Global Diseases, Global Patents and Differential Treatment in WTO Law: Criteria for Suspending Patent Obligations in Developing Countries

Condon, Bradly, Sinha, Tapen | January 1, 2005

Special and differential treatment of members is a controversial subject at the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) and nowhere is the debate more pronounced than in the context of life-saving medicines and patent protection. However, concerns have been raised in WTO negotiations regarding how to ensure that special and differential treatment targets developing countries’ trade, financial and development needs, without prejudicing the rights of other WTO members. In the fall of 2003, the WTO adopted a decision to amend the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) in order to enhance access to essential medicines in developing countries. In the fall of 2004, the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) adopted an agenda to further the development of countries by considering different intellectual property regimes appropriate to the circumstances of a particular country or region. The WTO and the WIPO are the two major entities working to develop international patent law, and one of the objectives of TRIPS is to establish a mutually supportive relationship between the two. The application of TRIPS to developing countries has become even more important with the full entry into force of their patent obligations on January 1, 2005.