Analyze the issues raised by intellectual property rights as agreed to under the Marrakesh Agreement.
Marrakesh agreement on intellectual property rights as a multilateral agreement supervised by WTO. It is known as TRIPs i.e. Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights. TRIPs agreement is one of the most controversial agreements of Uruguay Round negotiations. TRIPs covers following intellectual properties:
- Copyright and related rights.
- Trade mark.
- Geographical indications.
- Industrial designs.
- Layout designs (topographic) of integrated circuits.
- Undisclosed information, including trade secrets.
Following are the important issues agreed upon under TRIPs:
Protection will be available for 20 years for patents and for 50 years for copyright. Patents shall be available for any invention, whether product or process, in all fields of technology. Further, patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of invention, the field of technology, whether products are imported or locally produced. Patent will be available in the area of computer development and information technology.
Protection of intellectual property rights provided in the agreement will be enforced through the Common Dispute Settlement Mechanism of World Trade Organization (WTO) which provides for retaliation and cross retaliation.
Many of the developing countries have laws to protect them in good measure. It is only patent protection and enforcement of those rights that is the bone of contention. Relentless pursuit of the demands for higher international level of protection is the result of the coalition of interest of IPR owners in the developed world. That they are unyielding in their pursuit of enforcement of their rights and consequently in their profits, may best be illustrated by the South African legal battle for enforcement of patent rights, even in the case of deadly diseases, like HIV/ AIDS where MNCs charge exorbitant prices and at the same time won’t allow import of cheap generic drugs manufactured by the third world drug companies like CIPLA from India. The case ultimately was withdrawn.
Besides the higher cost of the patented drugs, developing countries believe that patent system, that are not based on reaching both the written and oral prior art for worldwide novelty, such as is the case of U.S., and that do not insist on disclosure of the origin and proof of the prior informed consent, as few countries do today, for the use of biological materials or traditional knowledge on which the invention is based help in perpetuating the inequitable system. Fears are expressed because a large number of patents have been granted on generic resources obtained from developing countries often without the knowledge and consent of the possessors of the resources at variance with the Rio De Janerio Convention on Biodiversity.
Reference in this connection be made to the grant of patents of Basmati Rice to Ricetec, neem, turmeric, edible herbal compositions of Karela, Jamun and brinjal, extracts of ashwagandh a etc. Though some of them were challenged and patent withdrawn as in the case of neem etc. The question of biopiracy and how India’s generic resources and of Africa are misappropriated by the MNCs from the West are of great concern.