How compliant are developing countries with their TRIPS obligations?
This paper constructs an intellectual property rights (IPR) index based on the World Trade Organization's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for 53 developing countries. TRIPS agreement attempts to standardize the minimum level of IPR protection for all 153 WTO member countries regardless of their income levels, and allows recourse to an effective dispute settlement mechanism, unlike previous international IPR agreements. The Agreement is thus applicable to a large number of countries and enforceable both at the national and international levels, making it an important legal agreement to study. This TRIPS-specific index takes into consideration the seven IPR categories defined by TRIPS agreement and the transition period for their implementation. In addition, it assumes the governments of the developing countries investigated would not necessarily implement the legislations for the seven IPR categories simultaneously. National IPR legislations, various IPR-specific reports and legal experts and practitioners, whenever possible, are consulted to build the index. Analysis of the data collected show three implementation trends. Firstly, almost all developing country members availed themselves to the transition period afforded by the Agreement, and in some cases have exceeded the time limit imposed by the transition period. Secondly, implementation efforts of developing countries vary, and not necessarily because of their income levels. And lastly, countries in regional trade agreements (RTAs) that specify IPR obligations tend to comply with the TRIPS agreement earlier than the rest. The results collected in this study show that TRIPS does imply a convergence of global IPR protection across countries, and that the implementation of this Agreement is an external factor, not influenced by the countries' level of economic development.