Analytical Note, March 2004

A Development Agenda for Intellectual Property Negotiations in 2004 and Beyond.

In 2003, activities in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) were fairly subdued, save for the negotiations relating to the implementation of paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This low level of activity is largely attributable to the fact that the year was (rightly) dominated by the preparations for and dealing with the aftermath of the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun where the focus of negotiations was on agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and Singapore Issues.

However, it would be incorrect to conclude that the Cancun preparatory process was the sole reason for 2003 being a quiet year in the TRIPS Council. There are at least two other relevant trends that underlie this development.

The first relates to the increased intensity and profile of negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on patent law harmonisation, the reform of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system, on intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, on copyright matters and on enforcement. The second trend relates to the increasing number of new negotiations on free trade agreements which contain intellectual property components with TRIPS-plus implications.

These two trends are, on the one hand, the result of the shift in focus by the major players in this field. The United States, in particular, has strategically shifted its focus to WIPO activities and bilateral dealings and its main interest in the TRIPS Council is to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, these trends also reflect, in part, the growing political profile of WIPO and bilateral negotiations for developing countries which has led to the reduction in the political visibility of TRIPS issues including in civil society circles.

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