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4-Patents: TRIPS Council Moves Slowly on Review of Life Patenting Exemption



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TITLE: TRIPS Council Moves Slowly on Review of Life Patenting Exemption
AUTHOR: International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
PUBLICATION: BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 3, Number 7 
DATE: 22 February, 1999
SOURCE: ICTSD, Geneva
URL: http://www.ictsd.com
________________________________________________________



TRIPS COUNCIL MOVES SLOWLY ON REVIEW OF LIFE PATENTING EXEMPTION

Meeting on 17 February, the TRIPs Council once again turned its 
attention to the review of Article 27.3 (b) of the Agreement on Trade- 
Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which allows certain 
plant and animal inventions to be exempt from patent protection. (See 
also BRIDGES Between Trade and Sustainable Development, Vol. 2, No. 8, 
p. 3). 

The approach to the issue within the TRIPs Council continues to focus 
on "information-gathering," and input so far has almost exclusively 
consisted of replies to a list of questions on how plant and animal 
inventions are handled in domestic laws. Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech 
Republic, the EU and several of its members, Hungary, Japan, the U.S. 
and Zambia have so far submitted this information. Several other 
Members, as well as FAO and the secretariat of the CBD have said that 
they will also submit information. The WTO secretariat is expected to 
prepare a summary of the responses received for the next meeting of the 
TRIPs Council, in April.

Despite the gentle pace of the review so far, it is well known that 
proponents of removing all exeptions to patenting requirements (U.S. 
and European industry for instance), and supporters of extending the 
exeption to all life forms are lurking in the wings prepared to push 
their point of view forwards. Some observers believe that the 1999 
review will consist solely of the information-gathering exercise 
underway, with negotiation of the real issues carried over into the 
round of trade negotiations due to be launched at the Third WTO 
Ministerial at the end of this year.

The TRIPs Council last week also discussed other subjects including: 
geographical indications, "non-violation" complaints, how countries are 
applying the "mailbox" and exclusive marketing rights provisions of the 
TRIPs Agreeement (Arts. 70.8 and 70.9), and incentives for technology 
transfer to least developed countries as required under Article 66.2 of 
the Agreement. The TRIPs Council also elected its new Chair for 1999: 
Ambassador Carlos Pérez del Castillo of Uruguay thus replaces Hungary's 
Ambasador, István Major. 

"TRIPS Council 17 February 1999 - US, Japan submit proposal on 
geographical indications," WTO BACKGROUND NOTE, 22 Feb. 1999; ICTSD 
Internal Files.

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