TRIPS and Its Contents
87 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2019 Last revised: 10 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 5, 2019
In 2006, I published TRIPS and Its Discontents in a symposium commemorating the tenth anniversary of the WTO TRIPS Agreement. At that time, developing countries were deeply discontent with the Agreement and the new and higher intellectual property standards that the WTO had imposed upon them. By contrast, when the TRIPS Agreement was about to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary in April 2019, the developing countries' trenchant critiques of the Agreement were mostly gone. Also disappearing were their usual accusations of neoimperialism.
What has happened? Have developing countries successfully adjusted, or become sensitized, to the high intellectual property standards in the TRIPS Agreement? Have these countries and their supportive commentators and nongovernmental organizations become tired of criticizing the Agreement? Have developing countries and their supporters moved on to more pressing issues in the areas of intellectual property and international trade? Have these countries been mistaken about the negative ramifications of the TRIPS Agreement and finally figured out that the Agreement could be beneficial after all?
Written for the Second Annual Intellectual Property Redux Conference at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, this article seeks to answer these questions by revisiting the TRIPS developments in the past twenty-five years. It begins by offering five explanations concerning why developing countries have gradually shifted their views from being discontent with the TRIPS Agreement to being content with it. The article then turns to four observations drawn from the developing countries' engagement with the TRIPS Agreement. These observations will inform not only the Agreement's past but also the ongoing and future development of the international intellectual property regime. The article concludes by identifying three active roles that the TRIPS Agreement will continue to play in the near future, from the developing countries' perspective. These roles show how much the international intellectual property regime has evolved in only a quarter-century.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation