TRIPS, Biotechnology and the Public Domain: What Role Will World Trade Law Play?

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Book Chapter

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TRIPS Article 27.3(b) contains a proprietary model for protecting innovation in biotechnology. This chapter explains the provision and sets forth the contentious WTO history of the provision. Developing countries that are relatively rich in biodiversity and traditional knowledge but poor in capital and scientific expertise favor a commons approach to agricultural innovation, an approach that is not reflected in TRIPS. Some developed countries are headquarters to firms developing this biodiversity and traditional knowledge into commercially exploitable forms of intellectual property, and it is these countries that are interested in a strong propietary model for biotechnological innovation. This paper examines how Europe and European law enters this debate. It examines European law relating to biotechnological innovation. The European position on TRIPS coverage of biotechnological innovation does not depart significantly from the United States position or from the position of the Quad group of countries generally. European law is converging with US law on adoption of a propietary model. Given the highly contentious nature of the subject and the sometimes vociferous developing country opposition to strong intellectual property protection, TRIPS and biotechnology will remain one of the more hotly contested topics of the Doha Round.

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