Evaluating effects of world trade agreements on intellectual property rights

With the ending of the transition period for developing countries, the enforcement procedures against IPR violators will be more actively enforced. This will increase the market share and price for IPR holders' products. European IPR holders are likely, therefore, to increase their production levels and exports. The greater protection of IPRs may also stimulate investment flows to countries where intellectual property protection is enforced. The extension of the UPOV, which recognises plant variety rights as intellectual property rights, to TRIPS would be an additional economic benefit to EU businesses.

A further strengthening of the international rules framework for intellectual property rights would further enhance the economic gains to European businesses with IPRs. Certain industries can be expected to gain significantly. These include producers of geographical indications products, mainly regional or local food products, biotechnology products, and pharmaceuticals.

The economic impact differs between countries and can be positive and negative. Some developing countries are engaged on the production of imitation products, which create employment opportunities, and lower prices to consumers. Alternatively, access to technology and investment may be constrained by weak protection of foreign IPRs. Adverse social, environmental and economic impacts may be caused by the current exclusion of animal and plant IPRs from the TRIPS agreement, which can be detrimental to traditional breeders' interests. Developing countries may benefit, however, in terms of biodiversity preservation and food security, from the exclusion of patents for plant varieties from the TRIPS provisions. The patenting of medicines and drugs have adverse social impacts in developing countries if low-income consumers are unable to access these products because of pricing policy by patent-holders (e.g. the current dispute between South Africa and the USA regarding the price of drugs for treating AIDS).

1. Proponents of international protection for intellectual property rights argue that protection stimulates the flow of investment and trade in goods and services, and is needed to encourage R and D investment. For the EU, greater compliance with TRIPS in non-EU countries would yield economic benefits, associated with the increased income flows to the producers of IPRs.

2. There may be economic gains from an increased flow of investment and technology to developing countries, but the price of acquiring the technology and of importing goods which embody new technology, is likely to increase.

3. The extension of protection to products of geographical origin would be a positive economic gain to exporters of certain agro-foods and handicrafts.

4. Employment may be adversely affected in industries which have been entitled to produce parallel goods during the transition period but would become liable to compliance requirements.

5. The extension of TRIPS to plant varieties could result in loss of employment and income for genetic resource users and breeders, and increased market share for international seed companies.

6. The extension of IPRs to plant varieties could reduce rural farm incomes and aggravate poverty conditions in rural regions.

7. The opening up of pharmaceutical products to IPR is likely to increase the costs of these products and the reduced availability of pirated versions. This can have an adverse social impact in developing countries, with an overall reduction in availability of health care products.

8. The [Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights] (TRIPs), life patenting and access to technology must be re-examined as part of a broad public discussion about the role of intellectual property rights at the WTO. Because of its potential adverse implications for a range of issues _ biodiversity conservation, indigenous rights to traditional knowledge, fair market competition, north-south equity, management of investment in biotechnology, access to technology, food security, and the relationship between the WTO and MEAs (such as Biodiversity Convention) _ the proposed extension of the [TRIPS Agreement] to require countries to grant patents over life should be opposed.

Facilitated by:
Technological forecasting
Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions