Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

Today, the intangible assets are becoming increasingly important. These assets which are the result of human intellectual creative activity such as invention, design, know-how, and artistic creation are known as “intellectual property.”

Among the forms of intellectual property specifically entitled to legal protection are inventions, trademarks, designs, literary works, layout-designs of integrated circuits and trade secrets. As the volume of trade in goods and services involving intellectual property has increased greatly in recent years, the importance of the protection of intellectual property for the world economy has grown enormously. Inappropriate and insufficient protection of intellectual property can distort free trade.

In the developing countries, the protection of intellectual property rights has been often insufficient. Developing countries often limit protection to a very narrow subject area, or provide protection for only a short period of time, or lack strict enforcement. In contrast, the developed countries have problematic intellectual property regimes that, for example, openly discriminated against foreign nations, provide excessive protection or otherwise have regimes so different from those employed by the rest of the world that its effect is discriminatory.

The WTO sought to establish an appropriate framework for the protection of intellectual property in order to bring greater order to international trade. A number of international treaties already form a common legal framework for the protection of intellectual property, including the Paris Convention (1883) and covers patents, trademarks and other industrial property rights, the Berne Convention (1886) and covers copyrights.

Recently, however, as countries pay more attention to the trade related aspects of this subject, they have frequently placed intellectual property protection on the agenda of trade negotiations. Countries recognized that as many governments as possible should take part in framing an international agreement establishing standards for the trade aspects protecting intellectual property. As a result, GATT negotiators instituted negotiations on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) one of the most important new areas included in the Uruguay Round negotiations. A final consensus on the TRIPS Agreement was reached in Marrakesh in April 1994 and took effect on 1 January 1995.

Some important Notes on TRIPS are as follows:
  • TRIPS covers all legally-recognized intellectual property rights (copyright and related rights, patents, industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications, layout-designs of integrated circuits and undisclosed information)
  • The TRIPS Agreement incorporates and improves upon protection levels of the Paris Convention (industrial property rights) and the Berne Convention (copyright).
  • In the area of copyrights and related rights, the TRIPS Agreement specifies the protection of computer programmes (protected as literary works under the Berne Convention) and rental rights.
  • The TRIPS Agreement contains provisions governing the protection of trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, layout-designs of integrated circuits, and undisclosed information. It also contains rules on anti-competitive practices in contractual licenses.
  • Developed countries were given a transition period of one year from the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement; developing countries and transformation countries were given five years (until January 2000); and least-developed countries were given 11 years (until January 2006).
  • TRIPS Agreement is to date the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP).
  • The TRIPS Agreement is based on the main conventions of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Most of the provisions of these conventions have been incorporated into the TRIPS. The TRIPS Agreement includes however, a number of additional obligations where the pre-existing conventions are silent or inadequate.

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