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Dealing with Public Health and Intellectual Property for Pharmaceuticals at the World Trade Organization

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Health for Some

Part of the book series: International Political Economy Series ((IPES))


Amongst other World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, the Trade-Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement has perhaps been the most contested since its coming into force in 1995, both within the global trade regime and in other regimes and issue-areas, such as those dealing with human rights, biodiversity, genetic resources and public health. Of these contests, those over public health issues within the trade regime came centre stage in the late 1990s and resulted in the amendment of certain TRIPs provisions that dealt with pharmaceutical patent protection and compulsory licensing in 2005. Dealing with public health issues and pharmaceutical patent protection at the WTO may appear surprising at first sight, given that global trade is an issue-area not generally understood to be concerned with private intellectual property rights (IPRs) or public health issues. However, as will become clearer, the linkage established between IP protection and trade rules in the WTO TRIPs agreement has had the effect of limiting the space available to governments in dealing with certain public health responsibilities. This has certainly been the case for the majority of developing and least developed (WTO) members, who, already struggling to deliver on the public health front, are required to make substantial changes to their IP laws, especially with regard to pharmaceutical IPRs, in order to comply with TRIPs provisions.

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© 2009 Valbona Muzaka

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Muzaka, V. (2009). Dealing with Public Health and Intellectual Property for Pharmaceuticals at the World Trade Organization. In: MacLean, S.J., Brown, S.A., Fourie, P. (eds) Health for Some. International Political Economy Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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