Health Waiver, IP Enforcement Discussed At Lively WTO TRIPS Council Meeting

IP Watch
After two days of lively discussion, members of a World Trade Organization committee this week agreed to devote a day in October to an in-depth discussion on a little-used waiver to WTO intellectual property rules aimed at boosting access to medicines for poor countries. In addition, some member countries presented concerns about the possible effect of a global enforcement push by developed countries and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) under negotiation outside WTO, while ACTA proponent countries sought to allay fears.

The WTO Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) met on 8-9 June. The TRIPS Council monitors the operation of the TRIPS agreement and specifically whether member countries are complying with their obligations associated with trade and intellectual property rights, according to the WTO website.

China and India requested the agenda item on enforcement issues for the Council session (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 3 June 2010).

In the meeting, they voiced concerns about efforts by developed countries to introduce provisions into trade agreements that reach beyond the TRIPS agreement, referred to as “TRIPS-plus” measures.

India said in its statement, obtained by Intellectual Property Watch, that risks associated with TRIPS-plus measures include the possible disturbance of the balance of rights and obligations enshrined in TRIPS, and the possible trade-distorting effects of those measures. India also cited concern that plurilateral IPR negotiations like ACTA are bypassing the existing multilateral processes…..


US Industry: TRIPS a “Floor not a Ceiling”

Meanwhile, US industry sought this week to bring their view to the debate in the council after hearing India and China would raise doubts. ACTA is an effort by concerned countries to prevent counterfeiting and piracy that is “killing jobs, stifling innovation, harming consumers, and retarding their economic recovery,” a US Chamber of Commerce blog post said.

TRIPS is “a floor when it comes to IP protections,” not a ceiling, the post said, arguing that the TRIPS text states that TRIPS “establishes minimum levels of protection that each government has to give to the intellectual property of fellow WTO members.”

Developing countries are wary of being “pushed into” TRIPS-plus measures but “free trade agreements … are voluntary arrangements where each side gives and takes to improve its own net welfare; no one is ‘forced’ into an agreement that is detrimental to their interest,” it said.

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