The WTO-TRIPS council has finally decided to grant an eight-year extension of the transition period under the TRIPS Agreement (Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights) to the Least Developed Countries (LDC). In other words, the time within which the LDCs are supposed to implement the TRIPS Agreement within their jurisdiction has been deferred until July 01, 2021.
There are currently 34 countries that are recognized by the WTO (World Trade Organization) as LDCs. The list includes Bangladesh, Haiti and Nepal too. The decision of extension was the outcome of intensive lobbying and follow-ups from the LDC delegates who received widespread support from developing countries, civil societies, industry, academics, UN agencies, Members of the US Congress and the European Parliamentarians.
Since the adoption of TRIPS Agreement in 1995, the LDCs were given a 10 years’ transition period to comply with the provisions of TRIPS, which was later on extended further. However, on the span of extension, developed countries, i.e. US and Japan, advocated for a shorter time frame, i.e. 5 years. As a result, the final agreed outcome was for 8 years only, which remains insufficient considering the formidable challenges the LDCs are facing. The LDCs, however, reserve the option to seek further extensions.
LDCs are the most vulnerable segment of the international community with more than half of the population of this segment living on less than $1.25 (PPP) per day, with an extremely limited productive capacity. LDCs face serious challenges on a number of fronts, including combating disease and illness, and are disproportionately exposed to the health risks, i.e. malnutrition, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. LDCs struggle to provide prevention, treatment and care mostly due to high-cost medicines, diagnostics, and other required health products. Patent protection is one of the major issues, which drives the cost for essential medicines high and places them out of reach for the poor citizens in such LDCs. However, any LDC that progresses from its LDC status before 2021 will no longer be able to benefit from the exemption.
Source: World Bank Survey
The story was first published in INTELLECT Issue no.3, dated November 2013.