LDC TRIPS exemption approved with mixed reactions

Thursday, 13 June 2013

TWN: LDC TRIPS exemption approved with mixed reactions On 11 June the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members adopted a decision for the world's poorest nations (known as "Least Developed Countries (LDCs)") to exercise their right to be exempted from implementing the organisation's intellectual property rights  Agreement (also known as "the TRIPS Agreement"). The exemption is until 1 July 2021 and is without prejudice to the right of LDCs to request an extension of the exemption, beyond 2021.

This decision of the TRIPS Council brings to an end months of uncertainty over the fate of the "duly motivated request" submitted by Haiti on behalf of the LDCs last November seeking an unconditional extension of the exemption (also known as "transition period") for as long as a country remains a LDC. The "duly motivated request" was submitted in accordance with Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement) and received extensive support from UN agencies, civil society, industry association, legal academics etc. With regard to plant varieties, the effect of the WTO decision is that LDCs need not provide protection of plant variety as required by Article 27.3(b) of the TRIPS Agreement for as long as the exemption/transition period continues.

[Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement states:  "In view of the special needs and requirements of least-developed country Members, their economic, financial and administrative constraints, and their need for flexibility to create a viable technological base, such Members shall not be required to apply the provisions of this Agreement, other than Articles 3, 4 and 5, for a period of 10 years from the date of application as defined under paragraph 1 of Article 65.  The Council for TRIPS shall, upon duly motivated request by a least-developed country Member, accord extensions of this period."]

TWN published a detailed news report on the contentious points between developed countries and LDCs, discussions that took place at the TRIPS Council, and reactions of NGOs/IGOs to the decision.