September 1, 2013
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HAITI: World Trade Organization Grants Least Developed Countries More Time to Comply With TRIPS Provisions
On June 12, 2013, the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Council) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) granted an additional extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement for least developed country (LDC) members. The extension will run until the earlier of either July 1, 2021, or when a particular country ceases to be an LDC.
Article 66.1 granted LDCs a 10-year exemption from the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, except with regard to Articles 3, 4 and 5 (which address National Treatment, Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment, and Multilateral Agreements on Acquisition or Maintenance of Protection, respectively). Article 66.1 further provided for extensions of the 10-year exemption period “upon duly motivated request by a least-developed country Member.”
On November 5, 2012, Haiti brought the request for extension to the TRIPS Council on behalf of the LDC Group. This second extension comes after a prior extension, which was granted in November 2005 and was set to expire on July 1, 2013.
In its request, Haiti pointed out that “the situation of LDCs has not changed significantly since the last extension decision in 2005,” and in particular that the LDCs have not increased their capacity for production and continue to lag behind in areas key to transformation and growth. The request pointed to a need for flexibility for LDCs to allow for their development in the face of economic and administrative constraints. Haiti specifically requested that the extension run “for as long as the WTO Member remains a least developed country.”
Negotiations during the time between the initial request and the grant of the extension focused on the term of the extension. Some members argued that the proposal would amount to an indefinite extension, as an LDC may remain an LDC for an unknown period of time. Ultimately, the TRIPS Council granted the extension until 2021 at the latest, with the door remaining open to further extensions.
The TRIPS Council noted in its extension that the decision was without prejudice to the Council’s prior decision, from June 2002, granting a similar extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 for obligations with respect to pharmaceutical products. That extension of time continues until 2016, and the Council may grant a further extension upon request by an LDC member.
The TRIPS Council further stated that nothing in the decision to extend the period of compliance for LDCs should prevent that group of WTO members from “making full use of the flexibilities provided by the Agreement to address their needs,” including to create a solid and viable technological base.
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© 2013 International Trademark Association