World Intellectual Property Organization

Flexibilities in the Intellectual Property System

Intellectual property (IP) systems have built in flexibilities to allow member states to implement IP laws and policies that are most suited to national and regional circumstances and capacities.

This webpage is part of the practical steps that member states agreed at the sixth session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) to further increase understanding and awareness of flexibilities.

Database on flexibilities in the IP System

Road map and resources

This roadmap provides guidance on WIPO’s work on flexibilities in the substantive sectors and Committees.  It also provides access to resources related to flexibilities in the IP system produced by WIPO and WIPO-commissioned experts, and links to the work undertaken by related international intergovernmental organizations.

WIPO

Development

CDIP Documents:

WIPO Academy

The Academic Institutions Program (AIP) of the WIPO Academy makes extensive use of literature and resources on flexibilities in implementation of international IP agreements, most notably the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement.  All Master’s degree programs and the annual WIPO-WTO Colloquium for Teachers of IP include one or more topics on flexibilities in relation to patents, public health issues, food security, climate change, etc.  The AIP relies on WIPO and external IP experts as well as publications/documents produced by relevant organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

E-learning materials related to flexibilities are available at the WIPO e-Learning Center (to access, first create a WIPO User Account)

Copyright and related rights

Limitations and exceptions to copyright and related rights is an issue included in the agenda of the SCCR.  The discussion has recently been focused mainly on three groups of beneficiaries or activities – on libraries and archives, on education and research activities, and on persons with disabilities.

A remarkable result of these discussions was the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled in 2013.

During recent years WIPO has also prepared or commissioned a number of studies mapping different limitations and exceptions in many different countries. These studies were presented to member states during various sessions of the SCCR.

Studies

Patents

CDIP documents

Other documents

Meetings

Traditional knowledge

International IP law is largely silent on traditional knowledge (TK) and there is, therefore, flexibility and scope for States and regional organizations to establish sui generis protection systems, as several have done. Traditional cultural expressions/folklore (TCEs) are addressed to some extent in some international IP treaties, and, once again, many States and regional organizations have established sui generis laws for TCEs.

At the international level, text-based negotiations are underway in the IGC towards the development of an international legal instrument or instruments which will provide effective protection for TK and TCEs – this work has included consideration of flexibilities within conventional IP systems which allow for the enhanced protection of TK and TCEs, as well as sui generis adaptations to existing IP systems.

The IGC has also discussed the relationship between IP and access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources, and is considering several options in this regard, including options within the IP system. The IGC’s negotiations are ongoing.

Global challenges

The WIPO Global Challenges Program addresses innovation and intellectual property at the nexus of interconnected global issues, in particular global health, climate change and, to a lesser extent, food security.

The choice of priorities reflects both the focus of member states (e.g., in the post-2015 Development Agenda) and the potential for innovation-driven solutions to deliver tangible results.  As such, the Program does not deal with substantive intellectual property issues of technical nature.  However, the work of the program may be relevant for substantive discussions, since it can provide background information and policy support.

Global Health and IP

Climate Change and IP

Intergovernmental organizations

  • Assessment of the effectiveness of existing subnational, national and international instruments, particularly intellectual property rights instruments, that may have implications on the protection of the knowledge, innovations and practices of I/LC PDF, Assessment of the effectiveness of existing subnational, national and international instruments
  • Trends in intellectual property rights relating to genetic resources for food and agriculture PDF, Trends in intellectual property rights relating to genetic resources for food and agriculture
  • Intellectual Property rights in plant varieties
  • Intellectual property rights in plant varieties: an overview with options for national governments PDF, Intellectual Property rights in plant varieties, an overview with options for national governments
  • Doha+10 - Trips Flexibilities and Access to Antiretroviral Therapy: Lessons From The Past, Opportunities For The Future PDF, Flexibilities for developing countries in agriculture; Market Access Formulae
  • Using Intellectual Property Rights to Stimulate Pharmaceutical Production in Developing Countries: A Reference Guide PDF, Using Intellectual Property Rights to Stimulate Pharmaceutical Production in Developing Countries: A Reference Guide
  • Symposium on Flexibilities in the International Intellectual Property Rules and the Local Production of Medicines for ASEAN Countries
  • Training Module on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights PDF, Training Module on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Flexibilities for developing countries in agriculture; Market Access Formulae PDF, Flexibilities for developing countries in agriculture; Market Access Formulae
  • The Interface between IPRs, Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer PPT, The Interface between IPRs, Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer
  • Intellectual Property in the WTO: Turning it into developing countries’ real property; assuring development gains from the international trading system PDF, Intellectual Property in the WTO: Turning it into developing countries’ real property; assuring development gains from the international trading system
  • Intellectual Property, the WTO -TRIPS Agreement and Implications for Development PPT, Intellectual Property, the WTO -TRIPS Agreement and Implications for Development
  • Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements; implications for developing countries productive capabilities in the supply of essential medicines PDF, Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements; implications for developing countries productive capabilities in the supply of essential medicines
  • Building local pharmaceutical production / supply capacity 
  • Dispute Settlement in International Trade, Investment and Intellectual Property PDF, Dispute Settlement in International Trade, Investment and Intellectual Property
  • Workshop on flexibilities in international IP rules and local production of pharmaceuticals for southern, central and west African region; TRIPS flexibilities; SA generic industry experience PDF, Workshop on flexibilities in international IP rules and local production of pharmaceuticals for southern, central and west African region; TRIPS flexibilities; SA generic industry experience
  • The Least Developed Countries Report, 2007
  • Entrepreneurship Policy Framework and Implementation Guidance Key components of entrepreneurship and innovation policy frameworks; United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Key component
  • International investment agreements: flexibility for development International investment agreements: flexibility for development
  • Basic Features of the Multilateral System on Patents and Regulatory Data Tests PPT, Basic Features of the Multilateral System on Patents and Regulatory Data Tests
  • The Debate on Climate Change and Access to Technology: LDCs Perspectives Breakout Session - Is There a Role for the LDCs in Reshaping Global Economic Governance? PDF, The Debate on Climate Change and Access to Technology: LDCs Perspectives Breakout Session - Is There a Role for the LDCs in Reshaping Global Economic Governance?
  • TRIPS Pre-Grant Flexibilities: Patentable Subject Matter PDF, TRIPS Pre-Grant Flexibilities: Patentable Subject Matter
  • TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Key Exceptions to Patent Holders` Rights PDF, TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Key Exceptions to Patent Holders` Rights
  • TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Compulsory Licenses & Government Use PDF, TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Compulsory Licenses & Government Use
  • TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Parallel Imports PDF, TRIPS Post-Grant Flexibilities: Parallel Imports
  • Access to medicines and Intellectual Property Provisions in Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreements PDF, Access to medicines and Intellectual Property Provisions in Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreements
  • Protection of pharmaceutical test data under TRIPS and FTAs PDF, Protection of pharmaceutical test data under TRIPS and FTAs
  • Research Papers; the changing structure and governance of intellectual property enforcement
  • Using Law to Accelerate Treatment access in South Africa: an analysis of patent, competition and medicines law  PDF

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