The TRIPS Agreement and Developing Countries
Intellectual property rights (IPRs) have been the subject of a number of international conventions and agreements administered under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Many developing countries are party to these agreements and members of the WIPO; but many others are not, and the enforcement mechanisms for the agreements are weak.
The inclusion of IPRs in the Uruguay Round represented a major extension of rule making into a policy area not covered by GATT. It was motivated by the desire of developed countries to raise the standards and strengthen the enforcement of IPRs worldwide. Thus the Uruguay Round negotiations had a clear North–South dimension. The developed countries argued that the benefits of increased IPR protection would accrue to developing countries as well, since it would strengthen their incentive to engage in research and development, promote foreign direct investment and encourage the transfer and dissemination of technology. Most developing countries saw little benefit in committing themselves to basic global standards for increased IPR protection, which was better suited to developed countries' interests and might be inappropriate for their own socio-economic and technological needs. They only agreed to participate as part of a ‘grant bargain’ that involved the developed countries phasing out controls on textiles and clothing and the inclusion of agriculture in the GATT disciplines.
For developing countries, the conclusion of an agreement on trade related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) was one of the most controversial outcomes of the Uruguay Round. The concerns voiced about TRIPS have focused not only on the inequitable distribution of benefits to