20 de Julio de 2018
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Colección: Trends for a common future
Autor: Sidney Weintraub
Título: Technical Cooperation Needs for Hemispheric trade Negotiations

6. Intellectual Property

Protection of intellectual property—industrial property and copyright and related rights—is one of the “new” themes in international trade negotiations. The word new is in quotation marks because the subject itself is far from new, but it took considerable effort by developed countries, particularly the United States, to put it on the agenda of international trade negotiations.6 The IPR issue has often been controversial in relations between developed countries, which generate most patents and copyrights, and developing countries which are importuned or pressured to protect these rights. This has been true in the Western Hemisphere between the United States and LAC countries in the pharmaceutical sector in what can best be described as a classic conflict between the countries where the research is done and those which seek low-cost medicines for their population. The conflicts arise frequently as well in pirating of video tapes and compact disks.

The protection of intellectual property became an integral part of the global trading system for the first time in the Uruguay Round with the conclusion of the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). All hemispheric countries have rights and obligations under the agreement. It is therefore necessary that all the FTAA participants understand the scope of their TRIPs commitments and for their countries to be in a position to carry these out.

The areas in which most information is needed for the FTAA negotiations, particularly for negotiators from less-developed and small countries, include the following matters that impinge directly on the negotiations: knowledge of their existing trade commitments; an understanding of the requests likely to be made by the more developed countries, primarily but not exclusively the United States and Canada; demands likely to be made by other LAC countries; and the changes in national laws and regulations that will be needed if more obligations are taken on in the FTAA. Other areas for which TC should be provided are:
  • Rights and obligations in international agreements and conventions on IPR;
  • TRIPs rights and obligations, including implementation issues;
  • Nature of the underlying substantive concerns relating to IPR;
  • Understanding of key emerging technologies and their impact on IPR;
  • Administration of IPR offices;
  • Enforcement of IPR rights;
  • Comparative studies of IPR regimes.
Countries also could use assistance in assessing their own IPR interests. It is not necessarily the case that only the developed countries will make demands for IP protection and that only developing countries will be the recipients of these demands. Many small economies have their own IPR interests, for example, copyrights for music in which some of them excel. Others have unique textile and handicraft designs for which they may wish to seek protection.

Considerable training is available on intellectual property rights. An agreement between the WTO and World International Property Organization (WIPO) includes a provision for the two organizations to cooperatively enhance their legal-technical TC to developing countries relating to the TRIPs agreement. Article 67 of TRIPs requires that developed countries engage in financial and technical cooperation with developing countries at the request of the latter, on terms that are mutually agreeable. The training is apparently directed primarily at officials who work in IP offices in developing countries. This means that coordination between the negotiators and the experts, assuming they are separate persons, is essential in this field, as it is in many others. Much information on IPR is available to participants in the NGIP from inventories of country laws prepared by the institutions of the Tripartite Committee.

Because IPR issues have substantial legal and technical content, many universities provide advanced level training programs and offer specialized courses. While most of these are in developed countries, this university level training is offered as well in Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations, national and international, offer practical training on various aspects of IPR, and conferences on these issues are frequent.

This issue has come a long way in a short time in trade negotiations and it may be wise to provide TC to help the smaller countries take stock of where they are with respect to what is going on outside their borders and, therefore, what they should expect in the way of demands on them and what they should seek for themselves in the FTAA negotiations.