The negotiators of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) recognized the particular
concerns and needs of least developed countries (LDCs) when it comes
to the intellectual property system.
The TRIPS Agreement’s preamble already acknowledged least developed
countries’ particular need for maximum flexibility in implementing
laws and regulations domestically. The objective was to enable them to
create a sound and viable technological base.
Consequently, the TRIPS Agreement obliged developed countries to
create incentives for technology transfer to least developed
countries. It also allowed least developed countries 10 years from
1995 to apply the bulk of TRIPS obligations.
The transition period could be extended in response to a specific
request and in 2005 the TRIPS Council decided to extend the period
until 2013. At the Eighth Ministerial Conference of December 2011, the ministers invited the TRIPS Council to give full consideration to a duly motivated request from LDCs for a further extension. A request for an extension of the transition period for as long as LDC Members retain the status of an LDC Member was introduced at the TRIPS Council meeting in November 2012.
Meanwhile, the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public
Health had already extended the period for LDCs
to comply with provisions on pharmaceuticals to 2016.
When the TRIPS Council agreed to the extension, it also set up a
process to help least developed countries implement TRIPS within their
national intellectual property regimes.
The council called on least developed countries to identify their
priority needs for technical and financial cooperation. It asked
developed countries to help to address identified needs. And it called
for enhanced cooperation with WIPO and other relevant international
The emphasis was on the individual priorities of each least developed
country, and on ensuring those needs are effectively met.
Wider initiatives to support these countries include the
Aid for Trade Initiative (AfT)
and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF);
they also provide potential avenues for an intensified, coordinated
effort to respond to individual priority needs that least developed
countries identify specially relating to TRIPS.
The TRIPS Council decision back to top
In extending the transition period for least
developed countries and setting up the process of assessing needs, the
Decision of 29 November 2005 (document
contained three operational elements.
1. Least developed countries are asked
to provide the TRIPS Council with as much information as possible on
what they needed as a priority for technical and financial assistance.
(They were originally asked to do this preferably by 1 January 2008.)
The purpose is to help them take the necessary steps to implement the
TRIPS Agreement. It would not only be for the purely technical and
legal exercise of translating TRIPS provisions into their laws. The
emphasis is on identifying priority needs and interests so that the
assistance given is comprehensive and coordinated.
2. Developed countries are then asked
to provide technical and financial help to least developed countries
to address the identified needs effectively. This means that donors
and countries or organizations providing technical assistance are also
responsible for making the process work. The activities have to be
coordinated to avoid complicating the least developed countries’
officials’ work. The coordination also ensures that the identified
needs are followed up. The whole process remains demand-driven,
centred on actual requirements each least developed country has
This is in line with the general WTO policy
where assistance is provided only upon request. So that the effort is
successful, the least developed countries should actively participate in
steering the process, which therefore relies on the continuing
guidance of these countries separately and as a group.
3. The WTO is asked to enhance its
cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
and other relevant international organizations. The two organizations
are now cooperating more closely on this area, in response to the
request and based on a
Cooperation Agreement adopted in 1995,
as well as a
Joint Initiative on Technical Cooperation for Least
developed Countries, launched in June 2001.
Key developments back to top