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WTO sets new date for copyright crunch

'Least-developed' countries excused from policing IP laws until 2021

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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week extended the deadline it's offered the world's “least developed nations” to get their house in order with regards to observation of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

TRIPS sets out standards of copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret protection WTO members are expected to provide within their borders. Those standards harmonise legislation protecting intellectual property around the world.

TRIPS is a controversial agreement, because some feel it was used to inflate the price of medicines in developing countries. The 2005 Doha Declaration stated the agreement should not be used to prevent public health initiatives.

The agreement has also been loosely applied for other intellectual property, in recognition of the fact that developing nations may have higher priorities than policing pirated content and software.

The WTO's saying the 2021 deadline for compliance with TRIPS is a win, as while it extends the deadline beyond the July 1, 2013, cut-off that currently applies, the new date is final. That's not what the “34 least developed countries” wanted: they asked to “graduate” to full TRIPS compliance at a moment of their choosing.

Response to the extension of the waiver is interesting. This report from Cambodia's Phnom Penh Post includes a local Microsoft employee saying it destroys innovation and an academic saying the US bullies developing nations and the WTO through the TRIPS treaty.

The latter opinion seems not to hold a lot of water inasmuch as the statementon the new waiver leaves open the prospect of future extensions. ®

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