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Salient features of TRIPS Agreement

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, enacted on January 1, 1995, is a cornerstone of an IP-based international legal framework, serving as a comprehensive multilateral treaty among all World Trade Organization (WTO) member nations. (WTO members consist of 164 distinct nations. That is in addition to 24 observer governments)

Background of the TRIPS Agreement:

Before the establishment of the TRIPS Agreement, there was no comprehensive international framework governing intellectual property rights. Different countries had varying levels of protection and enforcement. This led to disparities and potential trade disputes. The TRIPS Agreement was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. It came into effect on January 1, 1995, as part of the establishment of the WTO.

What is TRIPS:

TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It sets down minimum standards for the regulation of different forms of intellectual property by national governments.

Salient Features Of TRIPS Agreements:

  • General Provisions and Basic Principles (Article 1 to Article 8)
    This part covers the requirements for the availability, scope, and application of intellectual property rights. (Article 9 to Article 40)
  • The enforcement of IPRs is the focus of this part. (Article 41 to Article 61)
  • This part covers the procedures for obtaining and maintaining intellectual property rights. (Article 62)
  • This part deals with the prevention and resolution of conflicts resulting from the provisions of the Agreement. (Article 63 to Article 64)
  • This part is about transitional agreements. (Article 65 to Article 67)
  • This part of the Agreement deals with a variety of institutional arrangements. (Article 68 to Article 73)
Its primary objective is to standardize a common baseline for national regulation of various forms of intellectual property such as:
  • Foster technical innovation: Encouraging the creation of new technologies and ideas by providing inventors with exclusive rights and protections.
  • Facilitate transfer and distribution of technology: Facilitating the sharing of technological knowledge and advancements across borders, promoting global economic growth.
  • Integration of rights and obligations: Striking a balance between the interests of creators and users of intellectual property, ensuring fair competition and access to knowledge.

Key Features of the TRIPS Agreement:

  • Standards: The TRIPS Agreement establishes minimum standards for intellectual property protection across member countries, specifying subject matter, duration of rights, and the scope of protection.
  • The incorporated commitments from the Paris Convention and Berne Convention have resulted in it being dubbed as "Berne and Paris-plus" agreement.
  • This integration offers a consistent approach to intellectual property protection across all member states.
  • Enforcement: This component of the agreement emphasizes the importance of effective enforcement mechanisms for domestic intellectual property rights. This feature outlines procedures for all IPR proceedings such as criminal and civil cases, border measures, and temporary injunctions.
  • Dispute Settlement: Disputes between WTO members regarding TRIPS obligations are settled through the organization's established dispute settlement procedures. This provides a neutral and internationally recognized framework for resolving complex IP challenges, standardizing fair and equal settlement among all.

Role of TRIPS Agreement in Shaping India's Intellectual Property Regime: Patents:

One of the important impacts of the TRIPS Agreement on India's intellectual property command was in the area of patents. India had historically granted process patents in its place of product patents for pharmaceuticals, allowing local manufacturers to produce common versions of patented drugs at a lower cost. However, under TRIPS, India was required to evolve to a product patent regime and also this change led to challenges for the Indian pharmaceutical industry in terms of admission to affordable medicines and the convenience of generic drugs.


The TRIPS Agreement also influenced India's copyright law. It introduced minimum standards for copyright protection, including the term of protection, rights of authors, and limitations and exemptions and India amended its Copyright Act in 1999 to align with TRIPS requirements and extend copyright protection to computer software, digital works, and performances in the digital environment.

Trademarks and Industrial Designs:

The TRIPS Agreement set minimum standards for the protection of trademarks and industrial designs and also required India to provide satisfactory protection to trademarks and establish a system for the registration and enforcement of industrial designs as India amended its Trademarks Act in 1999 to comply with TRIPS obligations and habituated provisions for the registration and guard of well-known trademarks.

Geographical indications:

Customarily, some commercial items have been manufactured in a geographically defined territory and commercial relations, the geographical indicator becomes the dependable "carrier" of qualifying product features when these items are credited to certain criteria basically due to their geographical provenance. The purpose and value of geographical indications are subsequently given to trademarks, and they are allowable legal protection.

Definition of TRIPS Agreement within Humanitarian Context:

In a humanitarian context, the TRIPS Agreement has a strong relevance. It contributes to protecting rights pertaining to intellectual property and facilitating access to goods and services in times of crisis.

From a humanitarian perspective, the TRIPS Agreement is of significant importance because it allows for exceptions in cases of emergencies, with provisions for compulsory licensing that can be used to increase the availability of vital pharmaceuticals in developing countries.

For Example;
For instance, during the HIV/AIDS pandemic, several low-income countries used the flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement to produce generic versions of antiretroviral drugs, bringing down costs and increasing access to lifesaving treatment.

Role of WTO in TRIPS Intellectual Property Protection:

WTO plays a crucial role in the TRIPS intellectual property protection. It administers the TRIPS Agreement and other WTO agreements, provides a forum for trade negotiations, handles trade disputes, monitors national trade policies, and cooperates with other international organizations in global economic policy-making.

For Example:
In 2001 during the Doha Round of meetings, the WTO clarified that protecting public health should be central to TRIPS. The declaration affirmed that the agreement should not prevent countries from taking necessary steps to protect public health, demonstrating the central role that WTO plays in balancing the goals of access to essential medicines and the need to promote pharmaceutical innovation.

Impacts of WTO TRIPS Agreement on Global Trade:

The WTO TRIPS Agreement holds significant impacts on global trade. Imbued within the construct of this agreement, is the power to shape international trade policies and arguably, influence economic stability on a worldwide scale.

The impacts of this agreement on global trade can be broadly categorised into several key aspects:

  • Encouragement of innovation and creativity: By providing better protection for intellectual property rights, the TRIPS Agreement fuels further innovation and creativity.
  • Boosting foreign direct investment (FDI): By enforcing consistent, reliable and transparent IPR laws, the agreement attracts greater foreign direct investment.
  • Providing a level playing field for trade: By enforcing standardized IPR protections, developing countries can compete fairly with their developed counterparts.
  • Promoting technology transfer: Fosters an environment conducive for technology sharing, contributing to the economic growth of member countries.

How WTO TRIPS Protects Patents Internationally:

Within the global purview, the WTO TRIPS agreement safeguards patents in several critical ways.

The following points shed light on the salient features of this international patent protection:

  • The TRIPS Agreement ensures that patents are available without discrimination concerning the place of invention, the field of technology, or the fact that products are imported or locally produced.
  • It establishes minimum levels of protection that each government must give to the intellectual property of both its own nationals and nationals of other WTO member countries.
  • It provides dispute settlement procedures that can be initiated if a country doesn't comply with the agreement. These proceedings can ultimately lead to trade sanctions being imposed against the offending country.

Criticisms of the TRIPS Agreement:

  • The agreement has been criticized for potentially limiting access to affordable medicines in developing countries. This is particularly due to stringent patent protection and high drug prices.
  • Some argue that the agreement disproportionately benefits developed countries with strong intellectual property industries. It hinders the development opportunities of developing nations.
  • Some argue that the TRIPS Agreement restricts the ability of member countries to tailor their intellectual property laws to suit their specific developmental needs and priorities.
  • Enforcement of intellectual property rights can be complex and costly, especially for developing countries. This leads to concerns about the effectiveness of enforcement measures.

Advantages of the TRIPS Agreement:

  • Transparency in IP policy was brought to the world's attention.
  • WIPO's existing international legal system, which was designed and controlled by them, was greatly enhanced by this agreement.
  • Trade conflicts over intellectual property concerns were reduced by establishing a clear, rules-based framework for resolving disputes.
  • It has aided in the acquisition and exercise of intellectual property rights, as well as providing a solid platform for the trade in knowledge products.
  • In developing countries, the number of patent applications is increased.

Disadvantages of the TRIPS Agreement:

  • TRIPS mandates high levels of patent protection.
  • Fertilisers, insecticides, pharmaceutical items, and procedures were not protected by patents, resulting in low-cost food and drugs.
  • Education and technology transfer were fostered by the lack of copyright protection for informational products.
  • Jobs in the local imitative industries were lost.
  • In general, increased prices resulted in significant deadweight losses, with minimal stimulation of local innovation.
  • Traditional knowledge is not protected in any way.

The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement is an important step forward for the protection of intellectual property throughout the world when it was contracted into effect by GATT in 1994. The TRIPs provisions should assist as the foundation for the creation of domestic intellectual property legislation in member nations, as this is a suggestion of the TRIPs agreement. The agreement's long-standing legacy lies in its evident efforts to mesh the interests of creators and users with IP, for the sustainable growth of a world that is conducive to sharing knowledge and economic prosperity.


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