WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO


21 July 1998

WTO and WIPO join forces to help developing countries meet year-2000 commitments on intellectual property

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed on a joint initiative to provide technical cooperation for developing countries.

The purpose is to help developing countries which are members of the WTO meet the 1 January 2000 deadline—less than a year and a half away—for conforming with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

This process involves bringing their laws on copyright, patents, trademarks and other areas of intellectual property into line with the agreement, and providing for effective enforcement of these laws in order to deal with piracy, counterfeit goods and other forms of intellectual property infringements.

The Directors General of the two organizations, Mr Renato Ruggiero of the WTO and Dr Kamil Idris of WIPO, are sending joint communications to the ministers of each of the developing countries concerned to inform them of the initiative. The communication will underscore the two organizations’ commitment to help developing countries comply with the TRIPS Agreement on time.

The aim is for WIPO and the WTO, together with the countries requesting assistance, and (where appropriate) donor countries, to maximize use of available resources in the coming critical period by improved planning and coordination of technical cooperation activities.

The forms of technical cooperation that are available include assistance in preparing legislation, training, institution-building, and modernizing intellectual property systems and enforcement.

The task of conforming with the TRIPS Agreement is seen as a challenge for developing countries because of the complexities of intellectual property laws and their enforcement. But it also provides an opportunity to use intellectual property protection to accelerate economic, social and cultural development.

At the same time, the two organizations stress that assistance given to other countries—in particular least developed countries, which do not have to meet the year-2000 deadline—will not suffer. The WTO and WIPO renew their commitment to continue to provide technical cooperation to these countries.

The joint initiative will build on the existing cooperation between the two organizations, which has been established since the signing of the WIPO-WTO Agreement in 1995. This provides, among other things, for cooperation in providing legal technical assistance and technical cooperation related to the TRIPS Agreement for developing country members of either of the two organizations.

The 132-member WTO came into being on 1 January 1995, at the same time as the TRIPS and other WTO agreements. Developed countries had to conform with the TRIPS provisions by 1 January 1996. Developing countries are given an extra four years, until 1 January 2000, to comply. Least developed countries have a longer transition period that lasts, in general, until 1 January 2006.

The WTO’s TRIPS Agreement specifies minimum standards of protection for each of the main categories of intellectual property, building on the main WIPO conventions. It also deals with the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights.

WIPO, which has 171 members, is responsible for international cooperation in promoting intellectual property protection around the world. In particular, it looks after various international conventions, such as the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (patents, industrial designs, etc) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyright).

This press release is being issued simultaneously by WIPO.

For more background information, visit the two organizations’ websites: www.wto.org and www.wipo.int