensive protection of intellectual property if they so wish. Members are left free to determine the appropriate method of implementing the provisions of the Agreement within their own legal system and practice.
Certain general provisions :-
As in the main pre-existing intellectual property conventions, the basic obligation on each Member country is to accord the treatment in regard to the protection of intellectual property provided for under the Agreement to the persons of other Members. Article 1.3 defines who these persons are. These persons are referred to as “nationals” but include persons, natural or legal, who have a close attachment to other Members without necessarily being nationals. The criteria for determining which persons must thus benefit from the treatment provided for under the Agreement are those laid down for this purpose in the main pre-existing intellectual property conventions of WIPO, applied of course with respect to all WTO Members whether or not they are party to those conventions. These conventions are the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (Rome Convention), and the Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits (IPIC Treaty).
Articles 3, 4 and 5 include the fundamental rules on national and most-favoured-nation treatment of foreign nationals, which are common to all categories of intellectual property covered by the Agreement. These obligations cover not only the substantive standards of protection but also matters affecting the availability, acquisition, scope, maintenance and enforcement of intellectual property rights as well as those matters affecting the use of intellectual property rights specifically addressed in the Agreement. While the national treatment clause forbids discrimination between a Member's own nationals and the nationals of other Members, the most-favoured-nation treatment clause forbids discrimination between the nationals of other Members. In respect of the national treatment obligation, the exceptions allowed under the pre-existing intellectual property conventions of WIPO are also allowed under TRIPS. Where these exceptions allow material reciprocity, a consequential exception to MFN treatment is also permitted (e.g. comparison of terms for copyright protection in excess of the minimum term required by the TRIPS Agreement as provided under Article 7(8) of the Berne Convention as incorporated into the TRIPS Agreement). Certain other limited exceptions to the MFN obligation are also provided for.
The general goals of the TRIPS Agreement are contained in the Preamble of the Agreement, which reproduces the basic Uruguay Round negotiating objectives established in the TRIPS area by the 1986 Punta del Este Declaration and the 1988/89 Mid-Term Review. These objectives include the reduction of distortions and impediments to international trade, promotion of effective and adequate protection of intellectual property rights, and ensuring that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade. These objectives should be read in conjunction with Article 7, entitled “Objectives”, according to which the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations. Article 8, entitled “Principles”, recognizes the rights of Members to adopt measures for public health and other public interest reasons and to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights, provided that such measures are consistent with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement.