Chapter 6: Conflicts over transition periods for developing countries in intellectual property rights
Open access

This chapter examines the coalitions and discourses that have shaped the evolution of differential treatment for the sub-group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Empirically, we focus on the conflictual issue of the extension of transition periods – both for developing countries in general and, later, solely for LDCs – that featured prominently in WTO debates on intellectual property. Based on TRIPS Council minutes and supplementary interviews, we find that differential treatment for LDCs remains resilient amidst heavy contestation. Stronger coordination between Brazil, China, and India on TRIPS implementation flexibilities – coupled with growing opposition to a developed country TRIPS-plus push outside the WTO – helped to secure these special rights from erosion. Beyond forum shopping and interests-based factors, continued divides over the link between strict IP enforcement and economic development further allowed emerging economies to support transition period extensions for LDCs.