30 Jul 2013
After the second extension of the transition period for LDCs: How can the WTO gradually integrate the poorest countries into TRIPS?
NCCR Trade Working Paper No 2013/42 By Arno Hold and Bryan Christopher Mercurio
Due to economic, financial and administrative constraints, least-developed countries (LDCs) have not managed to make significant progress in the implementation of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In the latest TRIPS Council meeting of 11-12 June 2013, WTO Members have accepted this reality and granted LDCs a second extension of the transition period for another eight years. This working paper seeks to assist future discussions on how to meaningfully integrate the poorest countries into the WTO system for the protection of intellectual property. The authors first provide a comprehensive legal analysis of the various rights and obligations for LDCs, developed country Members and international organizations under the transitional arrangements in the TRIPS Agreement, subsequent WTO legislation and in particular the TRIPS Council Decisions of November 2005 and June 2013. The text also contains on overview on the underlying factors and processes that lead to these progressive extensions of the transition period for LDCs till July 2021. It then identifies substantial shortcomings of the current situation following the Decision of June 2013. Above all, there is still need for greater coordination on the national and multilateral level in order to provide incentives to LDCs to engage in this process and to unlock increased technical and financial assistance for LDCs. The authors then propose potential avenues for WTO Members to move forward: The priority needs assessment process should be reformed and additional incentives should be identified for WTO Members to cooperate more actively towards LDCs’ integration in the global IP system. The authors also advocate the application of a more gradual and development-oriented concept of TRIPS implementation for LDCs.