Intellectual property TPP refers to bold intellectual property protection measures agreed to by countries that were signatories to the TPP agreement. The measures were part of the 2016 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that promotes free trade among the 12 member countries. The agreement included provisions to lengthen the minimum period of copyright and patent protection, to offer increased protection for agricultural and pharmaceutical companies, and to strengthen laws for the protection of trade secrets in the member countries. The U.S. subsequently pulled out of the agreement in January 2017, prompting the remaining countries to negotiate a new agreement called the CPTPP in 2018.

Provisions of the TPP on Intellectual Property Protection

Countries that were party to the initial agreement are Australia, Canada, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, and the U.S. Negotiations were largely held in secret, but the Office of the United States Trade Representative stated that the U.S. had the following intellectual property objectives for the agreement:

  • To build on global intellectual property agreements like the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), WIPO Performances Phonograms Treaty, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • To curb the unlawful possession of trade secrets, especially through cybertheft
  • To ensure increased transparency in international trademark processes
  • To obtain market access for U.S. businesses that benefit from intellectual property
  • To create laws against copyright theft and trademark copying
  • To close glaring loopholes that allowed counterfeit products to move across borders
  • To promote the use of intellectual property for other legal uses without infringing on copyrights, such as for research and news reporting

Intellectual Property Provisions of the TPP Agreement

Largely because of the advocacy of the U.S. government, the TPP agreement made a number of intellectual property protection provisions. The main focus of the TPP intellectual property protections was to eliminate cross-border rights infringement. Major provisions of the agreement on intellectual property were:

  • The agreement advocated for the extension of trademark protection terms to 10 years or more. The existing TRIPS agreement required terms of at least seven years.
  • It advocated for the removal of limitations for sound marks protection.
  • It extended the minimum copyright protection term to 70 years from the TRIPS agreement provision of 50 years. 
  • The agreement mandated member countries to ensure better enforcement of copyright laws. It provided for the prosecution of entities involved in the removal of rights management information.
  • The agreement required all TPP countries to ratify provision of the WIPO internet treaties.
  • The agreement required countries to have an enforceable legal means for the protection of trade secrets.
  • It protects test data submitted to regulatory agencies for marketing approval for a minimum of 10 years for farming chemicals and up to eight years for pharmaceuticals. 
  • The agreement required countries to proactively protect new pharmaceutical products that contain a biologic.
  • It advocated for adjustments to be made to allow for patent office delays in the different member countries to harmonize patenting practices of TPP members.

Intellectual Property Issues of the TPP Agreement

Some provisions of the TPP agreement on intellectual property were controversial and hard to ratify by the parliaments of the signatories. These provisions were thought to favor the U.S. and other developed countries at the expense of developing countries like Chile and Peru. They included:

In January 2017, the U.S. administration pulled out of the agreement, prompting other signatories to renegotiate a new one. Many of the intellectual property protection provisions, viewed as pro-U.S., were subsequently dropped. In March 2018, the 11 other signatories to the TPP signed a new agreement called the CPTPP.

Impact of the TPP's Intellectual Property Provisions

The TPP was a short-lived agreement that ran into opposition in the U.S. even before it was signed. Although the intellectual property protection measures of the agreement were predicted to favor U.S. businesses, the agreement did not live long enough for a proper analysis of its effects.

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