Intellectual Property Rights in Trade

Trade is a crucial aspect of the commercialization side to intellectual property. The trades are performed on the basis of a bilateral contract between countries. However, the agency of United Nations, WIPO, has brought in multilateral agreements with respect to trade in Intellectual Property aspects.


The General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade or simply, GATT, was a legal agreement between countries, which ultimately was replaced by the World Trade Organization or WTO. There have been negotiations with respect to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and it became one of the important new areas for discussion at the Uruguay Round of GATT that began in 1986. Along with other agreements that came out of the Uruguay Round, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) was finally agreed upon at the ministerial meeting in Marrakesh.

Multi-lateral Institutions

WIPO is the traditional multilateral forum for intellectual property rights. This UN agency was formed to maintain the two biggest intellectual property treaties- The Berne Convention and the Paris Convention.

The TRIPs Agreement

The TRIPS agreement stands for the trade-related matters of Intellectual Property Rights. The TRIPS agreement provides a baseline of minimum protection to be followed by the contracting states when providing protection to different intellectual property rights.

National Treatment in trade

Article 3(1) of the TRIPS Agreement calls for national treatment. It means that, a country has to treat another country the same, that is, just as it would treat its own nationals. This Principle is included in both Berne Convention and the Paris Convention.

The Principle of national treatment had existed in GATT but its inclusion in the TRIPS Agreement ensures that

  • i.National treatment is now available for all subject matters other than the ones laid in the Berne convention or the Paris Convention
  • ii.It also applies to the enforcement of intellectual property rights

Most favoured nation

Article 4 of the TRIPS Agreement provides for the principle of most favoured nation. This principle of most favoured nation harbours that all the foreign nationals are treated equally. For example, if a certain country ‘A’ provides certain privileges to another country, it has to provide the same benefits to every other country. Thus, it can be said that the outcomes of one bilateral agreement will extend to other countries.

Multilateral agreements

The TRIPS Agreement shows that the procedures provided in all the existing WIPO agreements related to the acquisition and or maintenance of intellectual property rights are exceptions to the principles of national treatment and Most-Favoured-Nation treatment, as vested in Article 5.