Following the culmination of the Uruguay Round trade negotiations, the World Trade Organization came into force on 1 January 1995. In addition to the Goods and Services Agreements (GATT) and Services Agreements (GATS), the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) is one of the three pillars of the new multilateral trading system (WTO, 2008: 24). Although it is the first comprehensive and enforceable agreement on intellectual property rights (IPRS), it has been the subject of much criticism since its inception (Sell – Prakash, 2004). This paper outlines the main arguments for both and against TRIPS, providing a skeptical assessment of its legitimacy and effectiveness. First, it begins with the main arguments in favour of TRIPS, before critically examining the recent history of the agreement and intellectual property rights in general. The paper then goes on to discuss the impact of TRIPS on economic development and concludes that the criticisms leveled against the agreement are generally persuasive. Robert Wade (2003) suggests that this is a clear “reduction of the development space”: a reduction in the political autonomy of states, which denies them the development paths that others have taken before them. Moreover, the agreement is “at points where indeterminacy benefits industrialized countries and at specific points where accuracy works against developing countries” (Wade, 2003: 630). The commitments of developing countries and the rights of developed countries are far more applicable than the development rights and duties of developed countries. For example, despite the clearly defined objective of Article 66.2 on technology transfer, there is little evidence of sustained efforts by developed countries to meet these commitments (Moon, 2008).

With the TRIPS agreement, intellectual property rights have been integrated into the multilateral trading system for the first time and remains the most comprehensive multilateral IP agreement to date. In 2001, developing countries, fearing that developed countries had insisted on too narrow a reading of the TRIPS trip, launched a series of discussions that culminated in the Doha Declaration. The Doha Declaration is a WTO DECLARATION that clarifies the scope of the TRIPS agreement, which states, for example, that TRIPS can and should be interpreted in light of the objective of “promoting access to medicines for all”. Trips-plus conditions, which impose standards beyond TRIPS, have also been verified. [38] These free trade agreements contain conditions that limit the ability of governments to introduce competition for generic drug manufacturers. In particular, the United States has been criticized for promoting protection far beyond the standards prescribed by the TRIPS.