A TRIPS patent is a patent covered by the Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This agreement first took effect on January 1, 1995.

Overview of the TRIPS Agreement

The TRIPS Agreement is currently the most comprehensive intellectual property agreement in the world. This multilateral agreement was negotiated from 1986 to 1994. TRIPS is one of many World Trade Organization agreements. As a WTO agreement, TRIPS is binding for all member states of this organization.

The TRIPS Agreement covers several different areas related to intellectual property rights:

  • Copyrights.
  • Trademarks and service marks.
  • Industrial designs.
  • Patents, including plant patents.

In the TRIPS Agreement, aspects of trade that influence intellectual property rights are defined. To comply with the new standards, member states of the WTO have needed to update their laws related to intellectual property. After the TRIPS Agreement was passed, all developed countries subject to the agreement were given twelve months to institute the new provisions.

Developing countries were provided a five-year period to institute the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. Finally, the least developed countries were allowed 11 years to comply with the agreement. Many least developed countries have claimed they need more time to fully comply with the TRIPS Agreement provisions.

Currently, only 30 least developed countries are bound by this agreement. Three times a year, the Council for TRIPS holds a meeting to discuss a variety of issues related to the agreement.

TRIPS Agreement: Three Features

One of the main features of the TRIPS agreement is a set of standards for the protection of intellectual property covered by the agreement.

All of the primary elements of intellectual property protections have been defined in the agreement:

  • What subjects can receive protection.
  • Rights that are provided to the owners of intellectual property.
  • Exceptions to intellectual property protections.
  • How long the protections will last.

One of the main ways that these standards are set by the TRIPS Agreement is the requirement that member states follow the rules of different pieces of intellectual property legislations and organizations:

  • The Paris Convention.
  • The Berne Convention
  • WIPO.

The TRIPS Agreement references the majority of the provisions of these pieces of legislation and organizations, making them binding for member countries. Enforcement is the second main feature of the TRIPS Agreement. These provisions require that member countries have procedures in place for enforcing intellectual property rights and also mandate that there are remedies available for violations of these rights. Countries bound by this agreement should follow certain general principles related to enforcement of intellectual property rights.

A variety of provisions cover several areas of intellectual property rights enforcement:

  • Remedies and procedures for the administrative and civil levels.
  • Special provisions for border procedures.
  • Measures that are provisional in nature.

The third main TRIPS agreement feature is a procedure for settling disputes. When WTO member states are involved in a dispute related to the requirements of the TRIPS agreement, the dispute will be settled using WTO procedures. Besides this basic rule, other provisions can apply, including treatment of most-favored nations. In addition, rules meant to make sure that the intended benefits of the TRIPS Agreement are not outweighed by the difficulties of obtaining intellectual property rights are in force.

While the agreement's obligations are equally binding to all member states, developing and least developed countries will have a longer grace period to fully implement these obligations.

If a developing country does not currently offer pharmaceutical patent protections, special transition arrangements can be used. These arrangements can provide protections for patents until such a time that the developing country has fully complied with the TRIPS Agreement and begins issuing patents.

An important fact to understand about the TRIPS Agreement is that it only outlines minimum standards. This means that member countries have the ability to offer stronger intellectual property protections if they desire, but they are not required to do so as long as they have met the standards of the agreement.

The TRIPS Agreement does not outline how member states implement the required provisions. Instead, member states are allowed to institute these provisions in the manner that best suits their current legal system. All that matters is that the country complies with the minimum TRIPS standards.

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