Review of Article 27.3(b) and the Patenting of Life Forms: Hitting a BRIC Wall in the WTO?

In: International Negotiation
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  • 1 Monash University, Department of Management, Faculty of Business and Economics, Caulfield Campus9184327 Sir John Monash Drive, Caulfield East, VIC 3145Australia
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Under Article 27.3(b) of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), all members are required to extend private property rights to life forms. Using official WTO documents, this article analyzes the negotiating positions of WTO members on life patents during a review of Article 27.3(b) which commenced in 1999 and is currently ongoing. Initially, developing countries raised serious ethical concerns regarding life patents, creating a clear North-South divide. However, over time the position of Brazil and India moved away from the ethics of life patents to the prevention of bio-piracy, a position supported by China. Russia too is supportive of life patents. A group of small developing countries have, however, continued to question the morality of life patents despite this “BRIC wall,” changing the dynamics of the negotiations from a North-South divide to one which now includes a South-South divide.

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