Trade Organization (WTO) is an international
organization set up with the objective of ensuring smooth and free trade
flow across nations. For this purpose, it provides a platform for negotiating
agreements between the member countries. These agreements deal with agriculture,
textiles and clothing, banking, telecommunications, industrial standards
and product safety, food sanitation regulations and much more and are
the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
One such important agreement is the
on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)'.
It for the first time brought laws relating to intellectual property into
the international trading system. It was a result of the Uruguay Round
of the multilateral trade negotiations. This agreement narrowed down the
differences existing in the extent of protection and enforcement of the
Property rights (IPRs) around the world by bringing them under a common
minimum internationally agreed trade standards. The member countries are
required to abide by these standards within stipulated time-frame and
promote effective protection of IPRs in order to reduce distortions and
impediments to international trade. There are three obligations of member
countries under TRIPS :-
- To provide minimum intellectual property
rights protection through domestic laws.
- To ensure effective enforcement of
- To agree to submit disputes to the
Dispute Settlement System.
The TRIPS Agreement covers following
categories of intellectual property:-
- Copyrights and related rights - are
the rights given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical
and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings.
It is a bundle of rights including, inter alia, rights of reproduction,
communication to the public, adaptation and translation of the work.
Copyright protection shall extend to expressions and not to ideas, procedures,
methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such. Compilations
of data or other material, whether in machine readable or other form,
which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute
intellectual creations shall be protected as such. Member shall provide
authors and their successors in title the right to authorize or to prohibit
the commercial rental to the public of originals or copies of their
copyright works. The agreement says performers must also have the right
to prevent unauthorized recording, reproduction and broadcast of live
- Trade Marks - Any sign, or any combination
of signs, capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking
from those of other undertakings, shall be capable of constituting a
trademark. The owner of a registered trademark shall have the exclusive
right to prevent all third parties not having the owner's consent from
using in the course of trade identical or similar signs for goods or
services. Thus, the agreement defines the types of signs eligible for
protection as trademarks and the minimum rights that must be conferred
on their owners. It says that service marks must be protected in the
same way as trademarks used for goods. Also, the marks that have become
well-known in a particular country must enjoy additional protection.
- Geographical Indications - are the
indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of
a member country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a
given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially
attributable to its geographical origin. Under the agreement, the members
shall provide the legal means for interested parties to prevent:- (i) the
use of any means in the designation or presentation of a good that indicates
or suggests that the good in question originates in a geographical area
other than the true place of origin in a manner which misleads the public
as to the geographical origin of the good; (ii) any use which constitutes
an act of unfair competition within the meaning of the agreement.
- Patents- are the exclusive rights granted by a
country to the inventor to make, use, manufacture and market the invention
that satisfies the conditions of novelty, innovativeness and usefulness.
Patents shall be available for any such inventions, whether products
or processes, in all fields of technology. The members may exclude from
patentability:- (i) diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods
for the treatment of humans or animals; (ii) plants and animals other
than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production
of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes.
A patent shall confer on its owner the following exclusive rights:-
- Where the subject matter of a
patent is a product, to prevent third parties not having the owner's
consent from the acts of making, using, offering for sale, selling,
or importing such those products;
- Where the subject matter of a
patent is a process, to prevent third parties not having the owner's
consent from the act of using the process, and from the acts
of using, offering for sale, selling, or importing for these purposes
at least the product obtained directly by that process.
- Industrial Designs - refer to creative
activity, which result in the ornamental or formal appearance of a product.
But it does not include any mode or principle or construction or any
thing which is in substance a mere mechanical device. Under the agreement,
members shall provide for the protection of independently created industrial
designs that are new or original. The owner of a protected industrial
design shall have the right to prevent third parties not having the
owner's consent from making, selling or importing articles bearing or
embodying a design which is a copy, or substantially a copy, of the
protected design, when such acts are undertaken for commercial purposes.
- Lay out Designs of Integrated Circuits
- Under the agreement, members provide protection to the layout-designs
(topographies) of integrated circuits. Members shall consider unlawful
the following acts if performed without the authorization of the right
holder:- importing, selling, or otherwise distributing for commercial
purposes a protected layout-design, an integrated circuit in which a
protected layout-design is incorporated, or an article incorporating
such an integrated circuit only in so far as it continues to contain
an unlawfully reproduced layout-design.
- Protection of Undisclosed Information (Trade Secrets)
- A trade secret or undisclosed information is any information that
has been intentionally treated as secret and is capable of commercial
application with an economic interest. Natural and legal persons shall
have the possibility of preventing information lawfully within their
control from being disclosed to, acquired by, or used by others without
their consent in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices so
long as such information:-
- Is secret in the sense that it
is not, as a body or in the precise configuration and assembly of
its components, generally known among or readily accessible to persons
within the circles that normally deal with the kind of information
- Has commercial value because it
is secret; and
- Has been subject to reasonable
steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control
of the information, to keep it secret.
- Plant varieties - Members shall provide for the protection
of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective 'sui generis'
system or by any combination thereof.