Research Paper 22, July 2009

Policy Space for Domestic Public Interest Measures Under TRIPS.

This paper examines the scope of policy space available to integrate economic, social and environmental concerns under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). By comparing the amount of discretion available for domestic public interest measures in two other core areas of WTO regulation, i.e. trade in goods and services, the paper concludes that the notion of general exceptions under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) finds no equivalence in TRIPS.

An equivalent amount of policy space can be achieved by taking the TRIPS balancing objective and the WTO sustainable development objective seriously within the process of TRIPS interpretation and implementation. This opens significant room to integrate economic, social and environmental concerns in Intellectual Property (IP) regulation and decision-making.

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