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Contribution to Collected Edition

The Political Foundations of TRIPS Revisited


Ullrich,  Hanns
MPI for Innovation and Competition, Max Planck Society;

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Ullrich, H. (2016). The Political Foundations of TRIPS Revisited. In H. Ullrich, R. M. Hilty, M. Lamping, & J. Drexl (Eds.), TRIPS plus 20 - From Trade Rules to Market Principles (pp. 85-129). Heidelberg; Berlin: Springer.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-7930-2
The contribution revisits the political foundations of the TRIPS Agreement with a view to determine its role and functioning under the changed socio-economic geopolitical conditions of today’s world economic order. The Agreement, which was concluded as part of and under the pressure of the GATT/WTO trade package, provides for internationally uniform standards of adequate protection of intellectual property in all States Members of the WTO, regardless of the differences of their economic development, industrial structures and social needs. As a global “deep trade agreement”, which governs not only cross border trade, but Members’ internal markets, it raises issues both of its compatibility with the principle of comparative advantage underlying international trade, and of the legitimacy of its interfering with domestic market regulation. The flexibilities, which have been built into the TRIPS Agreement, may mitigate concerns. However, the growing new bi- and pluri-lateralism of regional free trade agreements with their asymmetric intellectual property rules, the re-distribution of economic power among the developed and the emerging or rather the emerged countries, and the nature of strategic competition between globally acting multinational corporations have changed the rules of the game. The task ahead is to re-conceptualize the TRIPS Agreement as a framework regulation for national innovation markets, which at the same time are integrated into global markets to varying degrees. As such, it would form part of an open international economic law, which, in its turn, needs to be developed in order to overcome the rigid and already fading paradigms of international trade law. Only such a vision will help to accommodate intellectual property protection with the large diversity of industrial policies and with the many intellectual property-related public interests and policies, which WTO Members may or do adhere to.