A Sustainability Toolkit for Trade Negotiators:

Trade and investment as vehicles for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

4.1 Intellectual Property Rights

The new generation of post-NAFTA RTIAs normally includes a chapter with detailed obligations on intellectual property (IP). Those chapters generally:

  • Reconfirm the applicability of the minimum standards contained in the WTO TRIPS Agreement and reproduce totally or partially some of its provisions.
  • Incorporate additional obligations (commonly called “TRIPS-plus”) in various areas of IP.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) cover patents, copyright and trademarks, but from an environmental and sustainable development perspective it is patents that are most relevant. These serve to protect and encourage innovation in cutting-edge technology including green goods, but if they are unduly restrictive, they can stifle that same innovation and prevent countries from catching up technologically. They may also be used to help protect biodiversity.

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