Revisiting Trips Implementation: The Political Economy of Patent and Science-Technology-Innovation Policies
Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 8 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2011
In the 1990s developing countries implemented new patent regimes to comply with their international obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. In general, the new TRIPS-style regimes adopted in most countries, which offer private rights of exclusion over more types of knowledge and grant owners with stronger and longer-lasting rights of exclusion, were not reflective of prevailing levels of scientific, technological, and innovative (STI) infrastructure and capabilities. Quite simply, most countries implemented new patent regimes as if they were already more developed. Subsequent years have witnessed a period of revision, as countries seek to redress the mismatch between their new, “oversized” TRIPS-style patent systems and their levels of STI capabilities. What forms might revision take? In this paper I draw attention to two complementary responses, “tailoring” the patent system to reflect national characteristics, and “aspiring” to grow into the new patent regime by attempting to buttress STI capabilities. I examine variation in national policy responses to the challenges of having adopted oversized patent regimes, i.e. combinations of tailoring and aspiring, based on comparative analysis of the experiences in Latin America’s three largest and most industrialized economies (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico). I focus on how TRIPS-style regimes introduced in the 1990s created constellations of interests that affect the range of politically feasible policy responses during the later period of revision. In doing so I advance a dynamic approach to studying TRIPS implementation that highlights persistent diversity in the context of over-arching convergence, and that emphasizes the iterative and cumulative nature of patent politics.
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