Chicago Journal of International Law


The World Trade Organization ("WTO") Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement ("TRIPS" or "Agreement"), which sets out the minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, including patents for pharmaceuticals, has come under fierce criticism because of the effects that increased levels of patent protection will have on drug prices. While TRIPS does offer safeguards to remedy negative effects of patent protection or patent abuse, in practice it is unclear whether and how countries can make use of these safeguards when patents increasingly present barriers to medicine access. The Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference, held in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, adopted a Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health ("Doha Declaration" or "Declaration") which affirmed the sovereign right of governments to take measures to protect public health. Public health advocates welcomed the Doha Declaration as an important achievement because it gave primacy to public health over private intellectual property, and clarified WTO Members' rights to use TRIPS safeguards. Although the Doha Declaration broke new ground in guaranteeing Members' access to medical products, it did not solve all of the problems associated with intellectual property protection and public health. [CONT]