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Trips Agreement Importance

Robert Wade (2003) proposes that it is therefore a “significant narrowing of the development space”: a reduction in the political autonomy of States, which balances them with the development paths taken by others before them. In addition, the agreement is “vague on where vacancy benefits developed countries and in places where precision acts against developing countries” (Wade, 2003: 630). The obligations of developing countries and the rights of developed countries are both more applicable than the rights of developing countries and the duties of developed countries. For example, despite the clearly stated objective of Article 66(2) with respect to technology transfer, there is little evidence of sustained efforts by developed countries to meet these commitments (Moon, 2008). The potential social cost of TRIPS to poorer countries has become particularly evident with regard to access to medicines, particularly with regard to antiretroviral drugs (Lanoszka, 2003). Prior to TRIPS, many countries did not patent medicines or provided less than the robust 20-year protection, which was later introduced. However, contemporary TRIPS rules push costs to a prohibitive level by allowing monopolistic prices and excluding cheaper “generic” alternatives. In 2001, for example, a group of 39 pharmaceutical companies sued the South African government to prevent the use of compulsory licenses for generic drugs, although intense public pressure eventually forced it to drop the case (Sell & Prakash, 2004). However, the incident showed how multinationals are trying to use TRIPS to make private profits at a clear cost to the common good[iii]. While some flexibilities in the interpretation of the agreement have been established in light of public health concerns, they often remain unused, as noted above, due to costs, complexity and the risk of trade compensation (O`Farrell, 2008). Since the entry into force of TRIPS, it has been the subject of criticism from developing countries, scientists and non-governmental organizations.

While some of this criticism is directed at the WTO in general, many proponents of trade liberalization also see TRIPS as bad policy. The wealth concentration effects of TRIPS (the movement of money from people in developing countries to copyright and patent holders in developed countries) and the imposition of artificial shortages on citizens of countries that would otherwise have weaker intellectual property laws are common bases for such criticism. Other criticisms focused on TRIPS` failure to accelerate the flow of investment and technology to low-income countries, an advantage advanced by WTO members before the agreement was created. World Bank statements indicate that TRIPS has not been able to tangibly accelerate investment in low-income countries, although this has been done for middle-income countries. [33] The long periods of validity of patents under TRIPS have been examined to indicate that they excessively slow down market entry for generic drug substitutes and competition in the market. In particular, the illegality of preclinical studies or the filing of samples for approval until a patent expires has been held responsible for the growth of a few multinationals and not producers in developing countries. [iv] Botov (2004) describes how industrialized countries have had more than a century – from the 1883 Paris Convention to the 1995 WTO Agreement – to fully develop their IPR regimes and proposes that the same flexibility be extended to current developing countries. While the WTO agreements entered into force on 1 January 1995, the TRIPS Agreement granted certain transitional periods to WTO members before being required to apply all its provisions. Members of industrialized countries have been given one year to ensure that their laws and practices are in line with the TRIPS Agreement. Developing countries and countries with economies in transition (under certain conditions) were granted a period of five years, until the year 2000. Initially, least developed countries had 11 years before 2006, and are now generally extended until 1 July 2021.

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