Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Medicines: International Trade Issues
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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A patent, which is a form of intellectual property right IPR, is a legal, exclusive right granted for the invention of a new product, process, organism, design, and plant. It allows the right holder to exclude others from making, using, or selling the protected invention for a period of 20 years. Patents constitute the most common method for governments to encourage research and development RD in order to find pharmaceutical treatments and cures for diseases and other illnesses. IPR protection and enforcement have evolved from an area primarily of national concern to an area of international trade policy. The World Trade Organization WTO Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights TRIPS established minimum standards for IPR protection and enforcement. The U.S. government considers the protection and enforcement of international IPR standards, including those for patents, to be an important goal of U.S. trade policy for economic, health and safety, and national security reasons. As such, the United States has pursued strong IPR regimes through multilateral, regional, and bilateral free trade agreement FTA negotiations and unilateral trade policy tools, namely the Special 301 process and the Generalized System of Preferences GSP. IPR provisions in trade policies are among the range of social, economic, and political factors that may affect public health, including the ability of countries to deliver health services to their populations. Patents, through their possible impact on innovation and drug prices, may affect access to existing medicines and the development on new medicines. According to the World Health Organization WHO, about one-third of the worlds population, primarily those residing in poorer parts of Africa and Asia, lacks regular access to essential medicines.
- Sociology and Law
- Medicine and Medical Research