Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property establishes minimum standards of protection for each category of property rights. These standards should be integrated into the national legislation of all World Trade Organization (WTO) Members and they should be applied in accordance with the principles of most-favoured-nation and national treatment. TRIPS is the trade agreement with most implications for the production of and access to drugs, particularly in developing countries.
The agreement aims to bring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) systems around the world together under a common international set of rules, thus addressing problems of international piracy and IPR infringements. TRIPS attempts to strike a balance between providing incentives for research and development and allowing people to have access to and use existing inventions and creations.
TRIPS establishes minimum global standards governing the scope, availability and use of IPR and patent protection. Under the agreement, IPR extends for 20 years from the date the patent is filed. The least developed countries are allowed a longer transition period in which to comply with the provisions of the agreement.
While the actual TRIPS agreement does not define safeguards, a number of provisions have become known as TRIPS public health safeguards because they enhance the affordability and availability of medicines. These safeguards include:
- Compulsory licensing
- Extension of the transition period for the enforcement of intellectual property rights
- Parallel imports
- Allowing generic drugs producers to prepare production and obtain regulatory approval for generic versions of patent medicines before the patent expires (Bolar provision).