Trips Agreement Explained

The objective of the ON TRIPS agreement is to establish uniform global rules that provide adequate standards of intellectual property protection and provide greater predictability and stability in international economic relations (5). At this stage, it is important to note that the TRIPS agreement applies to all forms of intellectual property: from copyright to trade secrets, this document will, however, focus on the TRIPS agreement, since it concerns patent protection; and its impact on the accessibility of medicines. The regulation of intellectual property rights has not always been a priority on the international stage. During the second half of the 20th century, the proliferation of high-tech equipment and the means to reproduce it at a relative low cost necessitized the maintenance of an innovation environment. Industries heavily invested in research and development, such as the information technology industry, have had their work pirated by other companies and sold for a fraction of the price offered by inventors. This has created a more cost-effective environment for second-movers, unlike First-Movers1, greatly discouraging innovation. Prior to the adoption of the TRIPS agreement, international intellectual property rights were governed by the Paris Convention on Industrial Property, first drafted in 1883. The business and business community has generally recognized that the Paris Convention is not sufficient to address modern issues in sectors such as information technology and biotechnology: there were few patent rules, no minimum patent protection period and no mention of the exclusive rights of patent holders. The TRIPS agreement was the modern solution to this problem; it was based on the provisions of the Paris Convention and most of the provisions of the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works. Several other specifications have been added to this base in the membership agreement on the aforementioned inadequacies (5).

Any nation wishing to participate in the World Trade Organization was required to amend its intellectual property legislation to meet the guidelines set out in the agreement, thereby creating a uniform international standard for the protection of intellectual property rights. Access to life-saving medicines is a fundamental human right and, as such, exceeds all other requirements. The reason why this issue is so complex and so long debated is that, in order to fulfill this right, the right must be granted. In other words, to finance the development of essential medicines, manufacturers of these drugs must be compensated financially by users of drugs they cannot afford in this case. Since access to life-saving medicines is a fundamental human right, those who cannot afford these drugs should make them available free of charge or at a reasonable cost.