From TRIPS to FTAs and Back: Re-Conceptualising the Role of a Multilateral IP Framework in a TRIPS-Plus World
Forthcoming, Netherlands Yearbook of International Law
61 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2017 Last revised: 7 Feb 2018
Date Written: November 26, 2017
International intellectual property (IP) protection is increasingly governed by a network of bilateral and regional treaties. Most of these contain obligations on the protection and enforcement of IP that set significantly higher standards than those of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), commonly referred to as ‘TRIPS-plus’. Human rights bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and academic commentators often criticise these standards for undermining flexibilities available under TRIPS. Such policy space, however, is critical to design national IP laws in light of domestic needs. This chapter makes a case for the continued relevance of the TRIPS Agreement as an overarching, multilateral framework. My argument is based on the role treaty law affords to the object and purpose expressed in Articles 7 and 8 TRIPS. They have not only been recognised as essential for promoting access to medicines in the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. As integral objectives and principles of TRIPS, Articles 7 and 8 limit the ability of World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to modify their IP-related treaty obligations inter se. Based on their negotiation history and common understandings expressed by WTO Members, I argue for an enhanced role of TRIPS’ object and purpose as a loose constitutional frame for IP commitments in bilateral and regional treaties.
Keywords: International intellectual property protection; TRIPS flexibilities; Free trade agreements; Inter se modifications; Article 41 VCLT; Object and purpose; Doha Declaration
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