EU Welcomes TRIPS Extension for LDCs

Geneva, 11 June 2013 - The European Union welcomes today's decision by the WTO to extend the transitional period for least-developed countries to implement the TRIPS Agreement for a further eight years.

Following a request made by the least-developed countries (LDCs) under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the WTO's TRIPS Council agreed today by consensus to grant more time to LDCs to apply the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. From the outset of discussions, the European Union has recognised the importance of flexibility for the least-developed countries (LDCs) and supported an extension to the transition period.

The agreement sends a strong signal of intent in light of the 2011 United Nations Conference on the Least-Developed Countries in Istanbul, Turkey. The Istanbul Programme of Action seeks to halve (from 48 to 24) the number of LDCs by 2020. It is also a positive result ahead of the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in December this year.

The decision does not affect the transition period for patents for pharmaceutical products, which was agreed in 2002; LDCs will not have to protect these patents until 2016.  Where least-developed countries voluntarily provide some kinds of intellectual property protection even though they are not required to do so under the TRIPS Agreement, they have committed themselves not to reduce or withdraw the current protection that they give.

The World Trade Organisation's Council on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) already granted least-developed countries a ten year exemption from complying with the TRIPS Agreement at the time of its inception in 1995.  In 2005, a further extension of seven and a half years was given until July 1 2013.  With the latest extension, LDCs will not have to provide the intellectual property protection covered by the TRIPS Agreement until 1 July 2021, unless they graduate from LDC status.

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