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Trade-Related Aspects Of Intellectual Property Rights: Will The Uruguay Round Consensus Hold?

Duncan Matthews

CSGR Working Paper No. 99/02

June 2002




This paper reviews the building of a consensus in favour of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPs Agreement) during the Uruguay Round negotiations. The paper then argues that, at a time when the impact of TRIPs is becoming more widely understood in the developing world, the concentration of interests that secured the Agreement is now under pressure from a range of sources. The paper identifies institutions in the United States and Europe as playing a significant role as gatekeepers, balancing intellectual property interests against wider priorities in international diplomacy. The paper then suggests that the consensus between the United States and Europe has itself started to erode as a result of a series of on-going disputes. There has also been a fragmentation of the cross-sector industry consensus that led to business support for the TRIPs Agreement, while new actors whose views were peripheral to the Uruguay Round negotiations have now entered the debate on the impact of TRIPs. Finally, there are indications that, in interpreting the scope and meaning of the Agreement, WTO Dispute Settlement Panels themselves may be prepared to support a narrower interpretation of the TRIPs Agreement than the consensus builders first envisaged.

Keywords: intellectual property rights, trade, WTO, developing countries

Address for correspondence

Dr Duncan Matthews
School of Law
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK

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