Trade Policy

The Trade group is responsible for all fields of intellectual property. Minimum international standards for all fields of intellectual property are covered by the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Additional protections for international property rights are provided in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which update and expand protections to keep pace with technological and legal developments.

Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) is a multilateral agreement that sets minimum standards of protection for copyrights and neighboring rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, integrated circuit layout designs, and undisclosed information. The TRIPS Agreement also establishes minimum standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights through civil actions for infringement and, at least in regard to copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting, in criminal actions and actions at the border. The TRIPS Agreement requires as well that, with very limited exceptions, WTO Members provide national and most-favored-nation treatment to the nationals of other WTO Members with regard to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Disputes between WTO Members regarding implementation of the TRIPS Agreement can be settled using the procedures of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Understanding.

The TRIPS Agreement entered into force on January 1, 1995, and its obligations to provide "most favored nation" and national treatment became effective on January 1, 1996 for all Members. Most substantive obligations are phased in based on a Member's level of development. Developed country Members were required to implement fully the obligations of the Agreement by January 1, 1996; developing country Members generally had to implement fully by January 1, 2000; and least-developed country Members as a result of the decision of the TRIPS Council of November 29, 2005, have had their deadline extended to July 1, 2013, as part of a package that also requires them to provide information on their priority needs for technical assistance in order to facilitate TRIPS implementation. This is without prejudice to the existing extension, based on a proposal made by the United States at the Doha WTO Ministerial Conference, of the transition period for least-developed countries to implement or apply Sections 5 and 7 of Part II of the TRIPS Agreement with respect to pharmaceutical products, or to enforce rights with respect to such products, until January 1, 2016. In 2002, the WTO General Council, on the recommendation of the TRIPS Council, similarly waived until 2016 the obligation for least-developed country Members to provide exclusive marketing rights for certain pharmaceutical products if those Members did not provide product patent protection for pharmaceutical inventions.

The WTO TRIPS Council monitors implementation of the TRIPS Agreement, provides a forum in which WTO Members can consult on intellectual property matters, and carries out the specific responsibilities assigned to the Council in the TRIPS Agreement. The TRIPS Agreement is important to U.S. interests and has yielded significant benefits for U.S. industries and individuals, from those engaged in the pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical, and biotechnology industries to those producing motion pictures, sound recordings, software, books, magazines, and consumer goods.

Free Trade Agreements

The United States has negotiated 13 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with 17 countrires: Israel, Canada, North American FTA (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, Jordan, Chile, Singapore, Central American FTA (Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua), Dominican Republic, Australia, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and Peru and Colombia. Currently, there additional FTA negotiations underway with Panama, Thailand, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Korea and Malaysia. The IPR chapter in FTAs requires a level of protection similar to that in the U.S. The texts of U.S. FTAs can be found here (link is external).

World Trade Organization Accessions

Negotiations on the accession of over 30 economies to the WTO offer the U.S. Government a major opportunity to improve intellectual property standards worldwide. These economies make up a total population of 1.6 billion, and include a number of the countries in which our intellectual property industries have experienced very significant piracy problems over the years. In each case, we require full implementation of TRIPS obligations as a condition of entry into the WTO, with the exception of least-developed countries, which may be given transition periods to implement the TRIPS Agreement.